Hey everyone, I wrote a blog entry on Japan's fascination with incest. Just felt like sharing it with you guys:
"I LOVE YOU, ONII-CHAN! (Japanese for ‘big brother’)”
If there’s one taboo that really grinds people’s gears, it’s incest. Yes, the forbidden love between family members is something that we always try to avoid at all costs. However, some Japanese anime & manga creators have incorporated themes of incest into their stories. Incest is also one of the most (if not the most) popular fetishes when it comes to hentai (anime/manga porn). The important question to ask is this: what motivates anime/manga creators to bring up this very touchy subject to fans? It could be because of emotional needs and how Japan views gender & sexuality.
First, let’s take a look at the history of incest in anime and manga. One of the first anime series to heavily focus on it was Cream Lemon, back in the 1980s’. It was a very surreal series that focused on a brother, Hiroshi, and a sister, Ami, and their paths towards a incestuous relationship. Since then, incest has been a theme in mainstream series such as Revolutionary Girl Utena, Marmalade Boy, Koi Kaze, Angel Sanctuary, Vampire Knight, KissxSis, Fruits Basket, Aki Sora, and more recently, Oreimo (Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute”). These series have become very popular and have led to fan-related media (fanfiction, fanart, etc.) that revolves around the incestuous themes each series portrays.
So, why are Japanese creators fascinated by the taboo?
Maybe certain creators have “sibling/parent complexes”. They might have had a thing for their siblings/parents when they were younger. Did they have many close friends growing up? Who knows. By projecting their feelings onto anime/manga, perhaps it’s a better way for them to project their thoughts without suffering serious repercussions. It is noted here that Japanese mothers had an unhealthy, psychological obsession with their sons back in the 1980s’ and 1990s’. Another thing to note is the low birth-rate of Japan. You have to wonder if certain creators have any siblings at all. They may wonder what it was like to have a sibling, so they decide to create the “perfect sibling” in their stories to satisfy their own psychological needs.
One thing to note is that some of the titles I listed above are shojo (girls’ anime/manga) titles. Incest can be a theme because it is also an emotional relationship, not just physical. Shojo series technically focuses on relationships between people. They focus on finding “love” with a variety of people. Of course, the idea of “love” can be subjective. Adding incest to shojo stories generates an even greater emotional response. In essence, it causes controversy and gets eyeballs drawn to the stories. Creators might be doing this because they want attention or they just want to remind themselves of love they once had.
Anime & manga are very expressive art forms. The keyword is ART, since works of art can be depictions of people & situations that may not be real. Are there any guidelines to Japanese art? Japanese animators/publishers don’t seem to mind incest as long as it doesn’t turn into complete smut. For a country that seems to be very traditional, Japan is very open-minded when it comes to sexuality. An article in the Japan Times states that Japan is pretty comfortable with it because they do not necessarily believe in religious morals & ideals. It is accepted, by the Japanese, that Japan was “procreated” by the union of heaven & earth. The union birthed two gods, Izanagi & Izanami, who wed each other & mated to create the country of Japan & human life there. So, basically, Japan exists because of incest. Sex in Japan is viewed as a celebration of the beginning of life. It is supposed to be happy and loving. There is also a Japanese legend that states that star-crossed lovers are sometimes reborn as siblings.
Speaking of siblings, Japan is a country that uses honorifics when addressing older siblings, such as onii-chan (big brother), onee-chan (big sister), & aniki (big brother). Older siblings tend to take on the role of caretaker & seem to take greater responsibility when it comes to teaching younger siblings. Most of the time, younger siblings find it easier to talk to them for advice, since they often tend to explain things easier than peers do. Another thing is that older siblings have this inner desire to guide their little siblings properly, because the younger ones greatly admire & look up to them. These factors can create a very intimate relationship. Creators probably want to address the possibility of what happens when developmental psychology goes wrong. How intimate should siblings be when they’re around each other? A good example would be the relationship between Kyosuke Kosaka & Kirino Kosaka in Oreimo. Kirino comes to trust her older brother, Kyosuke, since he is willing to give her advice and not make fun of her hobbies. One of these hobbies just happens to be playing erotic video games focused on “older brother/little sister” relationships. Kirino even gets a very reluctant Kyosuke to play those games too, which could lead to future complications between the two.
Regarding gender roles in Japan, women are supposed to be housewives, caretakers, and soft-spoken while men are the go-getters, high income-earners, & aggressive. Combine that with Japan’s views on sexuality and you have a recipe for psychological conflict within the self and the family. Creators may feel a need to use incest to address the pressures of society on families. A good example would be the character, Nami Aoi, from Aki Sora. She rapes her twin brother, Sora Aoi, after watching him be involved in a relationship with a girl she likes named Kana. Nami believes that since she is female and doesn’t have a penis, her love for Kana could never be fulfilled. She might not be able to provide Kana with all the things she needs and is thus filled with rage (with Sora being an unfortunate victim of it). Society’s guidelines on a proper sexual relationship have created a huge scar into Nami’s psyche.
Another interesting thing to point out is that incest is noted to be an act of narcissism. Your relationship with a relative is a means to please yourself. Your partner is treated as an object, so to speak. You lack any empathy whatsoever towards them. You want to control & dominate that person. Perhaps some creators want to point out the control aspect of incest. One notable example I can recall was the relationship between Shin Natsume & Maya Natsume in Tenjho Tenge. It was hinted that the relationship between the two was more like lovers than siblings. Shin was borderline insane and he only calmed down when he saw Maya. He was locked in prison because of his insanity and Maya came down to visit him often. As a result, he grew attached to her and became EXTREMELY protective of her. Shin never seemed to think about Maya’s feelings. It was as if Shin wanted Maya all for himself and no one else. When Shin died, he stated that Maya was the only one in his heart.
Incest will continue to be a part of anime and manga for a variety of reasons (maybe the ones I stated above). Japan is a very sexual country and that won’t change any time soon. Plus, Japanese audiences know that anime and manga are entirely fiction. They don’t confuse fantasy with reality. Although you may argue that Japan lacks certain morals, it’s not as if all the incest-related content over there is fan service or pornographic. People have many curious fascinations and there are things out there that are probably worse than incest.
My final question is this: Will we see more incest-related mainstream titles in the future and will they start affecting the human psyche in a negative way?
I want to know what everyone's thoughts on incest themes in anime and manga. Do you guys tolerate it? Hate it?
Last edited by Asarii; November 06, 2010 at 10:33 PM. Reason: incorporated the essay into original post
hate it... its stupid and i seriously dont like the idea of doing it with my sister or mother, thats just too immoral for any one who is not sick...so to drop it out as an entertainment and not being bothered by it is sth that i dont do....but then again i am not some one who has the say in this matter... it my comment is a bit too harsh for this topic i suggest it be deleted ... i have no issues with that action
I didn't encounter much of it yet, though there was some in Shigurui to a certain degree. But that was absolutely fit into the storyline and just a side occurance:
In regards of storytelling I liked it (not as a moment for itself of course). The story was told without taboos, it used a tabooed topic when it suited the story. That's a fine thing to do in a Seinen imo, after all the taboo itself wasn't elevated to a self purpose.
Last edited by Roflkopt3r; November 06, 2010 at 08:06 AM.
I'm not really a fan of incest myself,but it's a part of our world,so why can't it be a part of the manga world?Furthermore,it's just your moral standard that does not accept or like incest,but in other countries and/or religions it is something normal and a part of daily life.
There are also yaoi manga and they seem to enjoy big popularity in Japan,as there are tons of them.Does that mean everyone who reads and creates them is gay?No.
I don't like the thought of myself fornicating with my mom or sister, and normally I don't like that type of incest in manga or anime, but then again, it depends on the way it's done.
I'm more likely to enjoy an incestual relationship between the character and nieces/nephews and aunts, but then again, it really, really depends on the way it's done.
Thank you guys for the responses
@shareer: That's fine. Almost everyone is grossed out by it.
@roflkopt3r: That's an interesting use of the taboo in a non-taboo situation.
@googlez_kun: Good point you brought up on yaoi. I don't see anyone becoming homosexual after reading multiple yaoi series.
@xadyu: Of course, the way you tell it is most important. It may still shock the reader, but if it's done in a way that's coherent to the overall plot, then readers may not mind.
What I forgot to mention is that I definitely despise it when it's told that either the brother or sister is in love, since she/he was small and the sibling doesn't want anything to do with any incest. But the incestual sibling keeps going on and on and on and on about the subject and their relationships.
Manga with an incestual theme that have such a storyline can be burned and so can the authors. It sickens me, if there is any progress, okay, nice. But if not, which is awfully lot the case, it's truly agitating.
Incest in mainstream manga is definitely not something I look for, if it figures to heavily in the plot I usually don't read the series. I have generally come across it in ecchi comedies, where it seems to be used more as a tease. Like xadyu said, there's rarely progress in it, usually just the sister chasing the brother. Really stupid and gross, IMO.
hmm well i have a lil sister you know.. and my dad works over seas and my mom a working woman... so i took care of her for most of the day when i had no school or say used to come early from school... she is practically my world ...but never do i ever think of any kind of romantic build up ever... it just doesnt come even in the remote possible sense... so i really doubt that any one who is not sick will have a dire liking for this... as for yaoi...i am freaked out by that as well.. may b i am the only one here who is it seems :|
With permission from tonyyao82, I incorporated his essay in the original post so we can comment on it as well. Incest is a sensitive topic, but I trust that we can have a thoughtful, mature discussion.
Personally I think it's fantasy. I can't speak for all Japanese people, but the majority DOES NOT approve of incest. I mentioned in a different thread that cousin-marriages were the norm; however that was in the past. After WWII, Japanese traditions and viewpoints have gradually become more Western.
It's the allure of forbidden love (禁断の恋 [kindan no koi]). It's morally wrong in society, and that's precisely the reason why incest along with student/teacher relationships is an attractive concept to certain people. In real life it doesn't work, but in fiction anything goes.
EDIT: Actually Japan is not really a sexual country. It may appear so in media but the population itself? Not quite.
Last edited by Asarii; November 06, 2010 at 11:00 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
Yeah, sometimes it's just pointless. It's more like "shock" value that doesn't leave a lasting impression. I mean, I have there are horror writers who put incest/rape in their stories and it's like "why?"
You were raised normally and understand the concept of family. I don't know if you realize it, but the structure of the family is built in a way to prevent any selfish acts that you may take that could destroy it (i.e. potential incest). Regarding yaoi, I'm not that into it myself, but I understand why people like it. I just don't like some of the fanbase who do "yaoi circles" and stuff like that. They don't look at it at a mature standpoint.
Is that right? I guess I was too influenced by the media. Though, I do remember reading that article in the Japan Times that people in Japan aren't having that much sex these days(as you have pointed out) and that the ones that seem to getting the most action are middle-school students. I don't know what to say.
I agree, anything goes in fiction. Though I think the "creation of Japan" plays a role in how creators think. I mean, an act of incest (Izanagi & Izanami) gave birth to the country of Japan in Japanese mythology. They could be inspired from that. It's a possibility.
The best use of incest was in Old Boy...i saw the movie adaption. There is a manhwa from the original novel i think. I dunno how good is that, but if its as good as the movie was (i think it is)...then it would justify the use of incest. Sadly its one of the very rare cases. Even a manga of such caliber as Berserk use incest almost pointlessly(at least it doesn't show it in a positive light).
Interesting, I have to check out "Old Boy" and see for myself. Thank you for bringing it up!
I've spoiled the movie/manhwa for every one here(i mean mentioning that here was a spoiler itself ...shit.) Just don't spoil it for other ppl when you recommend.
@tonny let us know what you thought of it.
Last edited by ashher; December 13, 2010 at 02:41 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
Pretty old discussion, but it seems interesting that now nearly four years later and the rise of key shows that the incest issue seems alive and well in the business, probably the most recent case in the current light novel, manga, anime world is Mahouka and non readers takes on the Miyuki implying heavily her adoration for her Onii-same being interpreted as love for folks.
I dont think Ive ever taken incest in a serious manner from media to base a moral or such viewpoint on, though im probably in the group for the fantasy of it as I think its a compelling area for the yaoi mangas of bros in love (most end up being non blood related, or an adopted one), though there are a few twincest ones (but they end up being depressing since in the context of the real world families and society would look down on it, so :/ )