By Benny Carrillo / April 20th, 2015
What about Eroge?
Once again, let’s define our term first.
An eroge; a portmanteau of erotic game: is a Japanese pornographic video game genre.
~ Wikipedia, April 7th, 2015
Well, that’s pretty short. However, once again, you get the point. Though this doesn’t explain why an Eroge would be considered a Visual Novel. To do that, we need to look at what a modern Eroge is.
Modern Eroge are often also called Hentai games and usually take the Visual Novel style, add dating sim elements, and, of course, sexual conduct. It’s these types of games that usually find their way to the West and the ones most of us are familiar with. Some of these games are very simple and, yes, are flat-out porn. Then again, with names like Boob Wars: Big Breasts vs Flat Chests (2010), SSSS: Super Secret Sexy Spy (2010) and Do You Like Horny Bunnies? (2001), what exactly are you expecting? These types of games can be further classified as Nukige, which are made with the focus of fulfilling the sexual gratification of the player.
However, if you think all Eroge are like this, you’d be gravely mistaken. There are plenty of Eroge out there that, instead, focus on just telling a compelling story full of drama and romance. And, do you know what? As much as we often forget, sex is part of romance.
There are numerous examples of games in this genre that fall under this category and helped pioneer storytelling elements that are still in use today. Take, for example, Kana: Little Sister (1999), a game that falls into what’s known as Utsuge, or “depressing game” genre.
It’s the story about Takamichi Todo and his younger sister Kana… who happens to suffer from a kidney disease. Considering this falls under the Utsuge genre, you can guess how serious her condition is. It’s a game that, despite its sexual content, and, by today’s standards, being a cliché storm, still manages to reduce people to tears to this day because of its emotional plot and how delicately it handles Takamichi and Kana’s relationship, both as brother and sister and as it starts to become something more over the ten years during which the game takes place.
Let’s also take Koihime Musou ~ A Heart throbbing, Maidenly Romance of the Three Kingdoms~ (2007), which, before it became an anime series, was an Eroge that clocked in at well over 30 hours to complete 100%.
High school student Kazuto Hango finds himself suddenly transported to an alternate version of China’s “Three Kingdoms” era, where almost all the famous generals are now female, and finds himself mistaken as a messenger from heaven. While, at first, reluctant to even deal with anything going on, over the course of the story, he starts to grow closer to the various generals under his command and starts to develop into a kind and thoughtful ruler overall, treating his subjects and generals like friends and family and always putting their safety first. Once again, the sexual content is born out of a genuine romantic angle.
To summarize, these games are not always just about boobs, butts and babes. Oftentimes, there’s a lot of thought and creative writing placed into them, even if we dub them taboo due to the sexual content.
So, what about Senran Kagura?
The main reason I spent so much time documenting what an Eroge is was to show just how ridiculous the notion is. But let’s be fair and put it to the test. Once again let’s take a look at the definition of an Eroge.
…a Japanese pornographic video game genre.
The key word here is pornographic, which describes pornography. So, let’s define that real quick.
Movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement
~Merriam-Webster.com, April 7th, 2015
It’s true that Senran Kagura does contain nudity. However, said nudity is censored, quite hilariously, mind you, and the closest we get to full-on sexual content is the occasional act of female-on-female groping. So, no, it’s not pornographic.
In fact, if you compare it to games like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher, God of War, Dragon Age: Origins and the Mass Effect series, it’s very tame, as many of these games contain outright sex while Senran Kagura doesn’t even feature so much as a kiss. Even if you consider the fact that Senran Kagura: Estival Versus had some bugs in it that allowed for the nudity to be uncensored at launch, it still doesn’t rise to the level of these other games, and said exploit has since been patched.
And before anyone asks, I’m not trying at all to pick on these Western games and say they should be censored or banned. Take Grand Theft Auto, for example. You can very easily say that the games function as a commentary on Western society. Yes, there’s also gratuitous nudity and sexually-explicit content, but it’s part of the lifestyle that these characters emulate and to take that out goes against the very purpose of that commentary that GTA provides.
My point is that it’s asinine that western games can do these types of things, but, when Japanese-developed ones attempt to do something over the top and even more restrained, everyone wants to throw a fit and crucify them.
Regardless, as you can see, the evidence is overwhelming. How anyone could mistake this series as pornographic is beyond me. It doesn’t meet any criteria to merit it the label. Thus, it can’t be an Eroge.
So, what now?
We’ve proven that Senran Kagura isn’t a Visual Novel and, instead, shown it merely borrows elements from the genre. Also, we’ve completely busted the idea that the franchise itself somehow contains adult content which could classify it as an Eroge. While there are sexual elements at play in the franchise, nothing rises to the level to warrant the classification of being pornographic.
So, with those myths dispelled, we’re still left with our original question: What is Senran Kagura? Well, join me in Part 2 where I’ll try to answer that very question!
In the meantime though what are your thoughts on this matter? Do you feel Senran Kagura is in fact an Eroge even if it doesn’t meet the definition I presented here? Do you feel my definition itself is wrong or do you you feel that comparing a Japanese game to a Western one is unfair due to the cultural differences? Let me know in the comments below. I really am curious to see just what everyone’s thoughts are on this matter.
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