S.EXE: Hentai Edition (NSFW)

By Cara Ellison on July 18th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Nina and I are NSFWI have been aware, for a while at least, that for S.EXE you wanted me to do something on Hentai/eroge/H games, and so this week I fulfilled your wish with Da Capo.

For a pretty long time I didn’t want to cover Hentai, the main reason being that I couldn’t find one that appealed to my personal libido and I am very selfish. (Though when living in Japan I did spend a lot of time in manga shops and in sex shops merely attempting to understand the discourse around sex in Japan (I wasn’t getting laid at all).) (Maybe my lurking in those places was the reason?) But the other reasons I didn’t negotiate these waters sooner is that I find them full of problematic approaches to youth, incest, to consent, and to sex that even as an adult who enjoys a perverse fantasy or two it breaks me out of that and into the ‘this isn’t hot this is a nightmare’ mindset. It turns out even Hentai games with all men in them can be predicated on sexual assault scenarios. But I delve into Da Capo just for you, my dears.

‘Hentai’ in Japanese is just a shortened form of ‘hentai seiyoku’ which means a bizarre sexual perversion or desire, but internationally speaking ‘Hentai’ can mean any media that includes recognisably Japanese-styled sexual situations, usually anime or manga that includes pornographic material. Hand-drawn naked women presenting themselves as if they were feline, looking slightly blushy and ‘oh you just found me with my clothes off’, indicating that now is the time the player should get their joystick out and start going Mario Party on it. As I am currently in the residence of Nina Freeman, prolific maker of games about sex and who purports to have a PHD in Hentai (according to her Twitter handle), I asked her if we could play through one together. Nina explored Hentai back in her youth when it took bloody ages to download pictures of cute semi-naked manga women. I admire her commitment.

Da Capo is a Hentai visual novel that was released in 2002 on PC, and was described by publishers Circus as a “ticklish school romance adventure” whatever that means (is it a school of tickling/is it a ticklish school/do the schools romance?). In this game you play a young dork called Junichi, a schoolboy who has a mop of dark hair and some trousers that (as you will see later in the video) refuse to fully come off even though he is desperate to do the bad thing with one of seven adorable schoolgirls.

There are really only very few choices you can make in the narrative, because narrative in Hentai games, though they are about graphic sex scenes, usually have an emphasis on text-based storytelling. Da Capo is very text-heavy, a game that isn’t afraid to waste hours and hours of your time on the pontifications and neuroticisms of small talk conceived by a small boy who is desperately trying to distract the girl he is looking at from the Empire State building of an erection he is nursing.

Da Capo’s curiously flirtatious with the player in that it will often try to trick you into thinking something sexy will happen with a girl, and then it doesn’t. This is easily the most enjoyable part of the game: the part where the narrative becomes meta-narrative, the self-awareness of the dialogue. Often you feel like the writer is winking at you behind the screen.

The structure of Da Capo is actually one of the most frustrating things about it: it isn’t obvious when you are making a choice, and you have to set your ‘alarm’ for one of three times each morning which is, unbeknownst to the player, also setting a course for which girl you might pursue successfully into the sack (Kotori likes you to get to school on time). (This begs the question, am I getting up early enough in the morning to bang my crush of choice? Is this how it works? I am fucking awful at mornings and this is why I am single.) You also have to try to predict where in the school your crush will be hanging out in order to speak to her, which can be annoying to try and figure out.

Halfway through the game Junichi takes a pop quiz in class and has to answer several questions, one of which is about which girl he is interested in.

Only three girls are listed in the pop quiz – it is multiple choice – but alas, there is not room for seven. It was not clear as to how the game chooses these three girls to put into the quiz, but it seems likely it has something to do with how early I got up. Which is not early. As I have previously said.

Aside from the fact that the teacher who put this question in the quiz probably needs to be fired, and coupled with the weird alarm clock systems, this seems like a very clumsy, nay frustrating way to make a game, determine choices, conduct your wang-whereabouts. It seems like not a particularly well though through structure, because this paces the game so that it seems hopeless trial and error unless you use a walkthrough to choose your favourite girl to pursue from the start.

In any case, there are some problems with the way sexual encounters are portrayed. First of all there’s the fact that this is an adult game, and ostensibly you are looking at pictures of school-age girls. This doesn’t feel okay to me, but part of me is willing to at least entertain the thought that it is a fantasy about your school days, when you first started having feelings for women, and when I think of it like that I start to feel a bit better about it.

From the beginning you are invited to fantasise about a young girl who says she is your sister (incest is a common theme in Hentai games). In the beginning it’s a dream sequence in which she tells you ‘gochisosama’ (which is the Japanese phrase for ‘Thanks for the nice meal’, which in the bedroom context is stated after oral sex.) This is obviously meant to be humorous, though then you wake up and your sister is downstairs where you can have further awkward conversations with her in which you flirt and try to touch her in inappropriate manners.

NSFW video, featuring slight cartoon nudity and lots and lots of naughty words and themes.

As Nina and I played, we felt like we were spying on, watching, and generally finding ways for our character to touch girls. Each day we went to school trying to stalk our girl of choice, which was Kotori, the popular new girl with the raspberry hair. (In our pursuit of Kotori, the raspberry-haired girl, Junichi adjusts her hat when she’s singing in the park, and we are a total stranger to her.) By the time we were ten minutes into the game, we felt like we had almost been conditioned into possessing the listless libidos of those old men that sit at the back of the bus and make comments about the shortness girls’ skirts. We were annoyed that each girl wasn’t just lying down for us as if we were completely entitled to see them naked.

Da Capo is about ‘winning’ via nakedness. It is predicated on the idea that you are entitled to sex, entitled to see sex, entitled to see naked women. The reward is sexy pictures of naked women; that is the implicit aim. You can lose this game by hanging out too much with your male friend, who despite being perfectly cute, when he hits on Junichi after graduation Junichi brushes him off, horrified, and you get the ‘bad’ ending – no sexy naked bodies, no women for you. Compulsory heterosexuality is such a downer.

This isn’t particularly unusual for a Hentai game: most Hentai games are founded on the idea that man is entitled to naked womanreward. Junichi can undertake a cheeky manipulation to see Kotori when she is sick in bed by making the conversation choice to tell her older sister you love her. This might seem innocent if you were a boy, but as an adult playing a video game it seems sinister and intrusive. This is unfortunate, because I feel that in a global culture of victim blaming, objectification, trivialising of rape, and sexual harassment, this genre of game both illustrates (and may contribute to) the idea that women ‘gatekeep’ sex.

But it’s more complicated than that still: Hentai games supply a safe space in which to explore a lot of things that might otherwise be completely off limits for polite society. Sexuality in Japan is still something that is only discussed in particular discourses; many love hotels (hourly hotels adults can visit to have sex either because they still live with their parents, are cheating, or who have nosy neighbours) are automated so there are no witnesses to your desire. Kissing in public was completely taboo where I lived in Kagoshima. Once I was walking by the beachfront drunk at dawn and was completely struck by the high schoolers making out by the shore – 6am was makeout time because no one is around to see and judge.

Perhaps the most difficult part of Hentai for me is that teenage girls’ bodies, when naked in these games, are not really the sort of teen girl bodies that seem ready for sex, if you get my meaning. They seem pre-puberty. It always seems shocking to me, because, well, I just don’t think that should or could be hot.

I guess it’s that thing I always go on about: I wish there were more Hentai made for me, centred on thirty-something tall dudes with low voices who hang out in computer labs smirking at each other. Now that dating sim I’d play.

Til next time!

, , , .

238 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Premium User Badge

    JamesTheNumberless says:

    This article is actually perfectly safe for work for me. However, some of the people commenting should probably not be allowed to work, or leave their basements. Not without appropriate counselling.

  2. Ansob says:

    The combination of racist username + MRA nonsense post is very endearing.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    Virtual men as sex objects. That makes it all alright then doesn’t it. Because a minus plus a minus, is a plus.

  4. El_Emmental says:

    You didn’t get the memo ? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell !

    Everyone know bisexual/heterosexual women and bisexual/homosexual men have no sexual fantasies, they never enjoy sexualized male bodies and they would never enjoy the sexual objectification of a male character !

    These people only have pure noble romantic love and gently cuddle in the dark once every 3 months, while reciting love poems from the Renaissance with some mandolin playing in the background.

    It’s just passive-aggressive slut-shaming at its best: if you enjoy sexual fantasies and sexual objectification of male characters, you do not exist. Heterosexual women, bisexual women/men, homosexual men (and whoever is interested in male bodies), go home, you’re not part of the discussion, you’re anecdotal, you’re nothing.

    It’s the “Sex Wars” all over again (context: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_Sex_Wars ), and it seems the sex-positive movement finally lost. It is now excluded from the social sphere and only left to the intimacy zone: you can enjoy sex, just hide it and pretend you don’t.

    In short: Don’t ask, Don’t tell.

  5. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    Then again, a minus times a minus is in fact a plus. Maybe we should get a man who objectifies women and a woman who objectifies men to reproduce and give birth to a superior being: an hermaphrodite who personifies objects.

  6. Carighan Maconar says:

    Actually, rereading what the post you replied to said, that was never the content.

    Then again, I also don’t think the original article said anything wrong. “Most” hentai games are indeed aimed at guys, and those primarily deal in naked hentai girls (there’s a few exceptions like X-Change I suppose). But the correction that there’s a sub-genre which is aimed at women and presents mostly naked boys is also correct. In a way. Or at least the fact isn’t wrong, even if it might be somewhat meaningless in the context.

    But hey, we’re the internet, right? We can’t assume someone didn’t want to start an argument. :P

  7. waltC says:

    This is a very strange article. I’m really trying to wrap my head around the notion of a female gamer becoming involved in a game in which she plays a guy trying to pickup pre-pubescent girls just to have sex with them. If you are a guy, then just picture yourself playing in the role of a girl trying to pick up other pre-pubescent boys–ugh! Fun? Interesting? I cannot see how. Not at all. (It’s time for an “Ewwwwwwwuuuuuueeee!”…followed by an “Ugggggggggghhhh!”….;) )

  8. Halk says:

    When the hell did his/her post say it makes it alright? Enough already with the feckin’ comments attacking everything that moves. Jesum Cripes.

    Also, the thing about the hermaphrodite who personifies objects is just brilliant.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    We should also consider how the operator between moral values commutes. If you do something shitty then something good, is that better than doing something good then something shitty? What if it’s a vector operation, and you have to use a values tensor to calculate one’s jerk vector?

  10. WiggumEsquilax says:

    Why hasn’t RPS hired you?

  11. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    When you use the same arguments and techniques as certain people it’s fairly normal to get treated like them. Maybe the answers were slightly snappy (See: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/05/25/friday-feminism-blogging-while-feminist-a-3-comment-rule/), but I’m 99% sure they were on point. I’m just too tired to argue against them myself.

    Related to the first comment: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/phmt-argument/
    And he also ignored this sentence in the 2nd paragraph: ” It turns out even Hentai games with all men in them are predicated on sexual assault scenarios.”

    (Thank you Cara, for linking to that blog sometimes in the past, it’s really a great resource, it helped me clarify some concepts as well as explain things to others quickly and effectively)

  12. Geebs says:

    Is it good or bad to normalize a jerk vector?

    Edit: I realised that it’s ok, but only if it really wants to change

  13. Faxmachinen says:

    Most corporations take the magnitude of the jerk vector to turn all PR into more or less positive PR (i.e. |PR| ≥ 0). The rest of us have to project our jerk vector along someone else’s with the dot product.

  14. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Maybe they did. And he/she is hired to make insightful comments?

  15. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    Well, mostly because I didn’t apply.
    It’d be a dream come true to work for RPS, but I’m simply not good enough for the job.

  16. shaydeeadi says:

    How would you know if you didn’t apply?
    They hired Nathan? (/s)

  17. LennyLeonardo says:

    Sick burn!
    They didn’t hire me, so they have some sense.

  18. WiggumEsquilax says:

    Don’t sell yourself short. The length and content of your posts is at least good enough. People don’t respond to your posts because they’re crap.

    Even if you don’t have enough material to write daily, you can just phone it in once a week. Like Cara.

  19. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    Why, Thank you, Kind Sir/Madame <3

  20. The Random One says:

    AngelTear, this is The Random One, your pal from the comments section. You WILL write something and you WILL apply to work for RPS. No, I don’t want to hear it. If you think you’re not good enough, that’s absolutely irrelevant; you’re not the one who has the final say, so it’s not you who has to think if you are or are not good enough. You will get your ass out of the chair, shake all that self-loathing off like a wet dog would (except that in that case it would be water and not self-loathing) and then get your ass back in the chair and write and excellent article about bibeogames. NO. NO ARGUING. DO IT. NOW.

  21. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    ^///^

    Thank you <3

  22. TWChristine says:

    I don’t want to put words into RedViv’s mouth, but I thought it was pretty clear that by using “weird” they were not so much also calling the culture weird them-self, so much as explaining what makes it appear a certain way to people who would refer to it as “weird.”

  23. solidsquid says:

    I’d guess it’s that BDSM is something which had a lot of societal pressure against it (it’s perverse, etc), so those who feel able to disregard said pressures are, to a degree, more free than those who would be interested in participating but are still constrained by them.

  24. pepperfez says:

    I think part of the appeal is that explicitly dom/sub relationships (for whatever value of “relationship”) make a lot the power dynamics that exist in every relationship very obvious, so they have to be more conscious about [i]what sex means[/i] in a way that “vanilla” (ugh) relationships can ignore.
    I mean, a lot of people feel very strongly that it’s good for them, but it’s emphatically not for me, so I don’t have any basis to judge their sincerity.

  25. Premium User Badge

    kfix says:

    Funny how the fear of ridicule stops you in that situation, but doesn’t stop you making ridiculous comments on the internet.

  26. Faxanadu says:

    Word…

    I thought this series was finally going somewhere. Oh boy, coverage over hentai games! What fun! Oh wait, it’s just agenda, agenda, agenda…”most Hentai games are founded on the idea that man is entitled” What the fuck. Lemme try – “ice-cream is founded on the idea that it tastes good” -NO IT JUST TASTES GOOD.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    I actually can’t believe you just posted that to someone claiming they were the victim of sexual assault.

  28. Distec says:

    Wow, you really just went ahead and proved his point, didn’t you.

  29. Piecewise says:

    You want statistical data?

    Here: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/584318/thumbs/o-BOOB-MAP-570.jpg?4

    Sorry, Ethnic groups have physiological differences; they’re meaningless physiological differences most of the time but they exist. I don’t know exactly why you feel the need to say it is otherwise, when even a causal knowledge of the area would be overwhelmingly against you, but hey, whatever. If you want census data about hip size, which I have no fucking idea why they would take but I’m sure is taken for some reason, I can get that too.

  30. sharkh20 says:

    There are always exceptions. People say American’s are fat. I don’t disagree. But I am a skinny American. Statistical analysis will show that a huge amount of people in the USA are indeed overweight. Me getting angry about it, or having a different experience with the the people I hang out with, won’t make it any less true that there are a lot of fat people.

  31. The Random One says:

    So when a woman says that she finds a certain kind of game troubling, and gives her reasons for that, she’s pursuing an agenda?

    “Man, this last Michael Bay movie was awful. The plot was incomprehensible.”
    “AGAIN WITH YOUR PRO-PLOT AGENDA. CAN YOU NOT GIVE AN UNBIASED REVIEW”

  32. Sleepy Will says:

    I call bullshit on any data that claims to have enough points to give a statistically relevant idea of the average boob size of native greenlanders, especially when it has no data on France, UK, Australia, Canada, Italy amongst others.

    EDIT: It appears it does have data on those countries, but it coloured it’s key in a different colour, which screams “legitimacy” to me!

  33. The Random One says:

    Yeah – there is a difference between “the Japanese are weird” and “Japanese culture is weird”.

  34. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    Homophobia, I’m bettin’.

  35. pepperfez says:

    Most (by volume) of the “listening to guys talk about sex” that guys do over a lifetime is in the form of bragging about having sex with that one girl who was A FREAK, DUDE; wanting to have sex with that other girl because of her [ANATOMICAL QUALITY]; or not having sex with this third girl, even though she was so wasted…
    And most of these conversations are in the same mannered, conventionalized style of boasts, and you hear a million before you’re out of high school.
    So even though lots of men have very interesting things to say about sex and sexuality, just the thought of it rubs a lot of guys the wrong way.

  36. nunka says:

    I actually had a very similar conversation with a coworker yesterday. I was, in fact, accused of pushing a “pro-character development” agenda.

    I’m so sinister.

  37. Faxanadu says:

    No, only when she pulls the reasons she finds it troubling out of her ***. I’ll use your own example:

    “Man, this last Michael Bay movie was awful. It was made because Michael Bay hates women and leads a secret underground society to defeat feminism.”

    “I LOVE YOUR UNBIASED REVIEW, YOU’RE JUST TELLING YOUR OPINION EVEN THO IT’S NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT THE MOVIE BUT SOMETHING YOU CAME UP WITH INSTEAD”

  38. P.Funk says:

    But she didn’t say that these games are made because people hate women, her concerns were more subtle, but of course you would render her point into that extreme in order to make it easier to bash.

    Concerns that the content of the game and its mechanics create or are predicated on an attitude which is not altogether good are legitimate ways to explore a topic. Or we could be the obnoxious extreme end of the sex positive crew who think anything goes because people are always right and nobody should ever feel bad about anything ever.

    You know I saw this documentary about a hippie and about how all his kids are miserable because his progressive free love attitudes were just an excuse to not give a shit about things and so he basically was the worst father ever and abandoned them and the children suffered for it because you know… anything goes right?

    But no you’re right, when it comes to human sexuality if you feel it and you want it it should be automatically valid.

    Here’s the other thing that interests me. Everyone goes on about “you and your agenda” like thats a bad thing. Whats wrong with agendas? You act like having an agenda means you can’t be right. Civil rights movement had an agenda, and it was a good one. Stupid agendas, making people look at other peoples’ points of view, breaching the shuttered comfortable attitudes we wrap ourselves in.

  39. Faxanadu says:

    Blame me for taking things to the extreme and then you bring up your hippie father example whatever…

    It’s a game. Worrying that “Hentai games are founded on the idea that man is entitled to naked womanreward” is just ridiculous – it’s worse than “shooting games make you shoot people” since it’s not even derived directly from the content, but it’s instead “perceived from behind the scenes”, as if the writer knows the TRUE EVIL MOTIF of the game makers.

    Your concern about agenda: I’m saying agenda is bad because I want a game review instead of agenda that has nothing to do with games. Of course, I’m not entitled to this, but it’s just something that I’d like to have.

  40. steviebops says:

    Username aside, I didn’t see any MRA nonsense.

  41. pepperfez says:

    Sexual roleplaying (including BDSM) isn’t abuse any more than any other sex act or accessory is, in itself, abuse. Consent and communication are what make the difference, not the specifics of how couples get their jollies. It’s possible to find a thing extremely distasteful and still conceive of some people genuinely liking it.

  42. Premium User Badge

    beekay says:

    I’m sorry to hear your sex life is so generic that you are physically incapable of understanding the inherent subjectivity of turn-ons.

  43. Distec says:

    How about…. The consenting sex lives of others is none of your damn business.

    But please, continue teaching them the errors of their ways.