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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

A Rant on Eroge

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Oh boy, let's make a blog post about this because what could possibly go wrong...

There's an aspect of visual novels I've always just mostly ignored and glossed over in my year and a half of blogging on here. It's something I always fear of touching upon since I don't want people to look at me like I'm a weirdo. But then again I feel like it's something I should address at some point. And that is the rather close relationship between visual novels and erotic content.

It's very different from other media. In books, film, anime and the recent VR, erotic works are pretty much separate from story- and narrative-focused titles. There is no such distinction when it comes to visual novels. Sure there are 'nukige' - visual novels focused solely on being porn - but erotic content is far more widespread than that. If you go to VNDB and sort visual novels by popularity, 8 of the top 10 visual novels on that list are eroge (eroge being short for 'erotic game'). This includes classics like Fate/Stay Night, Muv-Luv Alternative, Saya no Uta, Tsukihime, Kanon, AIR and Grisaia no Kajitsu. Even Little Busters! had a release with adult content.

I'm no stranger to this part of the culture. My first 18+ rated visual novel was Tomoyo After which was one of the first visual novels I'd ever read. Its first hour - the prologue - was literally a string of about 10 sex scenes that added absolutely nothing to the plot or the characters or anything else. But this brings me to my next and most important point: that being an eroge does not, in any way, shape or form, diminish a game's narrative value.

Tomoyo After is my #3 favorite visual novel of all time. I consider it one of the most inspiring, heartwarming stories I've ever read and its romance is bar none my favorite of any story. The fact that it has pointless erotic content in it is a trivial matter compared to that. The same goes for G-senjou no Maou, Muv-Luv, F/SN and all the other good eroge out there.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because this is the visual novel culture I've come to accept and appreciate. I love visual novels for their story and no longer bat an eye at the fact that they may contain erotic content, or even really at the fact that more than 90% of it is stupid, pointless and does nothing to help the narrative. At some point I had to ask myself: if my favorite (non-VN) game or book happened to have erotic content in it, and I'd have still ended up playing/reading it somehow anyways, would I have disregarded it just because of its erotic content? For me, the answer is a definitive no; I'd still love it all the same and it'd still have affected me in the same ways.

Anyways to get back on track, recently, English localizations of visual novels have become common, something I couldn't even have imagined two years ago. And with that come a few... mixed feelings.

I'm extremely happy that the visual novel culture is getting more exposure in the west. And yet at the same time I almost feel a little melancholic when I see or hear about Steam versions of 18+ games with their unnecessary adult content cleaned out and made all ages friendly. It's not that I think that erotic content belongs in these games, it's just the feeling of seeing a culture you've accepted everything of, its positives and its negatives, and seeing it brought to a new audience with its negatives cut away and ignored. I don't think it harms the artistic integrity of these games at all and you'll never see me pining for 18+ releases like some people on Steam forums do, but I can't deny that I'm just a little bummed. After all, this was the medium that taught me to appreciate stories with adult content just as much as stories without it, to not be predisposed towards eroge and to keep an open mind about them; and for all the troutty H scenes I've read that I wouldn't hesitate to call a pointless waste of time I still feel like I've grown thanks to them.

I can't possibly deny the worth in making visual novels all-ages friendly for their English releases. A few people on this very site I know wouldn't ever read a visual novel if it had erotic content in it, and the fact that they can still enjoy these games is doubtlessly a very good thing. And let's not kid ourselves; if visual novel localizations didn't come primarily in all-ages releases, they'd fade into obscurity way more than they already are.

Also, I know that 18+ localizations do exist. But there's a difference between the all-ages version being right there on Steam just waiting to be bought while the adult alternative is on somewhere else almost completely unadvertised, and looking for a copy of G-senjou no Maou and finding only an adult version and just... dealing with it. Accepting it. Eventually no longer minding it in the slightest.


  1. Fynn's Avatar
    I can kinda see where you're coming from, but this is pretty much a matter of Values Dissonance, and is pretty unavoidable. As you yourself noticed, had VNs been released here with the 18+ content, they would not have caught on. They're still a niche audience, but they're here, which would have been much more difficult to establish otherwise.

    As for my personal thoughts on the subject - and this is strictly my opinion, of course, everyone is entitled to their own - I'm not wild about eroge or explicit sex scenes in VNs. I read that little article you sent me about this a while back and forgot to mention it, but I honestly do not buy the whole "it's there to add to the narrative" argument. First of all, like you said, there are plenty of gratuitous sex scenes that have nothing to do with the plot. Second, I think there are better ways of making content erotic or mature without adding explicit sex scenes, making them effectively pornographic. Third, the people in the article keep talking how they reinforce character development - and yet, do they develop male characters the same way? To me, it all just seems like an excuse to add a scene to which you can, bluntly speaking, jerk off to. Because otherwise, why wouldn't they make male characters the "subject" of a sex scene in a non-gay eroge?

    Still, I'm not here to say it's all bad. I'm not a fan of it myself, but porn exists and people are allowed to view what they like. It's awesome that we get to experience a new form of media without all the porn, while those who do like it get to play the porn part as well. I'm just kind of miffed by people "protecting the artistic integrity" (which you clearly aren't, judging from your post, which I really respect) instead of just admitting that they're here for the porn too.
  2. Pumpkin's Avatar
    I agree with Fynn mostly. I have consumed some media, very rarely, that I felt benefited from a sex scene. It actually did help development and added to the narration and it could be a very powerful tool for making an impact. Sadly I don't think that most of the time, that's what happened. And when you get sex everywhere for silly reasons like "hot girl is your slave huhu" all the time... I mean, it doesn't often contribute to the story and makes me less receptive to consuming media with sex in it that might do it in a really powerful way.

    Like Fynn said, people are allowed to enjoy sexual content and have it in their media. For me personally, I don't enjoy it. I have nothing against sex or porn but there's a time and a place for me. Just like I wouldn't want to see it on the back of my cereal box while eating breakfast. It's not the time. If I felt it was more well integrated and done properly as I mentioned above, it wouldn't be so bad, but just like "We interrupt your VN for a random sex scene" is really off putting to me, personally.

    Another issue I have is that a lot of these VN's are about high school characters. It's cute with their little young romances, and I fully understand that teenagers have sex. I also understand that these are fictional characters. But because of the story, my brain comes to understand them... well, as teenagers, and I don't want to see teenagers having sex. I just don't. I'm past that age, that's too young for me to be seeing erotically. It makes me uncomfortable.

    So yeah those are my thoughts :P It is a bit bummer that I miss out on some probably good VN's because of the content, BUT it is what it is, I suppose. I'm glad they have all-ages versions available