Hentai is a kanji compound of 変 (hen; “change”, “weird”, or “strange”) and 態 (tai; “appearance” or “condition”). It also means “perversion” or “abnormality”, especially when used as an adjective. It is the shortened form of the phrase hentai seiyoku (変態性欲) which means “sexual perversion”.The character hen is catch-all for queerness as a peculiarity—it does not carry an explicit sexual reference. While the term has expanded in use to cover a range of publications including homosexual publications, it remains primarily a heterosexual term, as terms indicating homosexuality entered Japan as foreign words. Japanese pornographic works are often simply tagged as 18-kin (18禁, “18-prohibited”), meaning “prohibited to those not yet 18 years old”, and seijin manga (成人漫画, “adult manga”).[ Less official terms also in use include ero anime (エロアニメ), ero manga (エロ漫画), and the English initialism AV (for “adult video”). Usage of the term hentai does not define a genre in Japan.
Hentai is defined differently in English. The Oxford Dictionary Online defines hentai as “a subgenre of the Japanese genres of manga and anime, characterized by overtly sexualized characters and sexually explicit images and plots.” The origin of the word in English is unknown, but AnimeNation‘s John Oppliger points to the early 1990s, when a Dirty Pair erotic doujinshi (self-published work) titled H-Bomb was released, and when many websites sold access to images culled from Japanese erotic visual novels and games. The earliest English use of the term traces back to the rec.arts.anime boards; with a 1990 post concerning Happosai of Ranma ½ and the first discussion of the meaning in 1991. A 1995 glossary on the rec.arts.anime boards contained reference to the Japanese usage and the evolving definition of hentai as “pervert” or “perverted sex”. The Anime Movie Guide, published in 1997, defines “ecchi” (エッチ etchi) as the initial sound of hentai (i.e., the name of the letter H, as pronounced in Japanese); it included that ecchi was “milder than hentai”.[ A year later it was defined as a genre in Good Vibrations Guide to Sex. At the beginning of 2000, “hentai” was listed as the 41st most popular search term of the internet, while “anime” ranked 99th. The attribution has been applied retroactively to works such as Urotsukidōji, La Blue Girl, and Cool Devices. Urotsukidōji had previously been described with terms such as “Japornimation”, and “erotic grotesque“, prior to being identified as hentai.
Origin of erotic manga
Gratuitous illustrations of panties are a typical form of fanservice
Depictions of sex and abnormal sex can be traced back through the ages, predating the term “hentai”. Shunga, a Japanese term for erotic art, is thought to have and existed in some form since the Heian period. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, shunga works were suppressed by shōguns. A well-known example is The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife which depicts a woman being stimulated by two octopi. Shunga production fell with the rise of pornographic photographs in the late 19th century.
To define erotic manga, a definition for manga is needed. While the Hokusai Manga uses the term “manga” in its title, it does not depict the story-telling aspect common to modern manga, as the images are unrelated. Due to the influence of pornographic photographs in the 19th and 20th centuries, the manga artwork was depicted by realistic characters. However, Osamu Tezuka helped define the modern look and form of manga, and was later proclaimed as the “God of Manga”. His debut work New Treasure Island was released in 1947 as a comic book through Ikuei Publishing and sold over 400,000 copies, though it was the popularity of Tezuka’s Astro Boy, Metropolis, and Jungle Emperor manga that would come to define the media. This story-driven manga style is distinctly unique from comic strips like Sazae-san, and story-driven works are now dominating shōjo and shōnen magazines.[
Adult themes in manga have existed since the 1940s, but some of these depictions were more realistic than the cartoon-cute characters popularized by Tezuka. Early well-known “ero–gekiga” releases were Ero Mangatropa (1973), Erogenica (1975), and Alice (1977).:135 The distinct shift in the style of Japanese pornographic comics from realistic to cartoon-cute characters is accredited to Azuma Hideo, “The Father of Lolicon“. In 1979, he penned Cybele, which offered the first commentary on unrealistic depictions of sexual acts between Tezuka-style characters. This would start a pornographic manga movement. The lolicon boom of the 1980s saw the rise of magazines such as the anthologies Lemon People and Petit Apple Pie.
The publication of erotic materials in the United States can be traced back to at least 1990, when IANVS Publications printed its first Anime Shower Special.[ In March 1994, Antarctic Press released Bondage Fairies, an English translation of Insect Hunter.