Hentai by Jake Merten

By - Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Hentai, or as it is traditionally defined, anime with pornographic content, is a part of everyday culture in Japan. Adults and children read anime of this particular style. Of course it is for the 18+ age group, however it’s widely accepted as a tradition, similar to the age-old bathhouses that are commonplace. I feel that Japanese people have a better perception of bodies and seeing others naked because of this. The Japanese sensitivity to what the Western hemisphere might consider crass or inappropriate imagery is less harsh and abrasive in that context. It’s less shocking, and more integrated into their pop culture. Sex however is maybe more taboo when it comes to ladyboys and gayculture. Androgyny and fantasy come into play within the Hentai. Comics are fantasy and acting out fantasy characters is also very accepted in Japan. Think of cosplay and Harajuku station and its cast of characters that stand and meet others interested in similar fantasies: dressing up and identifying with something that isn’t real. Hentai works with all of these factors to allow adults of all sexual persuasions and preferences to fulfil fantasies they wouldn’t act out in real life. 

Jake Merten has decided to paint the Damen Silo’s once again and this time, in the style of Hentai. Jake feels that Anime’s pop art style and watercolor tones inspire his work. Working constructively, he adds his piece to a wall tagged by several crews in Chicago. Picking a spot that hasn’t been tagged over in a long time and incorporating his piece into the collage of graffiti instead of disrespecting the other artists that have left something behind. “This space is my favorite to paint,” says Jake. It’s spacious, creepy and downright dirty. With filthy floors of moldy wood, spray paint cans, coffee cups and debris from the building itself, the decay adds to the overall texture of creating something new, interesting and powerful. This particular piece has a certain vulgarity. Jake says he would have painted this piece in a more public place in exactly the same fashion. The controversy here sparks debate about tradition both old and new and a commonality between generations. Jake has painted in the style of comic books and its cast of characters. D-face and Greg Gossel come to mind, both putting their own spin on how characters’ stories play out. 

Jake has decided to work this art piece as a bit of a political statement about public acceptance of porn and pornographic subject matter here in the states. Though controversial and potentially contentious in the United States, this imagery is neither vulgar nor disturbing in Tokyo. I went to Japan a couple of years back and saw people of all ages on the Tokyo Metro. No one took issue with others looking at or reading Anime or Hentai in public. It’s as common as reading a book and nearly synonymous to this wholesome activity. That is how we should look at this piece. Jake hopes to create similar pieces in the future. 

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