This text will investigate to what extent depictions of sexual acts can support emotional interaction between characters in a fictional work. This is done by comparing linear interactions between three samples of visual novels and their anime adaptations, and the impressions that viewers have of these works.
Keywords: love triangle, White Album 2, Canvas 2, Clannad, emotional interaction, sexual relation, spoiler.
Japanese creative industry has been able to grow and develop with a high degree of freedom due to very different values and norms relative to European and even other Asian nations. The influence of climate (Tetsuro 1935) and the Zen socio-cultural worldview that tends to be secular in nature has influenced the way modern Japanese society views sex.
Representations of sexuality in creative works have existed since the time ukiyo-e woodblock prints, dubbed the ancestor of manga, proliferated in Japan during the Edo period. Other than that, a number of literary works, e.g. Ihara Saikaku’s novel Kousoku Ichidan Otoko also uninhibitedly presents portraits of sexuality in Edo period Japan.
In recent times, new forms of creative works such as manga, novels, PC games, and other derivative products containing sexual content arrives on the shelves every month. The elasticity of demand for these products in Japan is a unique case, as a portion of these “adult-rated” (R-18) works do not position the sexual content in them as their main selling point.
Then, how important is the role of sex in influencing a story, and in the reception of these works by their prospective consumers?
Three creative works with three different representations
This text will specifically discuss three works produced by three different companies.
White Album 2 is a visual novel published by Leaf in 2011 for PC. 2012 saw its release on PS3, albeit rated “teen” and removing sexual contents found in its PC version. Its anime adaptation in 2013 features a sexual act in its final episode.
Canvas 2 is a visual novel published by F&C in 2004 for PC. It was adapted into anime in 2005.
Clannad is a visual novel published by Key in 2004 for PC. This series is designed, and indeed rated “all ages” in all of its iterations.
For purposes of comparison, the anime adaptations of these titles will be used (with visual novel references when deemed necessary), in particular the following episodes:
White Album 2: episodes 8-13 with emphasis on the character Kazusa Touma;
Canvas 2: episodes 20-24 with emphasis on the character Elis Housen;
Clannad: 2nd OVA with emphasis on the character Kyou Fujibayashi.
Characteristics of adaptation
The adaptation of a visual novel commonly emphasizes on the arc of the heroine that the production wants to promote the most. However, to make comparisons easier, a similar route, that of the love triangle, is investigated.
In Canvas 2, a love triangle exists between Elis Housen, Kiri Kikyo, and Hiroki Kamikura. Housen and has a vertical relationship with Kamikura, as Housen is both a student and nephew of Kamikura. Meanwhile Kikyo and Kamikura’s relationship is horizontal, as Kikyo is a high school friend and a coworker of Kamikura.
In White Album 2, a love triangle exists between Setsuna Ogiso, Kazusa Touma, and Haruki Kitahara. All three of them are friends in the same grade.
In Clannad, a love triangle exists between Kyou Fujibayashi, Ryou Fujibayashi, and Tomoya Okazaki. They are all friends in the same grade, with Kyou and Ryou being twins with the former being the “older sister” to the latter.
Depictions of sex: supportive, obstructive, or neutral?
The social background of Japanese society leads to its people (especially after World War II) to view sex as a ‘normal’ thing. The biological shame associated with the display of nudity is not treated as strongly as the social shame from commiting faux pas.
With the exception of Clannad, the above visual novels also depict sex scenes, which are then also shown in their respective anime adaptations.
In White Album 2, the sexual act between Touma and Kitahara (ep. 13) is preceded by some serious dilemma on Kitahara’s part, who had realized that he is liked by both Touma and Ogiso. Initially, Kitahara accepted Ogiso’s proposal, but as time passes, he chooses Touma instead.
In episode 12, one scene depicts Kitahara searching for Touma’s whereabouts. This is a reflection of the previous episode where Kitahara openly admitted his choice (and his prior inner conflict) of thinking about Touma even though he already has Ogiso as girlfriend.
The sexual act in episode 13 is also presented with the supporting information that this is Touma and Kitahara’s “first and last” time, which is reinforced by the scene where Touma leaves Japan at the end of the story. An incoming phone call from Ogiso to Kitahara’s phone adds to Kitahara’s inner conflict that he felt while he was with Touma.
In Canvas 2, Housen and Kamikura have sex after Kamikura made his decision to choose Housen. Prior to this, Kamikura had chased after Housen who was about to leave Japan for France, in order to confess his true feelings. Kikyo and Housen, whose relationships were not explicitly mentioned before, had attempted to obtain Kamikura by their own maneuvers.
In Clannad, Fujibayashi Kyou and Ryou are twins who at first acted normally towards Okazaki. Ryou first admitted to have feelings for Okazaki, but their relationship felt awkward. Kyou tried to help Ryou to become closer to Okazaki, but instead, ends up falling in love with him. In the end, Okazaki did not choose to date either of them.
The analysis is conducted by asking four simple questions:
- Is sex involved?
- Does the sexual act involves the protagonist with the heroine he has chosen?
- Does the sexual act affects the story?
- Does the sexual act enhances the audience’s understanding of the story?
As a qualitative review, appraisal will be very subjective and affected by the following factors:
- exposure to the work (whether the anime or the source visual novel was seen first);
- structure and concept of story;
- the presence of and length of the sex scene;
- direction of the anime.
From the descriptions in the previous section, the following summary has been produced:
|Series||Is sex involved?||Does the sexual act involves the protagonist with the heroine he has chosen?||Does the sexual act affects the story?||Does the sexual act enhances the audience’s understanding of the story?|
|White Album 2||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
From the three above samples, White Album 2 deserves a special mention. Intense exposure between Touma and Kitahara indirectly builds a strong setup to the sex scene in episode 13. This buildup is not as obvious in either Clannad or Canvas 2.
Notably in Clannad, where no sex is shown, ‘if there was’ sex between Kyou and Okazaki, then it would be possible that audience’s views on the love triangle between Kyou, Ryou and Okazaki would be affected significantly.
In Canvas 2 the sex scene between Housen and Kamikura only acts as confirmation and affirmation of the two’s already ongoing relationship.
The presence of sexual interaction between characters in an animated adaptation of adult-oriented work, depending on the conditions presented, can support, change, or do nothing to the flow of the story.
By Kevin Wilyan | The writer is a senior editor at KAORI Nusantara | Translation by Robert Setiadi | This article was originally published in Indonesian at KAORI Nusantara on 1 August 2014 | This opinion is the personal views of the author and does not represent the views and editorial policy of The Indonesian Times or KAORI Nusantara