Susan J. Napier’s “The Frenzy of Metamorphosis: The Body in Japanese Pornographic Animation” describes how both female and male bodies are depicted in Japanese animated pornography. Napier explains how male dominance over women is portrayed in the different animated films she has cited, where gender-specific roles are usually restored in the end of each film or series.
For example, the female lead character in the animated film Wicked City is portrayed as a better warrior than the male lead character, but in the end she assumes the traditional role of damsel-in-distress and mother of the child that would bring peace to their city and its parallel, the Black World. Napier further highlights the often problematic and complicated depiction of male-female relationships in these films. The fantasy behind every transformation a male or female character’s body undergoes in the animated film subliminally illustrates underlying cultural backgrounds, as well as frustrations, of the Japanese.
In these films, the female characters are commonly fantastically proportioned with massive breasts and hips, and tiny waists, while the male characters are similarly fantastically sexually endowed and lustful. Such depictions appear to reflect heavy Western influences. The metamorphosis of female bodies is described by Napier as “controlled” in that they are rather reflective of traditional roles and perceptions towards females in Japanese culture. Meanwhile, the metamorphosis of male bodies is described as more of “demonic dominance and comic frustration.
” While they are subversive to the patriarchal culture of Japan, male bodies are portrayed in the opposite of how female bodies are portrayed. Male bodies are portrayed as either grotesquely demonic-looking or ridiculously child-like. Napier maintains that males do not always come out as the dominant character in Japanese animated pornography. I find this rather arguable as most if not all of the examples highlighted in the reading suggest the presence of a male figure whose role is either to dominate the female character or to support it.
Culturally, Japanese are of control-minded and patriarchal culture where every female is traditionally submissive to a male partner. The presence of a male character, no matter how comic or demonic as depicted in the film, can be attributed to an attempt to balance out the portrayal of powers where the protagonist is a female; hence, whether the dominant role belongs to the male or female remains problematic.
The presence of the male support character suggests that female characters cannot achieve great power over her adversary without him. An example of this is La Blue Girl where the lead character, a female ninja, is supported by her male ninja sidekick who is portrayed as constantly lusting after her. Napier also cites that male orgasms are depicted far less than male frustrations in these films because orgasms are viewed as a loss of patriarchal control.
Patriarchal control can also be seen in the way that female orgasms are almost always depicted in these films, regardless of whether these orgasms are the result of traditional lovemaking or of sexual torture. I find that this is because of socio-cultural factors given the changes in roles of men and women in modern Japanese society. The Japanese male ego seems to be affected by this change so much that their frustration is reflected even in their animated pornographic films.
Hence, Japanese animated pornography tend to portray female characters as young and non-threatening (high school girls, commonly) while male characters are either comically lustful (young or old voyeurs) or powerfully demonic. Many of the strong male characters in Japanese animated pornography are depicted as demons, making them appear threatening and ultimately powerful over the females. Even if the female lead characters are able to overcome these demonic male antagonists at the end of the film, these females are still portrayed as traditionally vulnerable to sexual violence.