copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
In an earlier banter, we speculated about the effect that advanced 3D animation techniques would have on hentai in the future. We were thinking five or ten years down the road.
We were probably wrong about that. There's already been a warning shot sent across the bows of the hentai market, in the form of an adult anime called "Virtual Star 2000." Meaning, we think, it was produced in the year 2000, representing the state of the art of 3D animation in 1999 or 1998. It's a bit of a cheat, as the box at my video store seemed to imply it was a hentai whereas it was a demo tape, but it's interesting nonetheless.
VS 2000 demos 3D animation techniques, and ranges in quality from stuff that isn't as good as some of the Poser art you see at sites like Renderosity to some absolutely knockout stuff as good as, in fact, from our point of view much better than the artwork in benchmark 3D animation works like "Final Fantasy."
The first demo is what we meant by mediocre Poser art. It's a scene of a scrawny blonde with big tits doing a striptease in a dungeon and then killing a bunch of zombies with a sword, a gun and kickboxing skills.
The result is that of a skanked out speed freak with massive cellulite in the butt who bought big silicone tits. Not your most attractive image. You get the impression that her opponents are a bunch of decaying zombies just because they'll make her look good by contrast.
I strongly suspect that this animation was done in Poser or something a lot like it, unlike the other demos on the tape, which are an order of magnitude or two better than the Poser piece. Otherwise, there wouldn't even be any actual nudity in VS 2000.
Still, even the Poser piece is better than traditional animation techniques in certain respects. Traditional animation techniques use a lot of tricks to decrease the number of frames they have to create in order to have an actual, salable anime (or hentai if you prefer) on hand.
One of the most commonplace -- create a single, very attractive, but large image and then have the "camera" pan across it, then zoom in on some detail of it. That can get you several precious seconds of "animation" from a single image, with all the apparent movement caused by the "camera." Quite a bargain, compared to the 15 frames per second that's standard in animation.
Another technique is to freeze on powerful, significant images for two or three or even 10 to 20 seconds. As the quality of the animation goes downhill, however, this trick is also used on less and less powerful, less and less significant images, until you are freezing even on weak, insignificant images. In fact, some anime (and hentai) look more like slideshows than anything else. Leisurely slideshows created by your depraved Aunt Etna and Uncle Floyd that are at once intensely embarassing and tremendously boring.
(You wonder why the animators even bothered to create such "anime" and then you think, "Oh, yeah! The money!")
That said, the absolute worst hentai I've ever seen was about on par with the very best Hanna Barbera stuff ever made -- Jonny Quest-level animation. The mediocre hentai just blows traditional American animation away -- it's no contest. And the very best hentai is unspeakably better than traditional American animation -- to even compare it to Hanna Barbera's stuff is to soil it in some way. It's like saying that Michael Jordan's basketball is better than a drunken after hours game of hoops at a Weight Watchers clinic. Yes, you've said something there, and it's true, we suppose, but it's true in such a dumb way that it trivializes its subject.
Even the Poser anime topped traditional anime in this respect, because with 3D wireframes, the labor lies in creating the wireframe images and their "skins." Once you have those, the animation is a (relatively) easy matter of "connecting the dots" to make the characters limbs move. It's just a matter of letting your render farm do the processing, and it takes a little longer to do 15 or more frames per second, but what you get is really smooth, convincing animation that just blows away conventional animation techniques.
The other advantage is that 3D animation creates a better illusion of solidity than traditional animation does. The ray-tracing and refraction routines that Poser and other 3-D animation techniques employ simply outdo the simple washes of pastel color that define flesh in traditional animation.
Now, let's get on to the good stuff. There were three other demos in VS2000, but two of them, excellent though they were, did not involve nudity, in fact, the characters in those two demos were swathed in clothing from head to toe. Furthermore, all they did was stand around and talk politely, though to be fair one of them walked a bit and did some very chaste, fully clothed dancing. The quality of the animation was such that it would take a while to discover you were looking at an animation.
But really, WHO THE HELL CARES???? This demo was labelled ADULT goddamit! Sure, they looked just like real people walking around in a real city street but let's face it, your average COMMUTER gets to see that EVERY DAY, for FREE!
OK. There was one great, sexy demo. It's a real, Final Fantasy level animation that features an almost-naked, very, very bodacious babe. All she does is run, mostly, with a little swimming and dancing. But considering the way she is built, and the almost nothing she is clothed in, the effect is definitely major-league sexy. It's obviously a music video created for whoever sings the background music, which is a nice, jazzy little tune.
The thing that really cranks up the sexiness is all the effort that the animators went to in order to create the lifelike jiggling of enormous breasts as the character runs. This is true of traditional Japanese hentai, too -- the effort they put into jiggling breasts generally exceeds anything else they do in the area of motion. (Then again, in-and-out is easy compared to lifelike jiggling.)
The smoothness and reality of the flesh tones and the realism in the way the figure moves (not just its breasts) is breathtaking. (Though the breasts are especially breathtaking. Especially especially breathtaking. But the butt is very nice, too.)
Now we come to the point of this article, and a simple point it is, too. But I'm writing this for an imaginary audience of filmmakers, not persons of ordinary intelligence. So, baby steps.
If you can create animation at this level of quality, and make it a hentai, you can get around the damnable U.S. censorship block to explicit images of sexual bondage that so far only hentai have managed, and you can do it in ways that make the hentai superior to live action fare in most respects.
Because the problem that hentai pose is that censoring them constitutes censoring thought. If a hentai is a crime, it's entirely a thought crime. There are no actresses involved. As a work of fiction, it's more closely related to comic books than anything else. The only argument that censors can use against hentai is their most dangerous, problematical one, which is that allowing the thoughts that are engendered by hentai leads directly to crime.
It's particularly tough because Japan, hentai's country of origin, has a far lower rates of rape and violence against women than the U.S.
What's more, you solve a lot of the problems associated with using live action. You are not constrained by reality or by budgets. You can make your locations as exotic as you like, your actresses as beautiful as you like, and they'll do whatever you like, with as much or as little verisilmilitude as you like.
Hentai is already the first visual medium to enjoy full freedom of expression in creating sexual bondage imagery, but its power is limited by the limitations of traditional animation techniques. 3D animation promises to burst outside those limitations to allow hentai creators to produce images that outdo live porn in terms of artistic beauty, power of expression, and sexiness.
And while it's true that even the most impressive 3D animation won't look as real as an actual bondage star like Ashley Renee or Darla Crane or Penelope Pace, it's not really realism that most commercial bondage film and XXX fans look for, is it? Or else our porn stars would look more like our wives and girlfriends, wouldn't they?