Hello hello! I’m not properly back yet; there’s still some more vacationing left in me. But now I have a computer and a few blessed hours to myself, and a total moratorium on writing while I’m traveling just won’t do. So here we go.
The first episode of Hen Zemi/Abnormal Psychology Seminar promises a wonderfully twisted series: Matsutaka Nanako, an average college student, has to defend her precious sense of normalcy when she enters a human sexuality class with a rogue’s gallery of perverts and sexual malcontents. Naturally, the most deviant of all of them happens to be a guy she kind of likes.
The Japanese have developed a strange twin reputation abroad for being staid and conservative, and at the same time for being fantastic perverts. And frankly, in my estimation, it’s not unwarranted (I think I once told Yi of Listless Ink: Go to a bar with the right Japanese businessmen, and you will hear more about American porn than you would have ever thought possible or decent). So it’s refreshing to see that tension being explicitly played out in anime form. And, of course, being a direct-to-video release, Hen Zemi goes places that a show like Genshiken positively cannot.
It may also interest you to know that this show is a good indication of where the Japanese university currently is in regards to the steamier, stickier side of scholarship. In the 1990s, sexuality studies was still having a rough time getting recognition in Japan, because there was a sharp demarcation in Japanese academic culture between “subjects deserving of scholarly study” and what would be called asobi, or “play.” Sex, especially non-normative sex, wasn’t considered a serious subject.
But we’ve made some headway lately. I don’t want to pin all of the credit on Hiroki Azuma, but he and his colleagues are definitely part of a trend towards legitimizing pop culture in the last few years, bizarre sexual kinks and all. In the new academic environment, nothing is beneath notice so long as there are people who have an interest in it. And that, in my opinion, is how humanistic study should be.
What we see in Hen Zemi isn’t a perfect or even ideal scenario. After all, we’re still getting the implication from this show that only perverts are interested in the activities of other perverts, when the truth is that we’re all dirty, dirty perverts and should probably stop kidding ourselves. But you know, it’s a start, and in the meantime it’s great fun. I recommend it.