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Why do people not directly exposed to anime tend to think of it as weird porn?

It would not be the first time I tell somebody who is not really into anime that I watch it and get questioned as to why I watch animated pornography. Until the point I confront them with the fact that Dragon Ball and Pokémon are also animes.

It also does not seem to be a Western culture thing, as several people I know in India, America, Russia also tend to respond in the same way.

Is there a specific reason as to why this stereotyping came to be?

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    Personally for me: fanservice scenes. Especially if someone walks in on you during one. – Sp3000 Apr 1 '16 at 14:58
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    Stereotypes Strike again. The ones that are memorable are the ones that are the most wrong, and lets face it, there is a TON of bad examples out there for anime. – Ryan Apr 1 '16 at 17:18
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    Because what people see of animes on 9gag, Imgur, Facebook, and other social stuff are fan service scenes of poor quality shonens. – Ikaros Apr 2 '16 at 0:03
  • My mom started thinking it was just weird stuff and porn because we went to the library a couple of days ago (it was her turn to buy me books so I went) and, as usual, I went to the manga area. After she got the book she was going to buy I was telling her about the Monster Musume Everyday Life with Monster Girls mangas that were there. The cover of the book totally said that it was not kid appropriate, so she asked me how I knew about it and, as usual, I said I just knew what it was about. After that she started looking at the other mangas that were there. -continued – Akira Mahisaseru Apr 2 '16 at 1:06
  • She saw a particular one which got her attention. It had the cover of a monster girl (I think that's what it was) which was, you could say, kida of naked. She asked me if that is what I see all the time and if that is what anime just is. I said no but I think she didn't believe me.... But my mom is not the only one I've heard say that about anime. There was this girl I knew, she was NOT my friend at all, she thought anime was or she said she thought anime was just, "That pokemon porn people see." – Akira Mahisaseru Apr 2 '16 at 1:11
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In the 90s, Anime (formerly called Japanimation in some magazines and sources) became the latest target of alarmist conservative media due to a set of OVAs titled "Urotsukidōji" or "The Overfiend" in many English translations:

enter image description here

It's a 3 part series which contained masses of animated gore, demon tentacle rape, and horror.

Not only was it offensive to much of the public, it had become very popular - not only amongst hard-core anime fans, but by normal television viewers also. 40,000 copies were sold in Britain - at a time when 500 people was the average attendance for an anime con there.

Having been leapt upon by the media, this of course only amplified its success for anime title would rarely leave their niche viewership.

Sensational journalism by its very nature is intended to elicit a response from the reader/viewer and talk spreads fast in local communities. When finding another "Overfiend"-contender, media outlets are able to remind viewers about the previous controversies - or even tangentially related events, such as a normal anime film release, may be tainted by a headstrong reporter.

This anti-anime sentiment started to spring up in casual use, spreading further propoganda - whether intentional or not. For example, this quote from the British Board of Film Classification about anime :

In Japan it seems, these films provide sex and violence for men, who watch them after work in male clubs where sexual favours are bought and sold.

Which is clearly not true - a lot of the Western world did not think of anime as separate from hentai, and the hentai stories they had been exposed to were selected to be the worst examples. Even now you will see anime being used as an example of something immoral:

enter image description here source

The fact that anime is produced in the East played a significant factor also, in many people's eyes Eastern people were seen to be different, and weird. Even harmless children's titles such as Pokémon were affected with mass reports of children choking on pokéballs, having epileptic fits and the like. Other popular titles were pounced upon too, like Full Metal Alchemist's use of magic circles or the 'evilness' of the Death Note cast.

this looks pretty evil it must be banned

Other alarmist conservative media scares include: Dungeons & Dragons, the Harry Potter books and many other niche areas of society - some of which embraced it and took advantage of the attention like death metal bands or ouija board manufacturers.

There of course are hentai titles that are sketchy, which is where it all started from, and there is fanservice that targets pubescent teenagers, BUT what the media has made many people assume that anime is a "genre" of film and all titles are like this. However, anime is a medium that can be about anything - and just like normal filmography - a medium can tell be used to tell the heart-warming story of a boy reunited with his father - or be used for less savoury topics.

(TLDR: Certain controversial titles + echo chamber = reputation)

References:

  • Schoolgirl Milky Crisis by Jonathan Clements

Further Reading:

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    In (a very, very weak) defense of the media's reaction to Pokemon and epilepsy, that much was true, but the immediate move to remove that episode from global distribution and cease local distribution as well didn't factor into the news reports. – Makoto Apr 24 '16 at 23:39
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I think there are two main reasons for the "anime" is porn prejudice. The first that anime porn forms a fairly significant part of the anime market. The other is that fanservice in anime is more shocking and often more blatant than fanservice in western media.

Porn is a significant part of the anime market today, and probably has an even bigger share of illegal downloads. For some people this is the only kind of of anime they'll watch, so it's easy for anyone to who knows (or is) such person to associate anime with porn, while on the other hand they may not see someone who obsessively watches shows like Naruto or Dragon Ball as an anime fan, as those shows are shown on TV along side other "cartoons".

Like with many of forms of new media, porn was an early pioneer in the anime market in the west. Before movies like Akira (not-porn) and Urotsukidouji (porn) were released in the west, anime was pretty much just a cheap source of children's TV programming. Outside a very small number of fans there was no reason to distinguish it as a genre separate from other cartoons. While a causal observer could dismiss a movie like Akira as just another cartoon, a movie Urotsukidouji was definitely something different. So this prejudice formed pretty early, and given relative popularity of movies like Urotsukidouji, was not entirely unfounded. In the 90's anime fandom was still growing and it wouldn't surprise me if a large majority of anime watched by adults back then was porn. (Wikipedia notes that (NSFW) "At the beginning of 2000, 'hentai' was listed as the 41st most popular search term of the internet, while 'anime' ranked 99th".)

While fanservice in anime doesn't come close to meeting the technical definition of pornography, it helps reinforce prejudices. More significantly it can help form them. Many people use the word porn to refer to anything vaguely titillating that they find reprehensible. While fanservice exists all over western media, TV shows and movies find all sorts of ways to include a woman in a bikini or have a man show off his six-pack, when that happens in animation its much more likely to be shocking to western viewers. When this happens its probable that only the fanservice scenes will leave an impression, and that they'll been seen as perverse or degenerate.

It doesn't help that anime doesn't usually try to as hard to disguise it. While a police procedural might connect a murder to a sex club as an excuse to include scenes with semi-nude actors, and a daytime talk show might have a "serious" discussion on sexual issues during sweeps, anime fanservice tends to be a subtle as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

So unfortunately this leads people to associate the word "anime" with porn. Even today most people don't see the need to distinguish between children's cartoons made in Japan and those made in the west. They rarely see the middle ground between widely syndicated TV shows and anime porn, and when they do they often see fanservice that makes it easier to connect the it to the later rather than former.

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