Hentai

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What were you expecting? A picture of animated sex? It's NSFW for a reason!
"Like three weeks before med school started, I got way into shoplifting and watching anime pornography — I mean, I'm talking some weird-ass cartoons, man."
Elliot Reid, Scrubs, "Our Stuff Gets Real" (S09E09)[1]

Hentai (hen = 'weird', tai = 'perspective/view') is the misinterpreted Japanese word for "pervert" or "perverted", and is used by the western world to describe sexually explicit Anime, Manga/Doujinshi, video games (aka Eroge), and other Japanese media of similar nature. Sometimes these can have actual plots, but much of the time they are as devoid of such a thing as most western pornography. Hentai material can focus on tender moments between high school students who are discovering passion together for the first time. It can be sweet, tender, and airbrushed, or it can be ghastly, gory, grotesque things that'd horrify a Castro Street leatherdaddy.

Material that is less explicit or intense is called "Ecchi" ("H", pronounced "eh-chee").

It should be noted that both of these usages are specifically western. In Japanese, "H" is a catch-all term for all things naughty. It can be used as a noun, adjective or verb as the situation requires. When used to refer to porn, there is no implication of the degree of lewdness.

"Hentai", on the other hand, is not a word that is ever used to refer to porn in Japan, although in manga and anime it is used as an insult ("pervert"). Japanese people tend to find it extremely hilarious or just plain confusing that English speakers refer to Anime porn as "hentai"; of course, using the letter of a foreign language to refer to it is pretty baffling too. In general Japanese usage, hentai means "strange", "perverse", "transformation", "mutation" or "metamorphosis" and can refer to things that are entirely nonsexual. Note that there are two words pronounced "hentai"; the other means "strange shape" or "deformed"[2]

It should be noted that "perverted" in this case can mean as to either manner of preferred sexual conduct or the desire therefore -- a man who excessively desires sex with women (or a woman) can be told off as "hentai" as much as a man with moderate desire for men (post-Meiji). (Western mediæval and Renaissance morés were similar: sodomy was often seen as being the culmination or product of an undifferentiated and excessive weakness toward the sin of Lust; old reprobates who were too slow to hire women were thought to hire boys.)

Definitely not to be confused with Sentai, though Rule 34 has made sure that there's some overlap between the two.

We have a long list of Hentai Tropes, but a few notes:

  • Anatomically-Impossible Sex: A lot of possibilities, but the most common version in H-manga features the "sperm-flowing-into-the-womb" entry under this trope.
  • Eyeless Face: The men in some works, for purposes of Audience Surrogate.
  • Karma Houdini: This is very common in works that feature non-consensual sex scenes. Occasionally a thin justification is given to say that woman being raped somehow deserved it.
  • Positive Discrimination: Most men are portrayed as depraved. On the other hand the story has a way of portraying them in the sympathetic role often as a Anti-Villain or even Anti-Hero.

Netorare Genre is a subgenre that is meant to arouse sexual jealousy.

  1. Watch it here.
  2. For example, hentaigana ("deformed characters") is the name for variants of kana used before the establishment of hiragana and katakana for writing Japanese.