Some Musings on Erotic Manga
(This post might be about porn, but it is completely SFW, I promise. No lewd links or images here! If you want porn, go look it up yourself.)
In the world of ero-doujins, porn is art in the most literal sense. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I pick my favourite doujins almost solely on the basis of their aesthetic qualities. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t care about the story – as I’ve argued elsewhere with regards to animation, you can’t easily separate visual art from the storytelling. What I am saying is that a comic’s capacity to titillate is inherently tied up with the artist’s mastery of comic art techniques.
Besides the obvious things like anatomy and perspective, a pornographic comic is most effective when it invites us to imagine the actions between the frames (i.e. the gutter, to use comics terminology). You’ll notice that with manga in particular, the most accomplished artists will portray a particular position through multiple angles, often using closeups to convey the characters’ emotions. Replicating cinematic techniques is a common tactic among manga artists in general, but it’s especially useful when depicting the intensity of a sex act, given that a) a lot of the movements are repetitive, and b) the setting/environment doesn’t usually change between panels. Indeed, the comic form may even be superior at conveying a cinematic sexual encounter than your average low budget porno film, given that there are no limitations on where the artist can place their “camera”, so to speak.
Now, despite the rather academic language in the paragraph above, I’m not terribly immersed in the world of ero-manga. (Why are you looking at me so skeptically?) In fact, the more I think about ero-manga, the more I realise that I typically enjoy the action leading up to the sex more than the sex itself. Once the characters get down and dirty, it’s just… underwhelming? This is not a knock against the skill of all those talented artists. Rather, it seems that a visual representation of sex can’t outdo the imagination. This is probably the reason why I generally prefer ecchi content over outright pornography.
Having said that, I do like some ero-artists a lot. Although the only artist I actively keep tabs on is Tsukako, I’ve followed her since her Code Geass years in 2009, so it’s been a long ride. Thanks to her doujins, I played Tales of Graces and Granblue Fantasy, and I also read the Ore to Kanojo no Moeyo Pen light novel. She does typical vanilla stuff, and despite finding most vanilla plots utterly banal, I’m consistently charmed by her work. It’s hard to explain why.
If I had to pin it down on something, it would be her equal emphasis on the ero and the kawaii. Her female characters might have an innocent moe look about them, but they also have large assets (if you know what I mean).
The way I see it, oppai is the nectar of life. But when it comes down to it, the thing I like most in these manga is the emphasis on female sexual agency. I can name six Tsukako works off the top of my head where the action begins because the girl literally starts masturbating. And it’s not like their sexual interest in the guy exists to convey what a sex god the bloke is. You can generally understand why her heroines are sexually attracted to their love interests because their relationships are given some buildup. It might also be due to the somewhat “shojo” influence Tsukako brings to her artwork, complete with soft pen lines and cute boys.
For those of you familiar with Granblue Fantasy’s original character designs, these ones are clearly quite different, although still recognisable. You can see how Feather in particular is a lot more “moe” compared to his original design (see here). It’s all very cute and non-threatening, which might explain the appeal for someone who prefers a clear distinction between “vanilla” and “exploitation” works. (If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s sexual coercion dressed up as ~romance~. Rape fantasies are fine, just don’t pretend they’re not rape.)
As you might be getting the impression, there are a lot of things about pornography I don’t care for. By book-ending the sex scenes with cute jokes and lightweight ecchi scenes, Tsukako manages to offset the things I don’t like about porn. Even so, I still end up re-reading the non-H scenes over the H ones, because eroticism is something that artists can express without actually depicting the sex act itself. For me, it’s just enough to know that these characters have sex lives and I can fill in the blanks. Case in point: I didn’t show a single erotic image in this post, but I’m feeling pretty good in my nether regions.
In conclusion, lewd anime girls are great. Praise lewd anime girls!
So what do you like/dislike about erotic manga? Got any favourites? Since I won’t be censoring any dirty stuff, feel free to go wild in the comments. Just keep that in mind if you choose to read the comments. Oh, and no kink-shaming, anyone!