Getting Criterical

We like our sex scenes randy and our bondage imaginative.
Fortunately, there's a lot of that in hentai.


While we don't really sit down with a checklist of criteria to judge hentai by when we review a hentai, there are certain factors that show up again and again and clearly are critical to a successful hentai, from our viewpoint.

Our criteria might not be exactly the same as yours, so we're explaining ours right here.

We judge hentai on:

Plot

Does it roll right along? Does the hentai have a story to tell, and tell it, or does it seem like a series of disjointed episodes that don't really hang together? An example of a good hentai in this respect would be "Imma Youjo 2" which rolls right along, establishes interesting characters whose actions advance the plot -- even the sexual bondage advances the plot at times. An example of a poor plot would be "Pure Love" in which characters appear and disappear for no understandable reason, doing things that do little or nothing to further the plot, sexual and otherwise.

Characterization

Are the characters interesting? Is there at least one likable character that audience members can identify with in the hentai? Do the characters grow and change over the course of the story? Or are the characters just cardboard cutouts, stereotypes who aren't at all suprising or interesting, don't change much or if they do, change in a very stereotyped manner? An example of a good hentai in this respect would be the King and the Elf Witch in Mei King -- he's sensitive, she manages to lose some of the sadness of being different after she connects emotionally with the king. An example of a stinker would be the Isaku/Shusaka series of hentai, all of which feature characters who are either amoral scum or human dishrags.

Sex Scenes

We like vanilla sex scenes, and we like sexual bondage. We dont watch hentai JUST for those elements -- they are not really masturbatory fodder for us. But they do add a lot to the pleasure of watching hentai.

Some people don't like sex scenes, and some who DO like them feel that sex feelings are a sort of irritant that's best dealt with as quickly as possible via orgasms. We think they're just good, dirty fun, along with all the good, clean fun of the plotline.

We look for enough sex scenes to make the hentai worthy of being called an ADULT anime. In vanilla scenes we look for attractive characters having a very good time, portrayed in explicit, imaginative and graphically powerful ways. We prefer a plotline and character buildup that gives the sex scene an emotional as well as sexual payoff for the characters and for viewers.

It's very much the same in the case of bondage scenes. We look for graphically powerful and imaginative bondage that helps build the character and, where appropriate, the plotline. We expect them to be raunchy in the best sense of the word -- arousing and explicit and unashamedly so. Whether it's a DiD scenes, a consensual bondage scenes, or some admixture of the two (as often seems to occur in hentai) we expect it to work on its own terms.

While we will accept a well-done gratuitous sex scene or bondage scene, we much prefer it to be smoothly integrated into the storyline, and to advance it if possible.

An example of a strong bondage scene in an otherwise weak hentai would be the one in Queen and Slave, which includes a very attractive woman in very imaginative rope bondage that incorporates a common piece of playground equipment -- a swing set, bringing a bit of irony to the scene. Unfortunately, the plot and characterization of the story are quite weak, and seem to exist primarily to provide opportunities for fanservice (the anime term for gratuitous nudity and sex scenes).

An example of a strong bondage scene that advances the character and story would be the very powerful scene in the "Slave Warrior Maya" episode of "Cool Devices," in which Maya is found by a friend locked in a dungeon cell, her hands cuffed behind her back, her ankles shackled together, her neck collared, and a short tether leading from the front of her collar to a ring at the base of her clitoris, which has been transformed by high technology into a giant erect cock. Maya is sucking on her clit/cock and when she notices her friend she says apologetically, "I can't stop," and returns to sucking on it.

This scene powerfully establishes the control that the bad guys have effected on Maya, and the total helplessness and vulnerability of her condition -- controlled not just physically by the chains and such, but mentally by the other changes they have wrought in her, to such an extent that she doesn't even have the ability to stop sucking on herself in the presence of others.

Animation

We aren't really experts in animation and tend to give this area a certain amount of latitude. Where the animation is so badly done that it interferes with the story, or makes the sex and bondage scenes less effective, we will note it. Sadly, this is not uncommon. While hentai are far above mainstream U.S. animation in general quality, at times they tend to use money-saving techniques a little too readily.

Money-saving techniques generally involve anything that requires the creation of less cels. Generally to create the illusion of smooth motion in an anime (or a toon) you need a minimum of at least 16 frames (i.e., cels, paintings on transparent plastic) per second. There are several ways around this, however.

One of the most popular is to create a very large cel and then "pan" across it, moving the camera instead of the cel. For example, you might have a scene that starts out in the mansion of a very large estate. Instead of starting out inside the estate, you start with an overhead view of the gate then "pan" across the woods and gardens that surround the estate, finally closing in on the estate, slowly enlarging it.

This can take up to 3 seconds of screen time and requires the production of only a single large cel, at a fraction of the cost it would take to produce 48 cels. This can be a useful way to establish location, but some animators use it to estabish EVERY location, so that you pan down hallways and streets and across rooms and across skyscapes and oceanscapes and mountain scapes and the bodies of naked anime characters. Gets boring after the first couple of times. Gets noticeably boring after the first dozen times.

Then there's the dramatic pause for effect. It's used frequently in live action films to accentuate a moment -- as when a character pauses and stares dramatically at someone or something after saying an especially powerful line. This, too, is a fine dramatic tool, but what you have to remember in anime is that a one-second dramatic pause on a frame saves the expense of creating 15 cels, and a two-second dramatic pause saves the expense of creating 30 cels.

Once again, it's a fine technique if used sparingly, but when it's used repeatedly as some anime do, you get the impression you're reading a comic instead of watching an anime.

One of the slickest, and best, techniques for saving cels is to focus on the face of the listener rather than the speaker when one character is speaking to another. You might have the listener artfully framed by the shoulders and head of the speaker, who has his or her back to the viewer. The listener sits almost perfectly still, staring attentively at the speaker while he or she speaks.

A 20-second speech thus delivered saves 299 cels, because it's just one cel that's being used. Furthermore, you have the dialogue to carry the drama of the scene and keep the viewer interested. Still, you're asking the audience to stare at an unmoving picture for 20 seconds. That can get visually dull.

There are a lot of other tricks that can be used as well, but we think we've given you a pretty good idea what we're talking about.

Now, all the best mainstream anime use some or all of these techniques. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of them. Some can even lend great drama to a scene. But when they get overused, as they tend to when the intent is just to save money, they tend to screw up the viewing experience.

The other elements of animation are not so much a problem for hentai. The characters are for the most part attractive and well drawn, as are the backgrounds. The standard for Japanese hentai is much higher than for mainstream toons in the U.S. There are a few exceptions in terms of low quality -- Pure Love comes to mind -- and a few exceptions in terms of high quality -- Return of La Blue Girl comes to mind -- and we'll mention it, when it's apparent to us.

These are the primary criteria we are thinking of when we watch a hentai. This is what we'll be talking about in our reviews. Hopefully, if you've seen just a couple of the hentai we review, you'll be able to get a sense of where our criteria and prejudices agree with yours, and use our other reviews successfully.