Japanese animation has always held appeal for Western audiences. When cyberpunk adventure movie Akira first screened in the West in the '80s, audiences were not used to a ‘cartoon’ with such adult subject matter. 1995's science fiction masterpiece Ghost in the Shell, recently turned into a live-action Hollywood flick, established anime in the West as a genre that could combine animation with thoughtful themes and mature content.
Responses to these movies were so overwhelmingly positive that films like The Matrix took obvious inspiration from the Japanese cartoons. Japan took note and over the years anime has become increasingly Westernized to appeal to this lucrative market. Examples such as Dragon Ball and Naruto show how popular Japanese cartoons can become outside of their home country.
Still, Japanese animation has cultural tricks all its own and many seem unusual to the uninitiated eye. Some of the tropes seem downright bizarre to outside viewers and others would struggle to make it past western censorship.
One of the issues most often broached is the prevalence of nudity and sexualized content across the genre.
It is important to remember that a lot of the bad press that anime received originated from when it first became popular in the West and tabloids in the UK and Northern America strove to emphasize how it was not for children. Of course, it was clearly not all exaggeration.
These are 15 Japanese Cartoons That Are Way Too Revealing For North American Standards.
At times, a cultural difference means a storyline that would be considered respectable in one country does not translate well to another. Other times, the plot of a show is literally cute swim-suited girls battling with their body parts in an outlandish sporting competition.
Keijo!!!!!!!! is a popular sports anime set in an alternative 21st century. Also known as Hip Whip Girl, the anime centres around a gambling sport where contestants stand on platforms in water and try to push each other off using only their chests and buttocks.
First airing in October 2016, the story really is as simply as it sounds. These swim-suited contestants are all attractive young women and the story follows Nozomi Kaminashi, a girl who dreams of becoming the richest player of the sport in Japan.
The animation style is bright and colorful, and the story is light-hearted. Like any sport anime, it charts the protagonist’s training as she strives to become the top of her sport, facing unusual contestants along the way. Unfortunately, there is also an obvious prevalence of close-up butt and breast shots over character and content.
14 Monster Musume
A lovely light-hearted slice of life drama, Monster Musume also just happens to be a harem monster girl anime.
The main protagonist is a young student named Kimihito Kurusu who becomes involved in the "Interspecies Cultural Exchange" Program.
It turns out the Japanese government has been keeping the existence of mythical creatures a secret and, three years prior to the start of the series, the information was revealed. A bill was passed that the creatures would be allowed to live with families like human foreign exchange students.
Little did Kurusu know that he would soon be playing host to harpies, lamias, centaurs, and more. All, of course, attractive young female examples of the species who fall madly in love with him.
More focus is on comedic value rather than more serious nudity, so the show is not higher on the list. Yet, the character designs really show you everything you need to know about the show.
13 Highschool of the Dead
Highschool of the Dead became incredibly popular in Northern America, precisely because it showed more skin than would get past most Western censorship.
Airing in 2011, the show follows a group of high schoolers and their school nurse as they deal with the aftermath of a world-wide catastrophe known as "The Outbreak." The protagonists battle the zombie hordes and fight to stay alive as society collapses, while engaging in the usual emotional conflicts of a teenage high school drama.
Bullets pass beneath girl’s thighs to reveal up-skirt shots and breasts defy physics to let a bullet pass between them, which might go some way to explaining why the show was met with shock from international audiences.
It is certainly a story that combines all the romp of a zombie apocalypse story and the ridiculousness of a high school comedy with some of the most gratuitous clothing choices in anime. It’s easy to see why it became so popular.
Shimoneta, or to give it its full title: Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist is an anime that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Japan has introduced strict new morality laws and monitors its citizens using devices on their necks to make sure society remains "pure."
Terrorists combat this repression, including one "Blue Tundra", a high schooler in disguise with her panties on her head, who distributes lewd material and shouts dirty jokes in public to fight the sexual oppression.
Part social comment and part excuse to make sex jokes, Shimoneta is understandably popular. In actual fact, most full nudity is obscured by hilariously placed items on screen but the sheer volume of explicit jokes and references to obscene acts puts it on the list.
To give you an idea, there's an infamous scene in which one character tricks another into eating cookies that we find out contain her bodily fluids, which she refers to as her "love nectar."
There is enough of an actual message buried beneath the trashy jokes to keep the audience intrigued but you cannot brush off the blatant subject matter.
11 Shokugeki no Soma
A first glance at the synopsis of this anime does not hint at anything that would put it on a list like this one.
Shokugeki no Soma follows the hero, Soma Yukihira, who dreams of becoming a full-time chef and surpassing his father’s famous culinary skills. He is enrolled in an elite culinary school where only 1% of students manage to graduate and he is challenged to face off against other amazing cooks in order to reach his lofty goals.
What the synopsis does not explain to the viewer is the abstract, beautifully animated, fantasy scenes that are littered throughout the program. To depict a character’s reaction to tasting the delicious (or disgusting) food, these dream-like sequences involve character’s clothing falling off as they are touched all over by the food and have what can only be described as a "foodgasm."
10 Nazo no Kanojo X (Mysterious Girlfriend X)
Mysterious Girlfriend X is a surprisingly touching romance series with one of the most bizarre meet-cutes ever thought-up.
The male lead, Akira Tsubaki, dreams of finding the girl who will be his first love. When he meets transfer student, Mikoto Urabe, he encounters a girl who intrigues him; the mysterious sort who doesn’t socialize and tends to fall asleep during lunch. One afternoon following school, as Mikoto leaves, Akira notices a puddle of drool left on her desk. For some reason, he decides to run a finger through it and taste it.
Following the incident, he begins to feel unwell and it is only when Mikoto declares that he is now afflicted with a "drool bond" and gives him a second taste of her drool that he feels better. Thus begins their strange relationship and Akira’s addiction to Mikoto’s drool.
Nothing is explained. The fact Mikoto’s parents are never home, the fact she carries a pair of scissors in her underwear, or how the whole drool thing actually works is never sorted out. There is some definite nudity but (drool fetish aside) the show is one of the more intriguing romances out there.
9 Prison School
A raunchy, slapstick comedy, Prison School is unashamedly an anime about masochism.
Set in Hachimitsu Academy, one of the strictest academies in Tokyo, it follows main protagonist, Kiyoshi Fujino as he and four other boys enroll in the previously all-girl academy. The school has harsh rules and punishes students for even minor infractions. A team of girls, "The Underground Student Council", unhappy with the school admitting boys, make it their quest to get the intruders evicted. The adolescent boys soon find themselves incarcerated in the school prison block for breaking the rules.
The entire plot is based on sexual humor. Attractive but vicious supervisors dish out punishment to the boys during their sentence, only to discover that the inmates enjoy it. One busty member of the council is often depicted pointlessly working out and another gets unintentionally peed on. The series never tries to hide the fact it is one long bawdy joke.
8 Heaven's Lost Property
Heaven's Lost Property centres around Tomoki, a normal high schooler with wild and frequent sexual fantasies. He and his small group of friends are shocked when a black gate to heaven opens and an "Angeloid" falls to Earth.
A rather obvious merge of "angel" and "android", the "Angeloid" is named Ikaros and introduced as a pet-class creature. She "imprints" on Tomoki when she meets him and offers to fulfill her new master’s every desire. Scantily clad, winged, and wearing a chair around her neck, Ikaros behaves rather like a genie from a lamp and Tomoki can hardly believe his luck.
There’s an underlying darker plotline and the mystery of why Ikaros is really sent to earth should be compelling. Unfortunately, more time is spent on the sexy Angeloid using her power to let the teens see their classmates naked and collect their used panties than on anything resembling plot and most viewers lose interest.
7 High School DxD
One of the more infamous harem animes, High School DxD features regular helpings of nudity. Set in Kuoh Academy, it has a relatively well-received adventure plot along with all the ecchi.
Issei Hyodo, a dumb and lecherous high schooler, is surprised to find himself murdered on his first date with a girl. He is even more surprised when he wakes up the next day reincarnated as a demon. From then on, he is under the command of Rias Gremory, a high-ranking demon and prettiest girl in school.
Most of the student population is unaware that their ranks secretly includes demons, angels and fallen angels and that these three factions have been locked in battle for generations.
The plot literally revolves around the main protagonist rising up the Devil’s ranks and fulfilling his dream of building a harem - that openness is refreshing, in a way.
6 Shinmai Maou No Testament
Shinmai Maou No Testament or The Testament of Sister New Devil originally ran in 2012. The show revolves around broody young Basara Tojo, who is unhappy when his father unexpectedly remarries. Basara finds himself saddled with two cute stepsisters, Mio Naruse and Maria Naruse, and when his father leaves for a job overseas, he is left alone to look after them.
Things get a little more complicated when the two girls reveal themselves to be demons and Basara is a descendant of heroes. It turns out that Mio was the daughter of a former demon lord and sent to earth to avoid those who would use her.
To protect his odd new family, Basara agrees to be bonded to Mio by Maria. Maria accidentally messes up the ritual and Mio is bound to Basara, now hilariously committed to her new Master’s "well-being."
The hapless hero finds himself falling into a whole host of sexual scenarios – most often literally tripping and falling into girl’s chests – as the three attractive young people struggle to share a home as a family.
5 Yosuga no Sora
Yosuga no Sora is an erotic romance anime that is not played for laughs. A controversial series, it tells stories across multiple timelines but is most known for its depiction of the romantic and physical relationship between blood-related twins, Haru and Sora.
The brother and sister are physically alike but while Sora is reclusive, moody and frail, Haru is open and honest. He struggles to look after his sister as the pair return to their small childhood home town, following the tragic deaths of their parents in a car accident.
Released in 2010, the show seriously explores the power of repressed memories as well as the meaning of morality and social acceptance. Many viewers struggle to get past the incestuous subject matter and maintain that the show only became popular because of the amount of sibling-on-sibling skin on show.
KissxSis was release in 2008 and comes from the same studio to introduce us to Yosuga no Sora.
Compared to Yosuga, Kiss is lighter, cheerier, and more fun. Yet, once again, the main relationship is between siblings.
In this case, the characters are not related by blood. Keita Suminoe is a middle-school student whose father remarried some years previously. He has two elder step-sisters, Ako and Riko, and the relationship between the new siblings has always been affectionate and supportive. As the trio grow older, the relationship becomes noticeably less platonic and the show follows the brother struggling to resist the flirting of his two competitive "sisters."
The anime toes the line between fanservice and a disgustingly insensitive portrayal of both girls and boys. Family bonding moves from chaste morning kisses to sharing baths to recreating scenes from adult magazines.
Unfortunately, you would probably find more plot in actual adult films.
3 Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied is a dark fantasy series that originally aired in 2002. A psychological horror which became famous for its gore and nudity, it was referred to as the most notorious release of 2005 when it did finally come to North America.
The story centres around Lucy, an anti-hero/anti-villain who vacillated between an overly innocent little girl and a lucid expert killer. She spends a lot of the show naked, due to an injury which caused her to develop a second, child-like persona named "Nyu." The show itself touches on the darkest aspects of human nature, as a special team attempt to recapture Lucy/Nyu and stop her causing the damage they know she could if her original personality is allowed to resurface.
The show had a very mixed response. Some praised the boundaries it pushed and were mesmerized by its languid style, while others considered it overly blatant and only popular due to the volume of violence and nudity.
2 Seikon no Qwaser
Seikon no Qwaser, or The Qwaser of Stigmata, is an action anime series, well known for its hyper-violent and hyper-sexualized content.
Released in 2010, it is a supernatural adventure series, centring on "Qwasers" – individuals who can control particular elements. The mysterious main protagonist can manipulate iron and uses it to save sisters Mafuyu Oribe and Tomo Yamanobe from a serial killer who has been targeting young women.
So far this is exciting and overall the show is a compelling action piece where the heroes fight against evil using their powers. However, to gain their powers the heroes need to partake in "Soma", a miraculous essence found in one place only: the breast milk of women.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see where the sexualized content comes from following on from that revelation.
1 To Love-Ru
Have you ever been sulking in your bath and had a naked devil-tailed girl appear in there with you?
There you have To Love-Ru. Originally running in 2006, To Love-Ru is a mindless harem comedy with some science fiction elements.
The main character, Rito, is a shy high schooler who struggles to declare his love for the girl of his dreams. He is shocked by the arrival of pink-haired alien, Lala, a runaway princess who is trying to escape being forced to marry one of her suitors. When Rito tries to confess to his high school sweetheart, Lala accepts his feelings instead and declares them engaged.
At heart, it is a simple love triangle, with the alien angle adding a little spice. Unfortunately, not enough spice to stop THEM anime reviews dubbing it “the worst romantic comedy we’ve ever seen.”
It only takes a watch of the opening title sequence of scantily-clad girls to see where the main focus and selling-point of the show is.
Spoiler: it’s nudity.
Have you seen any of these anime? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!