Oh, Japan, Japan, Japan. Why can’t you just have normal sex? Why do you have bring in eels and octopi and things I don’t dare mention for fear they’ll come for me in the night. Is it because your men are overworked and suicidal? Is it because nearly all of your young female population has at least one STD (Infection rates has high as 82%!)? Are the pressures on your society so great that you just can’t fuck like a normal person? And if so, are things like this really how you want to relieve that tension?

For the rest of you, a primer.

Eroge (sounds like pirogi) is the Japanese portmanteau of erotic and game, erochikku mu. Originally starting out as games with romantic elements, with possibly a little titillation as a final reward, the genre branched in its early stage. One branch became the “love simulators” where players attempt to woo a girl through extended dialogue options. The other branch ran off gleefully into the night with the titillation, poured a roofie cocktail down its throat and came back the next morning with the broadest range of pornographic video games you can imagine. Both branches have become firmly embedded in the otaku sub-culture, sort of like every male owning at least one Playboy over the course of their life.

The eroge industry, like the Japanese porn industry on the whole, is massive. There are literally thousands of these games, most of them falling in the less-than-nice end of the spectrum. With technology growing like it is, more and more of these games are coming to market. Eventually, the shoe had to drop, just like it did back in 1998 when the Japanese finally got off their ass and banned any erotic material depicting fictional characters under the age of 18. That ban was targeted at producers of hentai that were doing stories about underage teenagers. In this case, the shoe dropping was a city council woman in New York City named Christine Quinn working in party with New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault and Equality Now. It came to her attention (probably because the exact same thing was playing out in England) that eroge were available through online retailers like Amazon.com, eBay.com, Buy.com and Overstock.com. Using Japan’s place as a signatory on the 1985 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the advocacy groups were able to send the Japanese press into a bit of a tizzy over the games.

The first really weird part of this? The game they singled out as being the most egregious is 3 years old. The game is called RapeLay, and it tells the story of a Japanese subway groper, or chikan. The details are nauseating, but not uniquely singular. Hell, this game was featured on the humor site Something Awful back when it came out, and they took a moment to say that they can’t wait for the pro-censorship in video games people got a hold of it. I don’t think they could have predicted that it would take three years for that to happen.

The second weird part of this? The key fanner of the flames in Japan is the New Komeito Party, a Buddhist-centric political party that seeks world peace and all of the joys that come along with that. Their chosen method to fan the flames? Using their ties with the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) to get them to run false news stories about the Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS), the trade group for eroge manufacturers. The time line of events goes something like this. TBS gets the EOCS to sit down with them and talk about the potential of banning the production of violent eroge. TBS then takes this interview and cuts it to make it seem like the EOCS is going to announce a prohibition on these kind of games. Some how the EOCS catches wind of this and freaks out. TBS offers them a second interview and the EOCS declines, not wanting to be even more misconstrued. So, TBS just runs the hacked up story and says to hell with the EOCS.

This was probably the goal of the New Komeito Party in the first place. TBS isn’t known for being the most scrupulous of media outlets (think FOX News crossed with TMZ), and in getting them to run a story saying the EOCS is going to ban these games the New Komeito Party has primed the pump of public outcry if the EOCS doesn’t ban them. They even managed to get TBS to include the June 2nd meeting of the EOCS as the announcement date of the ban.

Pinned in a corner, the EOCS sent out a fax to all of their member companies at the end of their June 2nd meeting stating that from this point on, there were to be no more rape simulators. They would work with individual companies who had games already in development or were prepping finished games for production. There was no vote taken, and the decree is neither contractually or legally binding. It also doesn’t affect the cottage industry of game developers who work outside of the umbrella of the EOCS.

So, that seems like a pretty straightforward victory, right? Well, nothing is straightforward in this winding story. The first game the EOCS worked with after the decree with was a lovely title called (rough translation here) “Gang raped by the entire village ~girls covered in milky liquid~“. After the EOCS made its changes the game will now be called “The trap set by the entire village ~bodies covered in milky liquid~“. The game hasn’t hit shelves yet, so no one knows if there were content changes made to the game or not. My best guess is that the EOCS is going to usher in another generation of tentacle porn and ghost cocks with their changes. Both were ways that porn producers side-stepped the Japanese government’s restrictions on showing explicit penile insertion.

So, from an MP in England and a City Councilwoman in New York, we jump to another Japanese censorship ruling that I have no doubt will end up spawning a dozen more unsettling sub-genres but never actually direct the core issue.

Right now, the Japanese islands are in turmoil. The population is in freefall. In five generations, the nation of Japan won’t have enough people to keep up their own infrastructure. This isn’t helped by the lacksidasical view taken by Japanese youth toward their own sexual health and development. Nor is it helped by the national escapism and fantasy in their pop culture. The otaku is a part of normal life, but a life that sends people into themselves, not out into the world. The final summation is that products like eroge are methods to make people money. Which is to say, they need an audience who is willing to pay for them. As long as that audience exists, they will exist. The better use of time is not spent attempting to ban them outright, but rather to address the core societal problems that cause people to develop such violent notions of sex and sexuality.