Visual Novels and Eroge as a Christian Fan

While I have written on this topic before from other perspectives, I wanted to open this blog by being completely open and honest about my experiences with eroge as a Christian, especially in regards to the sex scenes that are often danced around. I used to be one of those people who thought they were all “Japanese porn games,” but then I saw the light and am now a believer in the wonderful art of visual novels and eroge. It’s true that eroge have pornographic content, and I can’t say my experiences have been perfectly free of mistakes or questionable decisions, but overall, they have made a clear positive impact on both my emotional and spiritual lives.

First of all, visual novels are just an awesome storytelling medium. They have all the descriptions and length of a novel, the beauty of visuals, and the immersion of sound. Finally, the “choose your own adventure” mechanism that permeates the medium has led to some really interesting ways a story can branch into different routes, which are often coupled with true routes that deliver really intriguing stories, themes, and very unique twists that cannot be found anywhere else. A couple of examples that anime fans would be familiar with are Clannad and Steins;Gate, and if you’ve only seen the anime, remember that the general consensus is almost always that the visual novel is better than the anime. Therefore, working from here as a base, it is hard to deny that the medium itself is really fascinating, whether from a creator’s or a consumer’s viewpoint. However, the issue is that this medium has been used as a primary export of cheap pornography, kind of.

I’m not going to bother touching on nukige because in my view, works which are so largely pornographic are basically the pornography of films. We normally don’t talk or think about porn when we talk about movies, so I don’t see the point in talking about nukige with the topic of visual novels.  But yes, I am reminding people that visual novels are but a medium, much like film, and judging the medium as a whole is not a simple task. That said, eroge are in a kind of grey zone between all-ages and nukige. While they do have erotic content, said content is usually a pretty small part of it. This makes it very easy to skip, and it’s really unfair to judge an entire work for these few scenes. But while I could (and have in the past) talk about the pros and cons of these scenes and their effects on the works they inhabit, I think it would be more relatable if I instead spoke of my own personal journey and experiences with the medium.

I started reading VNs with Planetarian and Little Busters! after which I was completely hooked on what these stories could convey. But neither of those had any R-18 scenes. One of the next things I read was the MuvLuv trilogy which did have a few of these scenes. As I said before, skipping the stuff was really easy, and I didn’t really feel anything morally wrong with it so much as accepting that this exists and I didn’t want any part of it. With that mindset, the biggest problem might be whether or not these scenes might tempt you into sin. But honestly, MuvLuv Extra was really boring and lacrosse made me really angry (did anyone actually like lacrosse?) and I really just wanted to move onto Alternative, the 3rd story which receives the real praise. If the porn made me feel anything, it was annoyance at being so pointless. Then the scene in Alternative happened. It’s a very infamous scene among the fandom, and I admit I ended up reading the first few parts because of how the text was kind of saying something important despite the images. But honestly, I hated that, and I later found that many other fans did too. For many people including myself, it just ruined a lot of the emotional impact that scene was supposed to have. I kind of understand why that scene was there from a storytelling perspective, but the execution was just awful and all I could feel was disgust at whoever made it.

And then I read Saya no Uta. Well, this had way more sex than I was used to by far. I ended up reading the majority of those scenes, and what I found by the end was that as much as I hated them, they really aided the thematic progression of the story. The way the scenes changed over time as certain events occurred did a fantastic job of being thematically relevant to the story, and the mindset of the protagonist is depicted so well through these raw, carnal actions. Was there some disgust? Yeah, especially the more violent ones. Was there sexual gratification? Honestly, yeah to some degree. But that was also kind of the point in how the scenes change over time. If there is one eroge that does a good job of including sex scenes as a meaningful way to help tell a story, it is probably Saya no Uta.

I read a lot more VNs after that, with varying opinions. Some had sex scenes, and some were completely clean. Naturally, one of them was Rewrite, which was literally the most spiritually enriching story I’ve read in my life. I spent weeks thinking about my faith and God after that, and it was then that I was truly convinced that this medium is something special in the hands of a talented writer. I read a lot of excerpts of sex scenes between that half uncertainty of whether the scene will go that far and not wanting to miss anything after the scene and at times, honestly, a bit of curiosity. I started studying Japanese and read Mahoutsukai no Yoru, both an incredibly terrible and fun choice for a first untranslated read. The joy and pride in having read a complete story in Japanese is really amazing, and that is one reason why Mahoyo will forever have a special place in my heart. With only 15 years left until the sequel, I hope to be fully fluent by then!

And then I was told to read Tsuki ni Yorisou Otome no Sahou aka Tsurioto. Ou Jackson is such a god-tier writer. The dialogues he writes are so entertaining, so flavorful, and so full of life and unique personalities. So yes, this is even reflected in the sex scenes. Granted, I only read Luna-sama route because based Luna-sama is an amazing heroine who made all the other girls bore me to death in comparison. I mean, sure, it was a sex scene, but like, wow it was entertaining from a writing perspective. From an objective writing perspective, the biggest issue with sex scenes is they are so incredibly bland. They check different boxes for different fetishes, but the writing is basically all the same and the dialogue could not be blander. Consequently, you could probably just copy paste sex scenes around and no one would really be able to tell; objectively, that’s just bad writing. So when I read something like Tsurioto with very dynamic characters, it would be a travesty for some third rate sex scene to strip them of their personalities and deliver some silly sexual gratification writing. Luckily, it doesn’t do that. Instead, it maintains those dynamic characters and personalities and writes a sex scene that is very clearly happening between these two characters at a specific point in time of their relationship.  I know that sounds weird coming from a Christian, but like, there were some very distinct interactions between the two of them that really made me feel happy for them. I even laughed at some parts because the interactions between the two characters were always comedic, and that writing was maintained consistently and naturally even in a sex scene. That shows not just great writing but also a certain amount of respect for sex rather than treating it as some sexual gratification scene made for sales; instead, it was a scene written as an important part of the relationship between two characters. I can respect that a lot.

Honestly, I have read a number of sex scenes in VNs, but for the most part, I’ve found them and my reactions to them to be very different than I expected. The Christian instinct says these should be really sinful and evil temptations of lust but if I were to describe them in a word, it would probably be annoying. If you are going to try to tempt me into sinful lust, then one of the worst times to do so would be while I’m engrossed in a really interesting story. Sometimes it feels like the writers throw darts on a board to decide where in a finished script they should place them; the timing makes no sense half the time. I guess if you personally have issues with lust, then by all means avoid them, but I’m not sure I can agree with the stance of avoiding them because it’s sex. There are some really interesting, well written stories in this medium, and I think you can see this not just from my opinions but the opinions of all the other non-Christian fans. If people were reading eroge for only the porn, then it is strange to see eroge inspiring fans to talk about serious topics like philosophy, love, and self-sacrifice, themes that resonate with all kinds of people for arguably, all the right reasons.  Sure, the visual novel medium has its share of pointless porn and there is most certainly an audience that loves it, but I will always defend it against uninformed critics and as a Christian, it is my favorite medium to engage in.

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Author: Kaze

Kaze is a graduate from the University of Tokyo who currently works on developing gene therapies for genetic diseases. He is a Nanatard since 2009 and mostly spends his time reading VNs and studying Japanese. Strangely enough, also a devout Christian.

4 thoughts on “Visual Novels and Eroge as a Christian Fan”

  1. BtT’s intersection of anime and Christianity is a good thing for the internet to have, but visual novels are truly where it’s at! That said, I’m glad you’ll be continuing to write independently, as I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from you. I only started reading “pure” visual novels (no gameplay) in 2013, so my backlog is pretty small and limited to translated titles.

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  2. That´s honest. A very useful and interesting first post. Well, I love visual novels -thanks to you and Japesland, I must add-, for the same reasons I love roleplaying, interactive fiction -the little there is- and even writing my own books. It´s because I can influence the plot, adding to the “interior travel” dimmension of fiction, and that´s amazingly enriching. Before knowing this medium existed, I even experimented a few times with Powerpoint, trying to create something like it. That said, I think I could never read a porn scene, or a work of fiction in which pornography has an important part. For me, it would never be right. I´ll explain myself.

    I have some personal wars against my civilization, and one of them is against pornographic and otherwise impure content. I think that a lustful narrative has different logic and purposes from an artistic work: it is a deception which leads to irrational vertigo and ultimately, to self-destruction and sex as impersonal exploitation of a person turned object, which is an agression. For me, it´s violent in nature (both for the viewer and the portrayed and for all men and women), and also against God design. I would forbid or destroy it if I could, as with prostitution. I can´t, so I´ll combat it wherever I can. Is dangerous for me, too. Contrarily to you, more so when I´m immersed in a story, because when she´s a real girl with father and mother and I am who I am, the fight is easier: a writer can draw you into his or her world, where in a way, you´re the protagonist and deception may be trickier. Porn content is also very addictive. I´ll say the same about films, series, comics, books or whatever: I´ll walk away from the cinema if necessary, I´ll tear a page for one of my books, I´ll jump half an episode and try to figure out what happened previously, if it crosses the line repeatedly, I´ll even left a classic unseen or unread (Joyce´s Ulysses, Watchmen, Proust, García Márquez, Tarantino). I´m not saying all those authors want to hurt us, but they do. They hurt themselves, their works and us. That´s only my approach, but I stick to it.

    For me, not all nudity/innuendo/impure situations/illicit relationships/descriptions of sexual activity are pornographic (or I couldn´t read even the Bible). It´s about how the material is intended to direct you to lust using sexual stimuli. The Song of Songs, Greek art, non-sexual nudity is fine. An impure character with impure thoughts (The Bonfire of Vanities) is fine. I have read countless rape scenes, child abuse or disturbing things, but they were not intended to draw me in. A porn scene between spouses is still a porn scene, because sex is intimate. Impure but not explicit (camera on the legs, sexual jokes, panty shots and so on): sometimes I can deal with some of it, sometimes I can´t, but it´s a different problem. There is a grey zone. Some things I can skip, but for me they harm greatly the work, as if the author had insulted a sister or a female friend of mine directly. Because in a sense, that´s the case. I can share some of your reasoning about, say, MuvLuv, but I´d feel different: I´d feel as if buying good, necessary things from someone who also runs a brothel in his garage, or is a drug dealer. I really hate it. When it´s unexpected or I like the characters or the context is innocent, I feel really betrayed. It´s just that I think of every girl I know and respect (because fictional girls are inspired in real girls), and I can´t stand it.

    Back to VN´s. For now, I´ve readed True Remembrance, Planetarian and Rewrite (which was great, and I´ve already comented), and I´ll buy Little Busters as soon as it comes to Steam. I´ve seen the anime adaptations of Clannad and Steins;Gate, and by the narrative structure and the hints of roads not taken, the original material must be great. When the seagulls cry sounds fascinating. But by you description, I can´t read Saya no Uta or Tsurioto. In a sense, the better the writer, the less I can. Because a good writer can and will mix the good and the bad, as beauty and depravation were mixed for Dorian Gray, so one seemed to imply the other. Like adulterated peniciline. It´s a corruptio optimi pessima thing: evil is ugly and stupid in the deep, but it can seem noble, innocent, wise, beautiful, even saint. An evil Wormtail or Gollum is not like a Saruman, a seeming saint or a fallen angel.

    I agree that sex is not bad, nor the problem. Sex is beautiful, a sign of God, and all romantic literature comes from attraction, mutual desire, mutual love and complementarity. But. There was this guy in my University who, knowing I was a Christian, joked that he wanted to know a girl “in the Biblical sense”. He just didn´t get anything, but that was the main point. In Hebrew the verb is “jada”, which means “to know” and also “to experience, to live”. Know her this way, deeply, lovingly, respectfully, exclusively, only her, in body and soul, as a part of “the” mutual donation, so you are almost one. That union has such a great power that it transforms life and psyche, and was established by God in the very beginning. I find that´s incompatible with sexual gratification in any other place. Every single detail I live elsewhere is something I miss living, discovering, knowing with and in “the one”, like sort of anticipated adultery. And that hurts me, and will hurt her. So I will guard my heart.

    Again, thank you for your post. It was a challenging view, and an opportunity to reflect. God bless!

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I can definitely understand and respect your decision. That you able to accept my position without compromising your own is all I really ask of people. On the topic of not all sexual situations being porn, that’s something I often wonder about and still am not sure where the line should be. I have used the generic term of porn scenes throughout the post, but there are definitely scenes that I don’t feel were written to stimulate sexual gratification. For example, Saya no Uta had both scenes that are meant to inspire lust as well as scenes that are meant to inspire disgust (i.e. rape). It transitions slowly to make the reader think “wait, at what point did it all go wrong?” That line is different for each individual, so what I got out of the story is that it’s never about crossing a line. It’s about a series of numerous missteps that get worse and worse as you traverse down the path of sin; thus there is no easy answer when it comes to sexual content. I’m sure there are people out there who can read a rape scene like the ones you mention, and yet it directs them to lust and sin. As you say, it’s an incredibly grey zone that again, I do not have an answer to. You may be okay with certain sexual imagery given the right context, but there are surely others who disagree, while still others are okay with imagery you aren’t. Then there are the parts in the Bible which are very sexual, which many Christians refuse to admit when discussing the topic (but I’m glad to see you do). In the end, I think we just have to be very careful about why we choose to engage in media while maintaining a transparency with others and God.

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