History of Tentacle Erotica - All you wanted to know about Tentacle Porn03 / 31 / 2022
Tentacles and anime girls go together like peanut butter and chocolate. They’re two great tastes that are (somehow) even better together!
But did you know this sexy hentai staple has a deeper history? It’s true! Tentacle porn goes back over a century, and has its roots in classical Japanese art. Not only that, but the history of tentacle porn itself is tied to the rise of censorship in contemporary Japan, as well as the evolution of anime and manga.
Let’s go back to the beginning, though. It’s generally agreed that tentacle erotica has exclusive origins in Japan, and that some of the earliest examples can be found in 1700s art. As noted by Kimi Rito in their excellent book, The History of Hentai Manga: An Expressionist Examination of Eromanga , examples of tentacle erotica can be found in 17th century woodblock prints like Lust of Many Women on One Night.
The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai (1814)
The most famous example of tentacle erotica, however, is inarguably an illustration from the 1814 Hokusai book, Kinoe no Komatsu (Young Pines.) Entitled, "The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife," the piece depicts a fisherwoman getting down n’ dirty with whole octopus. While monster attacks became a staple of tentacle erotica in later years, scholar Danielle Talarico points out that the accompanying story was actually a totally consensual encounter! Many later, more violent interpretations would obviously change this, but it’s worth noting that the original intent was fun and kinky.
From three-volume set of hanshibon titled Yokyoku Irobangumi by Kitao Shigemasa (1782)
But then came the Meiji Restoration – one of the biggest overhauls in Japanese history. Western military leaders such as Commodore Perry forced the country to open their ports, through a campaign of psychological and physical intimidation. Over a short period of time, Japanese society was overhauled to fit their new place on the global stage, and with that overhaul came a new set of national regulations – including a blanket ban on "obscenity".
What really gave birth to tentacle porn, however, was World War II. After America’s atrocities at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and throughout the country, the colonizing US military enforced a new set of regulations on the country. Among these was an explicit ban on the depiction of genitalia – a ban that remains upheld to this day. Ever wonder why there’s mosaics on some hentai straight out of Japan? You can thank America for that!
Out of these regulations, however, came ingenuity. Cavalier hentai legend Toshio Maeda, similarly to his contemporaries such as Go Nagai, was dissatisfied and upset by the state of censorship in Japan. So, he hatched a scheme: tap into the rich history of tentacle art in Japan to skirt genitalia bans. Sure, maybe the Japanese government said artists couldn’t draw trouser snakes, but actual snakes? Octopi? Alien tentacles? Demon tentacles? Not a law in the book! Said Maeda in 2002:
At that time, it was illegal to create a sensual scene in bed. I thought I should do something to avoid drawing such a normal sensual scene. So I just created a creature. His tentacle is not a penis as a pretext. I could say, as an excuse, this is not a penis; this is just a part of the creature. You know, the creatures, they don't have a gender. A creature is a creature. So it is not obscene – not illegal.
Not only did the artist draw from his own history, however. Urotsukidouji was also influenced by the Lovecraftian tentacle horror that came out of Europe in the early 1900s! For more info about Maeda and his history, this Anime Lockdown panel from last year gives a breezy and fun dive! Fortunately, his legendary Urotsukidoji (the big mommy of tentacle hentai as we know it) has been fully translated into English and is still in print.
VHS tapes of the Urotsukidōji saga, Toshio Maeda (1987 - 1991)
So – what happened then? Simple answer: VHS and doujinshi. Urotsukidoji was wildly popular in its circles, and not only happened to come out right as home video was taking hold of the market, but as the doujin scene was really taking off in Japan. From its success came a whole legion of imitators, from straight-to-video anime OVAs that took advantage of lax home video regulations, to a glut of doujin that featured both original and well-known characters getting it on with tentacle monsters!
That’s to say nothing of all the amazing games with spicy tentacle action that came out of the adult scene in the 80s and 90s. Dev teams started producing more hardcore tentacle games that really set the tone for all tentacle porn to follow. Studios like Elf and Liquid took tentacles into imaginative new scenarios that went far beyond the established tropes of the ‘80s. We’ve come a long way from octopi, folks! Many of these games got anime OVA adaptations, but most tentacle hentai anime of the era lacks the intensity and kineticism that Urotsukidoji pioneered.
Much of that is that there was simply less money going around when it came to ‘90s porn OVAs, and that many of the old 2D masters of the 80s weren’t doing these sorts of things anymore. Plus, the advent of digital meant that hentai could be produced even more cheaply, and between the years of 1995 and 2003, you really start to see the industry struggle with its budget when it came to making high-quality productions. There were standouts, of course, such as the incredible Bible Black and Angel Blade!
With the 2000s came DVDs, and with DVDs, tentacle hentai took on crazier and more bizarre new forms. Hardcore directors like Teruaki Murakami and developers like Lilith Soft (both renowned for the Taimanin Asagi series) pushed tentacle porn to bold new places, able to finally take advantage of digital animation in a way few directors could. From both of these influences, a new, nastier breed of “erotic grotesque” content was born. Murakami brought a lifelike fluidity and frantic shaky-cam to the medium. Lilith brought a whole stable of nasty games for Murakami to adapt in kind, featuring hardcore degradation, BDSM, and all sorts of other taboo kinks. Among those were the ol’ faithful tentacles, which took on a more invasive and parasitic nature in hentai post-2000.
(Sidebar: have you ever given thought to just how many different tentacles there have been in hentai? Aliens, demons, plants, fish, parasites, infested human body parts... all of these and so, so much more have gotten down and dirty with anime girls over the years. This isn’t only in anime, manga, and eroge either! Classic horror movies from Dunwich Horror to The Evil Dead use the trope as well, to a much more horrific and much less sexy degree. Because hey: if a tentacle monster was attacking you in real life, you’d be a little more scared than turned on… right? Wait, no? Uh… let’s move on!)
In the time since, tentacles became so omnipresent in hentai that it became a bit of a trope! Stand-up comics and American animated comedies alike have poked fun at horny tentacles and squealing schoolgirls through the same joke, retold over the course of a decade. And, of course, the hentai industry continues to make tentacle-focused works to this day. New tentacle hentai drops in Japan almost monthly, new manga weekly, and new doujins almost constantly. Even though they came from the intersection of censorship and colonization, the tentacle has become an internationally beloved bit of anime iconography!