What is Hentai? Why is Anime Porn Popular?

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated November 8, 2023

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What is hentai?

Hentai is anime porn. It is a genre of pornography with anime or manga styling. In Japan, it means pervert. In the rest of the world, it refers to anime boys and girls doing sexually explicit acts. Hentai is most commonly consumed in comics, games, and movies.

Hentai fast facts

  • Hentai is not a buzzword, it is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and history.

  • In 2022, hentai was the most searched term on PornHub.

  • Although hentai doesn’t feature humans, some countries forbid its possession, production and distribution.

  • Both males and females watch hentai, but the genre is mainly popular amongst the younger generations.

  • Today, everybody can easily create custom hentai images and videos with AI tools.

Where did hentai originate from?

Hentai originates from Japan and its roots go much further back in time than you might think. 

You probably have seen old explicit paintings of Japanese dudes that look a lot like sumo wrestlers and Japanese women with kimonos. That erotic art genre is called shunga and it was popular between 1600-1860. That’s way before computers and the internet entered our lives.  

Fast jump forward in time. The genre never ceased to exist and as technology evolved, hentai did too. The first anime porn, “Suzumi-bune” was created in 1932. Today, you can create your own hentai porn with artificial intelligence.

Why is hentai so popular?

Many fans of anime, both male and female, develop a romantic connection with the young, big-eyed and colorful characters. Hentai goes a step further and explores sexual fantasies that are often considered as perverse in the real world.

The internet boosted the expansion of manga, and thus hentai. It has never been easier to find groups and communities that share the same passion with you. Doujinshi, for instance, are fan created art which often go viral in the community.

A popular Doujinshi with a Harem theme where a single male protagonist is surrounded by three or more female characters. Photograph: MyAnimeList

What are common themes or genres in hentai?

Hentai has more themes and genres than there are meals on a sushi menu. Like with human porn, you can find hentai for all kinks and fetishes, e.g. blowjobs, anal, DP, etc.

But since hentai is a fantasy world, it also contains specific sub genres. There is a Japanese term for every subgenre, but it doesn’t reveal a lot unless you are a hardcore fan. Here is a  list of hentai genres with their brief common English explanation:

  • Yaoi: male homosexuals

  • Yuri: lesbians

  • Lolicon: sex with underaged girls

  • Shotacon: sex with underaged boys

  • Bakunyū: breasts

  • Nekomimi: catgirls

  • Harem: male with multiple girls

  • Futanari: chicks with monstrous dicks

  • Netorare: cuckolding

  • Omorashi: golden shower

  • Josō-seme: rape, BDSM and incest

  • Waifu: romantic soulmate

How has hentai influenced popular culture?

Hentai has turned into an enormous industry within the even bigger manga world. To give you a rough idea, the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) estimated the manga industry worth a stunning $19.1 billion in 2017. Some studies predict that this will raise to around $60 billion in 2030.

That’s just one way to say that manga and hentai are more popular than ever before. Studies have shown that consumers of manga are more likely to watch hentai porn. And to no surprise, the genre is adored by the generations that grew up with the internet: Millenials and Zoomers.

The tentacles of hentai are spreading fast and wide. It started with paintings and drawings, evolved into comics and animations. Today, you can find hentai in a wide range of formats, such as erotic games, merchandise, events and conventions, music, ASMR hentai sound clips, VR, AR and even AI hentai generation tools.

A popular hentai game built on the Unity game engine where you take on the role of a strip club owner and your task is to revitalize an adult establishment. Photograph: LewdZone

Is hentai considered a form of pornography?

Yes, there is no doubt about it. Hentai is all about sex in anime style. Just like all other fetishes, many porn sites even have a dedicated category for hentai sex movies and drawings. 

In 2022, “hentai” was the most searched term on PornHub globally. It is also consistently one of the most popular porn categories on PornHub (4th most popular in 2021 and 12th most popular in 2022).

Is hentai illegal in any countries?

Yes. If you plan to watch, produce, or distribute hentai, you better first check the local laws to make sure you won’t get yourself into trouble. Some countries, like France and Australia, have banned hentai completely. 

In other countries, it is illegal to possess obscene and explicit content of minors in any form, even if the persons are not real. In Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, and the UK, you can be prosecuted for possessing and distributing lolicon content. That is a controversial sub genre of hentai that depicts explicit content with pre-teens. 

As is always the case with the law, the situation is complex and constantly changing. In the US, for example, possessing and distributing child pornography is a federal crime. But a simple possession of a hentai with pre-teens (a so-called loli) is not illegal, unless you are in Massachusetts.

A global map of Lolicon legality (i.e. hentai with underage girls). Red zones are where it’s legal to possess Lolicon. Green zones are where it’s illegal. Laws can differ by state. Photograph: Reddit

Are there any regulations or restrictions on the production and distribution of hentai?

Hentai is pornographic material. That makes it automatically illegal in countries where the production, possession and distribution of porn is a criminal act. The Vatican is only one of the many countries that forbids porn.

But there is a difference between owning, making money from porn and consuming it online. Regulations have never been the easiest lecture, and they always lag reality. Until you break the law and find out the hard way. 

Ryan Matheson knows all about it. In 2010, the Canadian border police arrested him because he had manga comics in his luggage. The dude is no longer in jail, but even consuming hentai can be risky in many countries, as we explained above. If you want to be sure, the best you can do, for now, is to move to Japan where it is (still) not forbidden to produce and distribute hentai.

What are the potential effects or consequences of consuming hentai?

Besides getting wet, having a boner, or experiencing a “WTF am I watching” moment, hentai can have different effects and consequences.

First off, it can be a ticket to jail in certain regions. Australia’s Border Force, for instance, banned hentai completely in 2020. If you plan a visit down under, make sure you don’t import hentai in any form.

But consuming hentai can also rocket you to fame and recognition in the thriving hentai community. On Reddit, for instance, r/Hentai has over 3 million followers. Events like San Japan and HentaiCon in the US, attract thousands of fans who gather around their passion for anime and hentai.

How does hentai differ from other forms of adult entertainment?

Hentai is anime porn and the explicit content makes it stand out in this popular adult entertainment genre. The fact that it is drawn or animated distinguishes it from human porn in two major ways. 

First, the hentai world is populated with manga characters and fantasy monsters and aliens. Their body features enlarge deep sexual fantasies. Think, for instance, of multiple-breasted girls, hermaphrodites with gigantic male genitals, and tentacle porn. 

Second, since there are no humans involved in the hardcore action, hentai can explore sexual taboos and illegal activities in the real world. The most extreme examples are rape porn, incest, bestiality, and sexual intercourse with minors.

How does hentai differ from other forms of adult entertainment?

For newbies in the anime genre, the terminology can be confusing, but in fact, it is simple. Manga are comics or drawings, anime are animations with manga characters, and hentai is the porn variant. Hentai can take the form of drawing or animations. 

So, hentai differs from anime and manga in exactly the same way movies with Emma Watson differ from porn with MILFs. One keeps her clothes on and is just being cute and sexy, the other one is too, but she is involved in hardcore action.

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