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My Way or the Anime – The Allure of Incest

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Best imouto is best.

Here we go, my future career in politics is well and truly dead. Let’s talk about why incest keeps popping up in anime & manga, despite the fact that I think we can all agree it’s kind of icky in real life.

Let me tell you a little something about myself: I have between one and four siblings depending on how you count (don’t ask), as well as assorted other family members, and I have plenty of friends who have older brothers, aunts, cousins, and, you know, families in general. And when I imagine romance between any of the–ew. Just no. Ewwww! So why is it that incestuous relationships in anime and manga – particularly between siblings – are so prevalent? And how come I myself am not bothered by them, despite just admitting that in reality it–ewww, I imagined it again. No no no no! Must keep this in the realm of fiction.

1. Incest is Forbidden, and Forbidden is Hot

I’ve often thought that Romeo and Juliet and your typical incest romance anime are not all that different, other than historical significance, storytelling skill, and influence on literature and all that. Follow along with me here: the central conflict of Romeo and Juliet comes about because the titular couple are forbidden to be together – in this case because they belong to rival families. Likewise, in many incest anime the central conflict comes about because the main couple are forbidden to be together, because they’re related and society frowns on that sort of thing.

The difference between these two plots is that the feuding families angle is a forbidden love that doesn’t work anymore, except for in Romeo and Juliet. Families don’t feud to the point of stabbing each other in the street anymore, and I know that if I were to fall in love with a girl whose family didn’t get along with my own, I would tell them all to sod off, sit them away from each other at the wedding, and then contrive to never let them meet again. It doesn’t have as much punch anymore because cultural norms have shifted to the point where this old problem is no big deal, so authors had to up the ante to get back into the “forbidden love” zone…and anime & manga found fertile ground in the incest plot.

Also, forbidden is hot. Usually that means dating a bad boy or a chick with lots of tattoos or someone else you know your parents won’t approve of, but it applies here too. Just as long as you don’t think about the reality of–ahh crap, I did it again. Ewww!

My Way or the Anime   024   Crop 02

Even the imoutos know this, and use it to their advantage.

2. Anime & Manga Characters are Divorced From Reality

I’m a big proponent of art and animation as mediums to tell a story, but it’s undeniable that they’re more divorced from reality than other forms of media. With a book we tend to imagine flesh and blood people like ourselves, and live action TV and movies go ahead and show us real people. At their best, anime & manga are at least 1/4th separated from reality simply because they’re drawn…which is great, because it allows them to do crazy stuff like mecha anime and whatever is happening over at Kill la Kill and make it work. It also means that they can use tropes, themes, and plots that might squick the audience out if they were portrayed by live actors.

By the same token, most anime & manga characters aren’t fully fleshed out, well-rounded, 100% believable characters. I don’t fault them for this – at its best any medium only has probably 5-10% of its characters (i.e. all movie characters, all TV characters, etc.) that are fully fleshed out, “vividly realistic” characters (this is probably some previous unstated corollary of Sturgeon’s Law). Creating characters like that is astonishingly hard to do, and if I ever pull it off in my own fiction then I probably won’t realize it until someone tells me, because godsdamned it’s really really hard people! What it does mean is that, combined with my previous point, anime & manga characters are at best 3/5 – 3/4 “real”, so that helps them get away with the incest theme and not creep us out.

My Way or the Anime   024   Crop 03

Characters like this. So much like this. I just…I just don’t even.

3. Some of the Terms (Onii-chan, Onee-chan) Don’t Necessarily Evoke Incest

Simple fact about the Japanese language which I’m sure you’re all aware of: words like “onii-chan” can be used both to refer to a familial relationship (big brother) and to any male older than the speaker. While this might not seem to have an effect on the incest theme, what it means is we’re used to hearing these terms used by characters – potentially in romantic situations – where no incest subtext is intended. That makes them normal, so when they’re used in an incestuous situation, it doesn’t feel as weird. By that point it’s practically normal.

4. Incest and the Osananajimi

Now for one of the biggest reasons incest – and brother/sister incest in particular – keeps popping up in anime & manga: it provides the fantasy of an “easy” relationship with a boy or girl who was there all along. This is the same reason why osananajimi (speaking of, trope!) are another popular romantic character type, despite the fact that neither one is likely to happen in real life. For many viewers – in particular “herbivorous” men and shy women, though anyone who has gone through a bad breakup and is currently fed up with their preferred sex applies as well – these tropes provide wish-fulfillment by painting a world where they don’t have to go out and do the hard work of finding a guy or a girl, because their destined partner is right there, either living next door or even in the next room over. It’s wish-fulfillment because it’s easy; the (seemingly) hard parts – talking to new people, getting close enough to know if you have a shot, etc. – are taken care of when you’re too young to know what’s going on, so now all you have to do is deal with the lovey-dovey parts that we romantics spend so much time fantasizing about.

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The lovey-dovey parts.

There are undoubtedly more reasons why the incest theme keeps popping up in anime & manga, but it wouldn’t be any fun if I listed them all out, and also I’m lazy. If you can think of others – or would just like to talk about incest in general, though I ask you to please keep it cordial – then let’s continue the conversation in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, I encourage you to check out my blog at www.stiltsoutloud.com. I recently changed it up to focus more on storytelling topics, so you’ll find more meditations like this (only a lot shorter) there. Thank you for continuing to indulge my insanity.

P.S. A reminder: I put hilarious(?) alt text on my pictures in these posts. Hover your mouse over the cropped version to experience more of my delightfully droll wit. I promise you’ll have an emotional reaction to each and every one!

My Way or the Anime   024   Crop 05

And then there’s twincest, which is a whole other post entirely.

October 22, 2013 at 12:53 pm
163 comments »
  • October 22, 2013 at 1:06 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

    Yes! Mikan is best imouto! <3

    I think another things is that, unlike most in real life, you don't really see anime/manga siblings actually ACT like siblings that you'd think of. Like getting into fights over trivial/pointless things, arguing over who gets more allowance (given how often parents seem to be "mysteriously absent", lol), doing chores, taking the other out anywhere if they're at that age, and so on.

    Many anime/manga siblings tend to act more like best friend-roommates than anything.

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:50 pmStilts

      True, almost no anime siblings have an actual sibling-like relationship. The ones that do, like…uh. I’m drawing a blank.

      • October 22, 2013 at 2:22 pmbrajt

        Amagami?

      • October 22, 2013 at 2:24 pmStilts

        Actually, yes! Amagami SS is a pretty good one, though Miya still seems to have a better relationship with her older brother than most siblings their age I’ve ever seen.

      • October 22, 2013 at 2:54 pmSylpher

        I would say the brother-sister relationship in Watamote feels realistic.

      • October 22, 2013 at 5:43 pmLGrey

        How about Natsumi – Komari – NiiChan in Non Non Biyori ep#3?

      • October 23, 2013 at 12:34 amReverseTales

        Yahari? Hachiman and his sister.

      • October 23, 2013 at 9:27 amStilts

        @ ReverseTales

        Show Spoiler ▼

      • October 23, 2013 at 12:18 pmAngelus

        Koi Kaze. The one and only, truly lifelike anime about incest (well, if you’ll forgive the totally unlikely overall premise). Actually, if you ignore the incest and the age gap, it’s still one of the best romance anime ever produced.

        But why incest anime? Same reason as yaoi and yuri anime. It’s to get it out of your system while you’re still young so you can grow up to be a normal, healthy wageslave and/or submissive wife.

    • October 22, 2013 at 3:20 pmShadow74

      I only give my own opinion. I think that the real reason the siblings in the anime / manga is not seen as true siblings is that their relationship is viewed superficially. Most of the stories have characters who are siblings, not focused or give importance to properly develop their relationship. In “To love ru” Rito and Mikan are siblings, but at first was used only as a source of comedy, to create embarrassing scenes where Rito looks bad in front of his younger sister because of Lala or another girl. Long after, when the story need more material, the relationship of Rito and Mikan is taken up and modified to form part of the endless and ridiculous problems for our MC.

      Few stories in the anime / manga where a sibling relationship is actually used for the story and not just a feature for characters used poorly.

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:12 pmselma

    thank you for helping me make sense of something that bothers me so much about anime ! I haven’t watched any anime where there is clear incest but the lame jokes about imoutou worship in kyoukai no kanata really ruined the show for me ( come to think of it, that show has failed magestically in the humor department so far ) your point about the animated medium being more divoced from really is definitely the most pertinent argument, this is why I like anime better than other genres because it allows the expression of surrealistic concepts better than any other medium ( satoshi kon’s Paprika is the best example of this ) but paradoxically it also creates these awkward setuations that are far from being innocently included by the makers.

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:52 pmStilts

      I think what argument is most pertinent depends on which ones strikes home with each viewer, but truthfully it’s a combination of all of them. I’m quite fond of #2 myself though, since it also gives us stuff like Kyousogiga.

      • October 22, 2013 at 4:04 pmSortedeVaras

        I would say 4 seems to be the most logical. Shyness is so ingrained in Japanese culture that in real life the only females most young guys know are relatives. The dream of having an attractive female in the same house as you could excite a lot of Japanese guys. Also remember the lack of proper sexual education in Japan and add to that most porn there is censored and/or freakish, no one knows how to express normal sexuality.

      • October 22, 2013 at 5:31 pmselma

        I guess you’r right as a matter of fact kyousougiga is my favourite anime of the moment, too bad it’s not being reviewed in RC

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:16 pmRigelin

    Having a cute younger sister who does your laundry, cooks for you, wakes you up in the morning, and knowing that you’re a one of a kind person to her (i.e. you spent all your life with her, and in most anime, you’re her only brother which gives a special bond that can’t be formed with anyone else).

    I wonder what’s the allure there o.o

    Although take a real sister, who’s maybe not so loving of aniki and you might see differing opinions on imouto’s. :P

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:55 pmStilts

      That’s why the trope doesn’t work on people who actually have siblings of the opposite / their preferred sex. It’s like that one quote from Genshiken: “I can vouch that [those games] are a result of fantasies by people who don’t actually have a younger sister.”

      • October 23, 2013 at 6:26 ampahlavi5312

        Well, to answer your question: I have a little sister of the opposite gender (of course) and the trope works on me very well. I like Mikan a LOT, but when I think of my little sister, I don’t want to even start thinking.. Anyway it’s like there’s a thick line between reality and anime and when it happens in anime, it’s alright but when we go back to the real, it’s not.

        That’s why 2D girls are the best. :)

      • October 23, 2013 at 9:43 amNothingLess

        We’re the same dude :3

        But even though I don’t mix Anime with Realm(except for exception),I’ll NEVER dare watching Incest Ecchi Anime like Yosuga no Sora or Aki Sora or Kiss x Sis (even though they’re not related)with.my.Sister,oh no NEVER!

    • October 22, 2013 at 5:26 pmMegas

      People with real siblings can be doctored into the trope, although be it very gingerly. It literally took me decades to figure out WTH “imouto moe” is. 5 younger sisters will do that to you, especially if most of them don’t know how to EVER get out of your house.

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:20 pmTechim

    Personally I’ve only seen 2 anime that occasionally gives those vibes,
    Oreimo & the Monogatari series.

    Those that I’ve heard of being highly related would be Kissxsis,Yosuga no Sora and Pupa.

    Any other titles to note?
    So that if I were to ever watch any of those titles, I’d be prepared.
    Prepared, as in watching behind closed doors & lowered speaker volumes.
    My elder brother walked in on me watching the Nisemonogatari toothbrush scene before.
    Ever since then, well, whenever a toothbrush or dentist gets mentioned, he gives me a smile..

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:48 pmDualistdusk

      Your brother is one of us. He knows what’s up.

      To love ru has Mikan (she is more of a side-character, but she is god-like. If you watch this make sure you also lock the door),
      OniAi (didn’t watch it but it has an incest title. Gotta mean something)

      You already named the ones I knew of. So GL on them!

      • October 22, 2013 at 9:40 pmTheMoondoggie

        OniAi isn’t even true incest. The brother and sister isn’t even related, though they are in love(the brother keeps it a secret and just writes incest stories to get relief while the little sister just leaves it out in the open).

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:58 pmStilts

      OniAi, OniiZen, Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka, Haganai, Hatsukoi Limited for some characters, Sasami-san… Honestly I could go on for a while. There are a lot of them :P

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:54 pmcreaothceann

      Any other titles to note?

      Candy Boy

      • October 22, 2013 at 11:22 pmTassadar

        Aki Sora? But that is close to hentai!

    • October 22, 2013 at 8:18 pmhaseo0408

      Yosuga no Sora left with a huge impression, it was not only the risque scenes but also the entire relationship of the twin what left speechless.

    • October 22, 2013 at 9:44 pmBlack Kirito

      Boku wa Imōto ni Koi o Suru
      What more can you say….

    • October 22, 2013 at 9:46 pmTheMoondoggie

      It’s a manga but Oniichan Control. Yanderencest.

      • October 22, 2013 at 9:47 pmTheMoondoggie

        I forgot to say:

        Pupa

      • October 23, 2013 at 8:46 pmamado

        looks like you still have obsessed stalkers following you around, moon :/

      • October 24, 2013 at 4:07 amTheMoondoggie

        Dey see me rollin’. Dey hatin’… :P

        Just ignore and laugh at them.

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:26 pmKurisu Vi Britannia

    Incest is Wincest.

    • October 22, 2013 at 9:34 pmTheMoondoggie

      This. So very this.

    • October 25, 2013 at 6:12 pmKurisu Vi Britannia

      I see my fellow perverts have joined me in battle!

      ONWARD PERVERT SOLDIERS!

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:26 pmAnonymous

    Show Spoiler ▼

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:48 pmStilts

      My apologies, I wasn’t thinking. I replaced it with another image so the same doesn’t happen to other readers. I will say one thing, though: Show Spoiler ▼

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:53 pmTechim

      Translator to finish the series?
      If I recall correctly, both the light novel & anime versions have already concluded and been translated/subbed respectively.

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:38 pmanon

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • October 22, 2013 at 1:55 pmAnanas

    • October 22, 2013 at 7:17 pmhaseo0408

      This only in the realm of fiction and talking about fiction and fantasy, you should stay away from A song of Ice and Fire if you can´t atomach something like this, the Targareyn sure know how to make you uncomfortable with their family dianamic.

    • October 23, 2013 at 3:16 amGiorno Giovanna

    • October 23, 2013 at 4:51 amamado

      the fact this guy is using anon as his username shows that this is just a troll post.
      everyone dont reply to this guy anymore.

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:50 pmAnanas

    I can only guess that the incest trend was born from general fatigue of other type of romance in japanese media. I consider that if the theme has to be use, there are only two ways to make it work, either don’t take it seriously at all (Saipu) or do the complete opposite (Koi Kaze), but never go for an half-assed attempt (Oreimo).

    A Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei anime is coming by the way. By Madhouse.

    http://i.imgur.com/FPOdXzp.jpg

    Show Spoiler ▼

    • October 23, 2013 at 3:48 amGiorno Giovanna

      I’ve been spending my entire time thinking of the sibling pair as Kyousuke and Ayase.
      It helps that they have the same voice actors.
      http://i.imgur.com/EXXUW50.jpg

  • October 22, 2013 at 1:56 pmflap

    Stilts, I think you wanted to link to this instead of the fish,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_Law

    • October 22, 2013 at 2:01 pmStilts

      …maybe.

      :D Thanks. Apparently I fail at basic linking today, lol!

      • October 22, 2013 at 3:37 pmsealouse

        I wish I could have seen that.

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:01 pmthedarktower

    LOL Stilts. I didn’t see that post coming XD, necessary one indeed. it was interesting to think about that stuff more deeply (but not too much, as you did well!)

    The allure of incest can be expressed in many ways in anime and it varies from each of them. I think you’ve demonstrated the main causes not to be afraid of it, and proved actually it can be very intriguing if put in the right combination.
    and those pictures are awesome. it shows why it truly engage our interest yet each one of the pictures express the allure of incest in a different way.

    still, I think what’s needed to be asked in the “macro” level is what the right “dose” of that stuff, especially when it combined with too much siscon/lolicon/moe and other stuff in one anime.
    I guess it depends on the anime’s nature. some of them can express it more, some in the middle and some not at all (although we see some leakage to them in random scenes).

    p.s
    now with all that being said, you didn’t say the most important thing – your favorite incest in anime.
    for me..well tough decision…Oreimo was interesting..yet I think the scene in monogatari in which Araragi brush Karen’s teeth..was so LOL in that manner. I really thought something big gonna happen there if not for Tsukihi.

    • October 22, 2013 at 2:26 pmStilts

      I’m glad the pictures helped tell the story. Those are always more difficult to pick out than you’d think, but at least it was worth it.

      As for my favorite… Hmm. I’ll have to get back to you on that. There are a lot of options o.O

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:07 pmPancakes

    From my experience the shock and awe that comes from the presence of incest in anime is largely Western in nature. Think about it, what major productions over here have ever delved into the topic and become popular? There’s nothing to my knowledge which can rival Oreimo in exploring the concept. Russia may have given rise to Lolita and explorations of sexual abuse of children, but Japan is ground zero for pretty much every other provocative form of romance. Even those risky productions here only really ever remain underground, hell most people I know think Loli is a Japanese word.

    As to its popularity, like you said Stilts, there are numerous reasons. It’s similar to the long-time childhood friend idea, only taken to the extreme: why go find someone and run the risk of rejection when the “One” has been there all along.

    Another is recognition of banned feelings. When growing up each of us hits the phase where puberty seems to hold all control. You are feeling these things, but don’t know why, you are liking certain actions and don’t know why. All you know is that you want more. In effect the body’s reproductive system takes control and you have the “oops WTF did I just do” moment after the glow wears off.

    For us brother and sister incest is hard to imagine, but there is another in the form of cousin/cousin which is actually quite easy to. I grew up in a town of less than 1000, graduated high school in another with a class size of 12. Dating options were limited, hormones were raging, and when the community is close in some familial ways, forbidden acts are likely to take place eventually (especially with alcohol involved). You know it’s wrong, but more often than not physical appearance trumps societal adherence when control is loosened through booze, partying, and peer pressure to lose the V card. In the end before I moved away two of my friends ended up smexing their cousins and we suspected a third as well. It’s one of those things which happens due to youthful ignorance and inexperience.

    It’s why I can understand the concept being present some stories featuring teenage characters, it simply takes everything found in the more standard romance stories, but adds in intrigue, forbidden actions, secrecy, and a sense of dread where you see the train wreck coming but cannot avert your eyes. To top it off it becomes believable because we expect teenagers to do stupid things. Plus it’s Japan, where virtually is off limits.

    • October 22, 2013 at 2:32 pmStilts

      Drama, danger, forbidden love, and the fact that fiction almost always takes things a step further than reality, because otherwise what’s the point? Realism is overrated, after all.

    • October 22, 2013 at 3:58 pmPancakes

      Probably because realism is the one thing which is difficult to get right. Attempt to make a serious story about incest and you’re asking to get torn apart at the seams. Now make a comedy about incest and no one cares about plot, it’s all about TEH FUNNEZ (and the other plot, if you’re into that thing).

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:07 pmlifesongsoa

    Personally I think a lot of the popularity is just laziness, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some writers just like the imouto thing and draw their ideas from past works involving imoutos. Light novels are guilty of sticking with familiar otaku things for better or worse and they seem to be pushing the imouto thing the hardest at the moment.

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:08 pmAggron

    Incest is weird topic and it either totally sickens me or its funny as hell (Cyclops Shoujo Saipuu I’m looking at you :3). I haven’t really watched many anime with the theme, but the majority of the time they add in some backstory about why it’s ‘ok’. Most of the time it seems to be step-siblings, cousins, or foster siblings. In my opinion one of the main reasons why incest is a ‘trending’(?) theme is probably because the childhood-friend-trope is overused and they needed a way to have a girl who’s been around forever in a situation other than that.

    Well that’s my 2-cents on the topic.

    • October 22, 2013 at 2:34 pmStilts

      Just have to say: Cyclops Shoujo Saipu is indeed hilarious! Especially when onii-san’s buchou gets involved, and Saipu goes all yandere XD

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:11 pmGoodwill Wright

    - “Also, forbidden is hot”.

    - hmmm~

    - !!!

    - Stilts, kiss me!

    • October 22, 2013 at 2:27 pmStilts

      Kotowaru!

      ~_^

      • October 22, 2013 at 2:29 pmGoodwill Wright

        - T_T

      • October 22, 2013 at 6:27 pmGoodwill Wright

        Just came to mind… I know something even more forbidden… mwahahahahaa

        - Akatsuki-channnn! (goes off to chase her)

      • October 23, 2013 at 12:28 amStilts

        YOU’RE DEAD! >:

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:23 pmMagoiichi

    Let’s just knock out the bad incest relationships in anime or to be more specific the characters that wants the D from their brother or cousin. Sugiha from Sword Art Online wearing short shorts in the middle of winter and cop out incest Kirino.

    The good ones are usually in a comedic tone like or a combo of comedy and serious drama.

    • October 22, 2013 at 2:29 pmStilts

      I think the lesson is to go all the way (i.e. go for the drama) or play it for a joke. Fall in the middle and you’re going to fail.

      Which makes it kind of funny how SAO didn’t work because they went for drama, and ohhh man did Taketatsu Ayana sell it hard. They just had that problem of her not being the main girl that got in the way.

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:26 pmjasmin12e

    Vampire knight guilty Show Spoiler ▼

  • October 22, 2013 at 2:55 pmThe Truth is in the Axe

    Sometimes when I feel a bit bewildered at repeated tropes, I retain hope that manga and anime like Genshiken help to poke fun at the phenomena.

  • October 22, 2013 at 3:11 pmStranger

    I think it’s called the Westermarck effect- in which the reason why we feel no attraction to family members is primarily because of exposure.

    Distance makes the heart grow fonder- the Westermarck effect is essentially the opposite: we have spent practically every waking moment with our family, and that kills their viability as sexual/romantic partners in our eyes. Upon an easily influenced child, this effect is pretty much final.

    That’s why relationships can go stale and why people break up- people crave novelty.

    And in young relationships especially- the two lovebirds become so engaged in one another (usually sexually) that when they finally get their faces out of each other’s genitals- they find out that they actually don’t relate very well on any other level.

    Kinda veering off-topic, so I’ll stop myself here.

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:04 pmmythnut

      Tying that in with the “only people who don’t have siblings find incest hot” point, here’s a quote pulled from Wikipedia:

      “The idea that boys want to sleep with their mothers strikes most men as the silliest thing they have ever heard. Obviously, it did not seem so to Freud, who wrote that as a boy he once had an erotic reaction to watching his mother dressing. But Freud had a wet-nurse, and may not have experienced the early intimacy that would have tipped off his perceptual system that Mrs. Freud was his mother. The Westermarck theory has out-Freuded Freud.”
      —Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works

      So yes, by the logic of the Westermarck effect, while incest is the genetically undesirable phenomenon, technically it is childhood imprinting that makes or breaks the viability of the relationship.
      What’s more, in any material with incestuous content, while the main character is supposed to be an audience surrogate, that does not particularly transfer to feelings of siblinghood. Sure, I may be looking through her brother’s eyes, but she’s still not my sister (and all other combinations based on individual gender and sexual preference).

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:12 pmStilts

      Sure, I may be looking through her brother’s eyes, but she’s still not my sister (and all other combinations based on individual gender and sexual preference).

      I think that’s actually a really interesting viewpoint, and pierces to the heart of a different reason entirely. While we can intellectually understand that “sister = don’t fall in love with” (or cousin, or whatever) for the main character, they’re not our sister, so the Westermarck Effect doesn’t apply to us, the reader/viewer. To us she’s just another girl, so it only grosses us out when we go beyond superficial empathy for the characters (caring and being interested in what happens to them) to full-blown empathy (actually stepping into their shoes and seeing the world how they would). And full-blown empathy is hard and exhausting, so we usually stop at the first type.

      Also, I think the Westermarck Effect is actually an early form of what Stranger noted, our craving for novelty. Only adults really have the experience and self-control to deny this craving and learn to value what they have…people who already learned to take a relationship for granted as a wee lad or lass, yeah, they’re not even going to try.

      Great comments, both of you!

    • October 22, 2013 at 5:35 pmmac65

      This is a very tangled subject, for sure. Sadly, you can’t look to the
      U.S. entertainment industry for a serious discussion of this topic –
      too much money.

      But consider that the incidence of the rise of divorce in the U.S. (dunno
      ’bout elsewhere) has a direct correlation with the increased use of birth
      control is rarely discussed. Because birth control is a 10 billion dollar
      industry (do the math, it’s easy). The reason is body chemistry. Birth
      control (pills) alters a girls ability to “smell” a suitable mate, and will
      likely pick an unsuitable male (at this deep biological level).

      So after the pill stops, things are different, but no one’s really sure why…
      It creates an undercurrent of friction between the couple, and could be
      one of the reasons for a failure in their relationship.

      Things have been in motion and have worked for hundreds of thousands
      of years, so it’s hard to be completely dismissive about this correlation.

      Likewise, incest. There’s a reason it has the appeal it has — if it’s idea
      were truly counter-productive to the human species, its idea wouldn’t exist.
      We wouldn’t have to be told (probably) thousands of times through subtle
      messages not to practice it; it would simply be off our radar.

      Unfortunately, historical records are rather poor at preserving behaviours
      like this, and modern history (pretty much everywhere thanks to the British)
      is basically (re-)written to neo-Christian forms and structures. In other
      words, (modern) history is meant to be read and understood from a particular
      point of view. There are many premises that we accept without ever actually
      thinking about them, or even being aware that we’re standing on their foundation –
      because we were taught that way. In the rare cases where a document is
      preserved without these standards, we literally have an incredible time
      digesting its contents.

      Sorry about the long rant — great topic Stilts! Enjoyed reading it!

  • October 22, 2013 at 3:20 pmewok40k

    Well, as with almost everything, there are 50 shades of (w)incest, from the most tame, to the most severe: a doting older sibling (and its reverse, doting and mature younger sibling!), through not-really-related “siblings”, through “flirting with the idea but rejecting it”, to “going all the way conventional morals be damned” – and anything in-between. Note that “not-really-related” trick actually allows the show to go straight ahead with ecchi stuff, like kissXsis, while omnibus style shows might flirt with the idea, but go ahead only in one ending (yosuga no sora).
    Also, note that while imouto’s can be a romantic interest in themselves, I’d say they are much more interesting as wing(wo)men. Examples? Mikan from To Love-Ru, Miya from Amagami, and recently Hachiman’s imouto from Oregairu have all been helping their respective brothers with their contacts towards other girls. Perhaps the best trick I’ve seen is 1.set up a shopping spree with a friend. 2. take out brother to carry the shopping bags 3. disappear from sight under some pretense, leaving the pair in de facto date.
    Also as Hachiman has noted, living with an imouto from childhood does have an immunising effect of sorts, down to his “100% cotton” reaction to the pantsu. Having been in charge of hanging entire family’s laundry to dry for years, I can only concur. Even when your siblings start to wear more entertaining lingerie, you can’t but shrug “so what?”.

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:15 pmStilts

      I agree that seeing siblings as wing(wo)men is both interesting and fun. I’m a sucker for romance, but I like seeing close relationships of other types, whether they be familial or friendship. Plus seeing someone wing(wo)manning for someone is just always fun ^^

  • October 22, 2013 at 3:21 pmHochmeister

    Good post and a reasonable explanation for the prevalence of incest.

    I still hate it, unless played for the lolz.

  • October 22, 2013 at 3:42 pmc2710

    Stilts… Would you do a post on the allure of yuri?

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:17 pmStilts

      There’s no reason. The allure of yuri is obvious.

      • October 22, 2013 at 4:29 pmKurisu Vi Britannia

        Damn right it is.

      • October 22, 2013 at 9:45 pmTheMoondoggie

        No, no. We must study this yuri you speak of next. XD

        We must post lots of pics, discuss it’s allure and the most well known couple and decide who is the best. *cough*MadokaXHomura*cough*.

      • October 23, 2013 at 7:44 amamado

      • October 23, 2013 at 8:03 ampuppygod

        Scientific proof:

        http://i.imgur.com/E2n3rjR.gif

      • October 23, 2013 at 2:57 pmc2710

        If there’s an academic discourse on the allure of incest…. Than there must be an academic discourse on the allure of yuri

      • October 24, 2013 at 6:52 pmVaan

        What about the Allure of Yao- *stab*

    • October 23, 2013 at 9:18 amNothingLess

      No,no let’s discuss Yaoi,it’s the most Forbidden Genre in Anime and it rarely appear in there.I love any kind of Anime,but I REALLY DO NOT love at all the Yaoi way,cauz I’m a guy and I LOVE girl,not guy >:

  • October 22, 2013 at 3:51 pmcyprinious

    Yo Stilts! I must say this is a scary thread to post on… in more than a few ways! :D But I’m showing support! Great job!

    Imouto love eh? Considering a lot of otaku in Japan are a part of the herbivore faction and a lot don’t get a lot of serious attention from females, it doesn’t surprise me that the fantasy of…

    female + strong bond (family) + accepts all your vices/imperfections + unconditional love and affection toward you = goddess

    Any red blooded male loves the idea of no rejection… heck any human for that matter!

    That said, as someone who as siblings and normal dealings with the opposite sex, it does seem strange if you think of it in reality, but honestly we don’t watch anime to be reminded of reality, right? :D

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:17 pmStilts

      Indeed. Don’t think about it too closely. It ruins all the fun. Seriously >_<

      Also, rejection sucks. I happen to think it’s a good idea to go out and do things we’re scared of – as long as guns and knives aren’t involved, natch – so I would feel like I cheated and wasn’t growing if I skirted the whole thing. Doesn’t mean I don’t understand though, especially when the women in my life are driving me crazy, lol

  • October 22, 2013 at 4:11 pmAmiluhur

    I’m going to give a fair warning here: This post will be somewhat cynical, at least depending on your point of view.

    I think the reason incest comes up a lot in anime actually has little to do with incest, per se.

    I think it’s basically the following concept that drives anime’s frequent use of incest or incest overtones:

    1. You have an attractive girl living under the same roof as you.

    2. You already know her well. There’s no potentially problematic “getting to know you” phase you need to go through.

    3. There’s no need to get to know her parents/guardians, and win their approval. Her parents/guardians are your parents/guardians.

    Most cases of incest in anime really do add up to this, I think. So it’s not about incest, it’s about the appeal of really easy romance. In fact, there’s often some added elements to make it even more easy (i.e. “Oh, she’s just my half-sister”, “Oh, we grew up together, but we’re not related by blood”, “Oh, she just likes to think of herself as my sister, we’re technically just old childhood friends, really”).

    I myself used to find anime’s “fascination with incest” a bit puzzling (challenging taboos every now and then is one thing, turning one such seeming challenge into a commonly-used trope is quite another), until all of this occurred to me, and I started to notice just how often “Onii-chan” wasn’t actually “Onii-chan” by blood.

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:19 pmStilts

      Considering I made all of those same points in #4 (minus the parent/guardian part, though I just don’t see that as important due to my own cultural upbringing), I don’t find this particularly cynical. In fact, I agree : )

  • October 22, 2013 at 4:16 pmMgMaster

    It’s wish-fulfillment because it’s easy; the (seemingly) hard parts – talking to new people, getting close enough to know if you have a shot, etc.

    And this is one of the reasons why I see Golden Time and White Album 2 like a breath of fresh air when it comes to romance animes.Sure,Golden Time has the female lead,Kouko,obsessed about her childhood friend(if you could even call him a friend,more like sweetheart in her mind) but it’s most likely DEFINITELY gonna show us how she & the male lead,Banri,will fall for each other while starting off as strangers.Even if say,they pull a “I met this girl at a festival when I was little” or “I remember playing with this boy in the past” card,a quick single meeting wouldn’t exactly make two people very familiar with each other.

    • October 22, 2013 at 4:22 pmStilts

      That’s one thing Takemiya-sensei is really good at – creating romances with structural impediments to them progressing forward. First there was Toradora (in love with each other’s friends), now Golden Time (girl is in love with another guy). That means we get none (or far less) of the “Just kiss/get together/screw already!!” frustration, because they have good reason for taking their time!

      But that’s a discussion for another place, or possibly the best podcast ^^

      • October 22, 2013 at 7:04 pmRaso

        And there in is the series problem and why Golden Time is not getting any preorders for its Blurays.

        Well that and NTR.

      • October 22, 2013 at 11:29 pmMgMaster

        @Raso

        That’s a real shame :( Actual romance shows like these don’t come very often.On the positive side however,that makes these shows all the more enjoyable when we do get them.Still,I can’t help but be worried by the fact that writers & producers will keep getting more & more discouraged when they don’t sell too well.I hope at least WA2 will be successfull.

  • October 22, 2013 at 4:45 pmsadakups

    It’s disgusting.

    • October 22, 2013 at 6:13 pmKurisu Vi Britannia

      Don’t be scared.

    • October 24, 2013 at 7:58 amfishell

      Agreed….people wanting it to happen, thus making all this weird fantasy which is forbidden :)

  • October 22, 2013 at 6:57 pmPrimeHector

    What anime is the fifth picture from?

    • October 22, 2013 at 7:17 pmq

      Yosuga no Sora

      • October 22, 2013 at 9:37 pmTre

        Also known as the forbidden encyclopedia of twincest. Tread lightly and enjoy.

      • October 22, 2013 at 9:50 pmTheMoondoggie

        “encyclopedia”

        It’s called the “Greatest Incest Eroge of All Time.”

    • October 22, 2013 at 11:27 pmTassadar

      And what about the 4rth picture?

      • October 23, 2013 at 9:36 amStilts

        Nisemonogatari! Come on now, don’t make me start labeling them ;_;

      • October 24, 2013 at 1:53 amTassadar

        I haven’t watched it yet… I haven’t even managed to finish Bakemonogatari yet. I know, I am awful!

      • October 26, 2013 at 6:47 pmSalbazier

        You’re not alone. I haven’t finished watching ti either (I do however have watched the toothbrush episode)

  • October 22, 2013 at 7:06 pmfragb85

    I remember reading somewhere that the incest generally appeals to people who never had to be raised with a sibling. When you see incest in anime, there is one thing that’s very noticeable: The imouto’s are almost always perfect. They’re good at wifely duties, kind, caring love their onii-chan very much, etc. In other words, their traits that be easily transplanted to other girls of a harem genre and the whole sister aspect just ends up being another trait. Incest in anime really is just another product of its time, made to appeal to the otaku market rather than address any actual social issue.

    I myself have a long list of fetishes that appeal to me, some of them would shock to people I know, but incest is not one of them. I’d attribute it to the fact that while I don’t have a sister, I did live with my cousins for a few years, the youngest was a girl. The relationship was rocky to say the least, I always thought she was an entitled, obnoxious brat. Age and hindsight make it better though because there is a simple fact to this, she was a prepubescent teenager, that’s the sort of they stuff all kids do. But’s what real family is, its a melting pot of good and bad experiences rather than the idealistic ones that most anime put out.

    That’s what it incest in anime at the end, fetish pandering. And my position for that is always the same, I don’t hate fetish pandering because they were designed specifically to appeal a certain number of people. The only time I will hate fetish pandering is if it’s wildly out-of-place and damages both the core plot and its characters.

  • October 22, 2013 at 7:24 pmDanny the dog

    I don’t disagree with any of your points; i think you’ve hit most of the nails :) However, most of those nails are not exclusive to Japan, yet we don’t see incest romances emerging at similar rates from the US.

    So I’m curious to explore if there is a cultural influence also helping to drive incest fantasies related to the implicit power of “family” in traditional Japan. Primarily I’m referring to arranged marriages which, I understand, still occur. Certainly it doesn’t happen at the rates it used to but I’ve heard from relatives professional matchmaking is a legit career and that they typically cater to parents. In any case, it was very common up to recent history. I’ve wondered if reluctance of children to get married to a stranger (and possibly leave one’s family to join a stranger’s) helps to create the fantasy idea of being able to stay in the familiar via incestous romance. I would describe it as the idea of loving one’s sibling is preferred to being forced to accept a stranger of unknown personal quality based only on what one’s parents think of the stranger’s family.

    Mind you, I’m not saying modern incest-loving otaku facing arranged marriage and choosing incest stories because of it; I suspect it became an accepted story trope in the past due to the unconcious cultural fear. We don’t have that fear here in the west so it never became a common theme. Incest is hardly a new japanese trope, it’s only become .. annoyingly .. frequent with the moe trend so perhaps some think it’s a recent phenomenon but older contributors can be suggested.

    • October 22, 2013 at 8:24 pmPancakes

      It’s definitely cultural differences, but not in the way you think. The biggest reason is the significant herbivore movement in Japan. The appeal is catharsis, a means to escape a rigid society with many expectations and a high cost of living. So many herbivores would rather turn to these shows and productions than be physically social because they can see no reward and only risk in doing the latter.

      It’s not arranged marriages as much as it’s romance in its entirety. The Guardian published an article a few days ago showing nearly half of all 20-30 year old Japanese females despise sexual contact (and nearly 25% of similarly aged males), with nearly a third of all <30 year old individuals never having had a date. Work and living dominates so much in the minds of many that actual physical intimacy and connection becomes a hindrance against their goals.

      Thus people with no idea how to talk to the opposite sex (let alone escalate and act on their feelings) turn to anime and manga, specifically the males. These fetish genres are driven by male consumption, a need for sexual release that many girls cannot understand. Incest is simply one form of that which has a provocative factor that allows one to find interest when other, more conventional forms of romance have had immunity developed towards them. Think of it like porn: eventually you'll tire of the softcore, "romantic" scenes and seek out the hardcore stuff.

      • October 23, 2013 at 1:15 pmStilts

        I think Danny’s hypothesis is an interesting one, but Pancakes still probably has it right. I’ll never go to unconscious social biases built up over many years when overt stress and fear are right there as a possible answer. The subconscious is highly overrated when the culture is actively bashing someone in the psyche, lol

    • October 22, 2013 at 11:47 pmSK

      Another cultural difference to note is that Japan allows first cousins to marry, so the idea of fairly close relatives having that kind of relationship is not completely foreign. I can recall a few anime that involved romantic situations between cousins, with some western fans going “OMG kissing cousins incest is bad = show sucks” for every episode remaining.

      *minor rant* (Which leads me to a different point: if it bothers you that much stop watching instead of bitching about it for the rest of the series, the producers really don’t give a damn what Western consumers think since that’s maybe 5% of their profit and they aren’t the target market) *personal rant over*

      Back on track, I’m not saying there’s widespread approval for incest in Japan either, but the taboo of incest is probably strongest in Western countries than anywhere else.

  • October 22, 2013 at 8:30 pms_w

    I don’t get incest in anime, but that’s because I have a sister… and no. Just… no.

    Even IF I could ignore the fact that she looks like me in a wig… what the HELL am I saying? That’s a deal-breaker right there. We also have the same hands and feet too. That adds to the gross-out factor.

    I’d drive cross country to come to her aid if she was in a bind– she’s my sister. I love her. As a sister. But that other stuff? Eww. Eww to the infinity power. I can’t think of enough ways to say “Eww.” Just thinking about it gives me the shudders.

  • October 22, 2013 at 9:10 pmLGrey

    Almost 70 comments, I just noticed something amusing:

    In most (every?) comment so far, looks like the incestuous female is always imouto. What, no love for anekis? ^^

    I suspect Stilts-sama is sneakily unconsciously leading us into his Imouto Inochi Dan.

    *runs*

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:20 pmStilts

      Nyahaha! Well, in all seriousness, big brother – little sister incest is the most common by far (just as brother-sister incest is far more common than other forms), so it’s no surprise. This trope does apply to any form though.

      For my part, I prefer imoutos to anekis because I’m the youngest in my family, so the idea of someone younger than me is novel. Plus I’m older than most of the writers, which makes them (and by extension, all of you) ALL MAH IMOUTOS BWAHAHAH!

      I’ll stop now.

    • October 23, 2013 at 2:03 pmMagoiichi

      Onee-samas are vastly superior to imoutos.

  • October 22, 2013 at 9:13 pmAlmozayaf Roman

    Fun fact in sicnse and most relgenes first meeting was insece
    It funny cuz these is the only thing they agry on

  • October 22, 2013 at 9:15 pm5OClockTea

    What about all those hentais with a boy and his mother?

    In all honesty, just like loli/shota, having an actual sibling/having babysat little brats, simply no. Just no.

  • October 22, 2013 at 9:34 pmanon

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • October 22, 2013 at 9:53 pmTheMoondoggie

      “if “it’s legal in Japan” so it must be okay everywhere else”

      Incest is illegal in Japan, in general.

      New Jersey and Ohio, though, is a different story.

    • October 23, 2013 at 5:12 amamado

      L2read
      they specifically say that it doesnt apply to real life idiot.

      I bet your going to be saying killing people for revenge is right, fooling around/slacking in college rather than study is great, being anti social will bring more friends, etc. from other animes are lessons you take into real life?
      nope.

      and if you know this, you shouldnt be watching anime with that mindset. you do not watch anime and apply what you see there to real life situation.

      its people like you actually, if your going with this belief, are the ones more likely to commit “this” atrocious acts than those who watch these to unwind and entertain themselves.

      • October 23, 2013 at 6:06 amAmiluhur

        There is a difference between dealing with certain subject matter, and actually showing it on screen as the main attraction.

        Historically such events took place of screen. It’s only in the last 50 years or so that there has been a big push to depict all the details. Has storytelling significantly improved in the last 50 years? Not that I have seen.

        Also, I think there is a significant difference between depicting siblings as sexual objects and a mere taboo. Any story that includes siblings being sexualized ought to depict it as a great evil, because it is evil.

        Furthermore I am tired of this catch-all “violence” category. There is a huge difference between gore, or violence shown for violence sake, and the depiction of violence as used by the good guy to defeat the bad guy.

        One violates the moral code, the other actually upholds the moral code. Completely different situations that are collapsed in to one term.

        Nor is the “it’s just fiction” really a good defense. We spend a huge amount of our lives telling and listening to fictional stories. Fiction is important. Good fiction is good for us. Bad or corrupt fiction is bad for us. Maybe there are no physical effects, but there is certainly a spiritual effect. Why else do we spend so much effort looking for good stories if they don’t do something good for us? If good fiction benefits us spiritually, then it follows that bad fiction is bad for us spiritually.

        Now you can make the libertarian argument that people must choose between good and evil for themselves, and that as long as no actual specific people are hurt, society shouldn’t interfere. But that argument is very different from claiming that the works are harmless. Nor does it imply that we are obligated to withhold our moral opprobrium from such works.

      • October 23, 2013 at 6:38 amamado

        that happens if you dont know how to blur past those notions. how, if your like anon, someone who will take up what is given to you and apply it regardless of what it is.
        for example, if one guy gets told some good advice like study hard for your schools, your better to accept it. on the other hand, if bad advice is given like you should cheat since its easier, would you also accept it?

        you need to learn to discern things, this also applies to fiction. discern what will be fit and good for your sake. discern what will actually help you and what wont. but you do not disregard entirely the other choice, otherwise you may end up being a hypocrite.
        like what you were saying about violence, isnt achieving things peacefully better? and you would say violence is good so long as its to beat bad guys, but how can you be sure it was that bad or if they were really bad? maybe your bad, isnt violence something bad people do? what you could be saying, is violence is good as long as other party is bad, but the bad party should be punished for violence on you?

        as what I said, discern which ones will be appropriate and good for what happens to you. know if you should do it without violence, or if violence is indeed needed.

        also where does it say incest is evil? I hope your not pulling in religion into this.

      • October 25, 2013 at 5:18 amMocha

        Any story that includes siblings being sexualized ought to depict it as a great evil, because it is evil.

        In that case, you should probably write something yourself which does, and right the balance with your own hands.

  • October 22, 2013 at 9:51 pmsalty

    Simple fact about the Japanese language which I’m sure you’re all aware of: words like “onii-chan” can be used both to refer to a familial relationship (big brother) and to any male older than the speaker.

    Not exactly. If you’re speaking in the context of anime-style Japanese language, sure, but in the real world, it operates differently. Outside of the family, “onii-chan” is predominately used by children whose concepts of uchi and soto have not yet matured enough, and thus use such colloquial references much more freely. After a certain age, however, Japanese children form a much better idea of what it means to be socially “inside” and “outside”, consequently leading to a vast reduction in the liberal use of said vernacular.

    “Onii-chan” would then be strongly restricted to actual older brothers, in certain infrequent interactions between friends (often in non-serious tones; they don’t actually consider the other to be an actual older brother), or more rarely, towards somewhat older males that the speaker has known and been close to for an exceptionally long time. As Japanese children become more socially aware and adept, they are taught to acknowledge and reinforce the differences in social stature when speaking to or about others. That’s one of the reasons why the Japanese language has so many words for use when referring to people of different ages and social standings.

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:30 pmStilts

      True. “Any male” is a bit too broad – it would only be any male up to a certain age, even for children – and it certainly does apply more to anime than the real world. That said, it appearing so often in anime is the point – to those of us who watch a lot of anime, it desensitizes us to the actual meaning of those words.

  • October 22, 2013 at 10:21 pmthenewhorde

    @Stilts

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said. However, I’ve also like to point out another reason why incest is so appealing to me, which was somewhat noted in your post.

    The alluring thing about incest is less about the forbiddenness and more on the intimicy of relationship. As you’ve pointed out with osasanajimi, they’re people that you have a close and intimiate bond with. Sisters, in particular, has a even greater bond because their entire existance is build on your or their birth, whichever comes first. As stated by Araragi, Karen and Tsukihi are Koyomi’s sisters the moment they were born, and they’ve always been since then. However, there was a time where Koyomi was alone, and it’s that intimicy where their lives are tied together that makes them close and special.

    However, I must admit, being that I grew up in the American culture, such intimacy rarely exist as siblings are treated as best friends or pals that plays together as a child. Sometimes a sibling loses their importance when new friends are made in school and an age gap exist.

    In the family oriented world that is Japan, the feminine older/younger sister is ideally imagined as yamato nadeshiko-esche that take cares of you. Though it differs from family to family, one can safely assume that sisters play the role of a wife without sexual relationship. And if your sister just happens to be that kind and beautiful as often protrayed in incestial anime, then for what reason do you have to not feel attracted and take that last step?

    Just for Stilts, imagine what life would be like if your sister is Charlotte, would you still say no to her if she treats you with all that kindness and lovey doveyness?

    • October 23, 2013 at 8:08 amNothingLess

      About the “losing importance as sibling when meeting new friends”,I agree with it,but it sometimes depend on the siblings.For example,in my case,me and my sister share a deep bond as OTAKU:my sister can easily talk about OTAKU stuff with me(she really enjoy it).Then when with her friends,she share another kind of bond(she also really enjoy it).It’s just a matter of needing and satisfaction(she do need her friends but need me as well).You can refer my Sis to Kirino who said:”I love Otaku stuff as much as I love my friends”.Like that.So as long as I’m needed,I don’t feel like I’m far away from her or rejected by her…well from all the girls I know,besides her friends,my Sis is the only Otaku GIRL I know in my country,so…well…perhaps if she meet an Otaku girl like her,I would lose my place as Otaku Partner or perhaps she will just add her in our “Otaku Party Time”,well either way I would just be happy for my Sis (personally saying,I would directly hit on that Otaku friend girl,cauz it’s really rare to find a girl like that…HERE IN MY COUNTRY > . > )

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:34 pmStilts

      @ thenewhorde

      You git on a reason why this is so prevalent in Japanese animation (as opposed to any animation, which the first two could apply to): because of the Yamato Nadeshiko ideal, if a sister acts like that to her brother then she’s already basically acting like a wife. I would bet any amount of money you care to match that this doesn’t happen most of the time in real life, lol, but when the two unrealistic fantasies combine, it’s no wonder where it leads.

  • October 23, 2013 at 2:02 amanon

    Hello! I was wondering what are the titles of the animes in each picture of this post :)

  • October 23, 2013 at 2:18 amboomboomboomers

    I will comment on your point 1 which is “Incest is forbidden”. Why is incest forbidden?

    Don’t take me the wrong way. I’m not pro-incest. And I’m sure this is one of the awkward topics to discuss for everyone regardless of whether you are an only child or with siblings. Let me remind everyone that incest doesn’t only refer to sibling-sibling but also parent-child or in some extreme cases uncle/aunt-niece/nephew. Basically, it’s having sexual relations with a blood relative.

    Going back to the question, incest is forbidden because our current society tells us that it is. It was a societal norm but incest wasn’t ALWAYS forbidden. In the ancient times, kings or pharaohs engage in incestuous relations with someone of blood relations. So there was a time that incest wasn’t forbidden until humanity discovered that inbreeding was the cause of many birth defects. I will assume everybody knows what inbreeding is. And thus, society dubbed that incest is forbidden and taboo.

    Anyway, in my opinion, the topic of incest that are becoming more prevalent in anime is some form of challenging the taboo itself. And we all know that challenging the taboo means challenging the society. And this is what drives the audience. It’s like anime is trying to question the audience whether incest should be forbidden or not.

    It’s not just incest but also homosexuality. There are a lot of anime that are yuri and yaoi in nature.

    It looks like a revolutionary idea but it’s not. It’s just my opinion.

    As a side note, I do agree with your post. I do understand that a lot of people want to break bad sometimes. That a lot of them want to taste that forbidden fruit. Forbidden is hot!

  • October 23, 2013 at 3:20 amGuy

    Check Claude Levi-Strauss on incest in south-american myths, here’s a useful link.

    It also has to deal with “liminality”, of blurring the borders, of breaking the borders, some would say. As for incest anime in particular? I’ve seen someone make a compelling argument, that it’s a sub-type of the “Younger girl who is helpless and needs the MC’s attention.” – but unlike girls at school, etc. you already have a bond and “love” pre-established, so only need to act on it. It’s sort of an even stronger variation of the “Childhood friend,” and does away with the real need of conquest, or even forming a bond to begin with.

    Reddit had an interesting discussion on this just under a month ago.

  • October 23, 2013 at 3:43 amruicarlov

    I’m usually not grossed out by incest in any form of fiction. I agree with a lot of points that have been made in the article and comments. The allure of the forbidden, the closeness of the two individuals, and so on…
    It also probably helps that in my country, one the most important required reading books in high school is about a tale of incest taking place in the 19th century. True, the siblings were separated relatively young and didn’t recognize each other when they met in adulthood. But yes, it was incest and we had to study it very well, otherwise we’d most likely fail the exam.
    Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’ve grown used to seeing brother/sister incest used in the media. Parent/child not so much…

    • October 23, 2013 at 4:52 amGuy

      There’s also the fact that one can make a love story out of sibling incest, but parental incest is usually tied to abuse of power, and sexual abuse of children.

      You hear of parental incest on the news all the time, it’s just not consensual.

  • October 23, 2013 at 6:23 amamado

    I agree quite a lot with what you’ve written stilts, let me add some stuff you have missed:

    one thing that made incest quite alluring, was on how similar the siblings could be. dont you have those situations where you want someone like you and who understands you? quite a handful of the ones in shows have the siblings be not only close but having similar interests as well as, well, having appearances that are close.

    btw what I believe is that in the end it really falls more on the person’s threshold and how much your willing to disconnect with reality. what I see of incest is the same as I see with fantasy or every thing in media really: an image/situation to be explored, analyzed, enjoyed and then place the knowledge in another folder of your memories. it is just another level how far you can accept fiction.

    for example, I have this good friend here who’s seen anime/manga and is fine/likes them. however, he’ll only watch those “realistic” ones aka no magic or supernatural in it. im sure for a lot of the people here, your likely to watch shows with those elements. but he says “I just cant really see it, I prefer to watch something that is like real life.”
    as another example, take me. I have a sister yet im quite interested in incest of media. as you also can tell, im also a yuri fan.

    and I am able to do these stuff while not applying it to real life. how come? well just like how everyone here would react to my friend as I said above: you’ll just disconnect it from reality. you dont watch it thinking of it happening in reality.

    as another thing to bring up, lets talk about horror.
    im sure quite a handful here didnt like horror at first and probably avoided it like the plague. then once you started watching it a bit more and gradually being able to discern it from reality, you’ve started to enjoy it and heck preferred it maybe over other genres.
    yet im pretty sure you wont like seeing a zombie apocalypse happening ever, right?

    that is how im quite diverse and how im able to like watch almost anything as Divine had been. only ones that I dont touch are yaoi, I already tried it yet I cant disconnect it from me enough that im comfortable with watching it. *shrug*

    • October 23, 2013 at 7:04 amNothingLess

      “I want an Otaku GIRL!” That’s my dream for long,but in my country,everytime I say I’m an Otaku,girls just keep distance and just go for Justin Bieber.Perhaps my love for Incest Relationship (Siblings) come from that need of “SOUL SISTER”,wishing and wanting a girl who has the same taste as me.Well,there’s time when I just hide the fact that I’m an Otaku and get a girlfriend,but when passing time with this girlfriend I couldn’t just fully enjoy myself because there’s no OTAKU acts,and No OTAKU means No Life for me.So I broke up and looking for another one who would be more like my “SISTER” (If I was in an Anime World,I would just go for my sister,but I’m in the Reality World,the Damned Cruel World……………No,no,even though I’m in an Anime World I won’t date my sister,the first was just a pure example)

      So I want a GIRL who loves Anime dammit!(I know,it’s not related to the topic,but damn,most girls are so…I don’t know in your country but here…”sigh”)
      God,please bless me.

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:44 pmStilts

      @ amado

      Your comment reminds me of how many twins, when separated at birth and upon meeting one another later in life, either end up marrying similar people or even fall in love with one another. We’re attracted to people who are like us, and at least for full-blooded siblings, there’s no one biologically more similar – they’re half mommy, half daddy, just like we are.

      That said, they’re unreasonable for largely the same reason that osananajimi are – anyone who knows us during our bratty childhood, prepubescent, and worst of all pubescent years is liable to be sick of our bullshit and want some space, lol

  • October 23, 2013 at 6:34 amNothingLess

    Let’s just say that I don’t mix Anime and Reality(depending on the topics).I enjoy incest in Anime,but reject it in Reality,just simply…Anime is Anime and Reality is Reality(well,there’s time I refer Anime to Reality though),even though I see an incestious relationship between a mother and her son,I don’t see any problems(It’s not like I’m going to hit on my own mother because I just saw an Incestious Anime).I don’t know about you guys,but I just used to separate Anime from Reality,that’s all.
    So screw Laws and let’s go for the FORBIDDEN PATH!!!(Fictionally saying I SAID!)

  • October 23, 2013 at 7:46 amamado

    btw stilts, what is the first image from?

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:46 pmStilts

      I found it on Konachan. Beware: a lot of NSFW on that site, which is why I prefer to pull from the actual episodes if I can think of a good pic.

      • October 24, 2013 at 8:45 amTheMoondoggie

        It’s a nice pic Stilts.

      • October 25, 2013 at 6:38 amamado

        damn to love ru is freakishly long, I dont think il be able to see this magnificent character at all :(

  • October 23, 2013 at 10:33 amsonicsenryaku

    Damn, you hit it right on the head stilts; especially with the mentioning that to some degree, incest in anime/manga is a sort of wish-fulfillment for some. Take something like like James Bond (yes i know, it doesnt seem to have a relation to incest or relationships); we watch his movies knowing that in real life, he would have died so many times, or that there is no possible way a man like him can take all the punishment he does and still complete his missions and still maintain his sauve looking face. But he does survive, and he does complete those missions, and most importantly (debatable) he always gets the girl. Men wish they could be as cool as James bond, or have a sliver of his awesomeness, and so the men demographic eat up all his movies, regardless of of their knowledge that it is very unlikely for a man like him to do what he does.

    The same goes for incest; both male and female yearn (more or less) for a romantic partner who they have a close bond with, whose protective, reliant and or reliable (not to a fault). In reality, Im sure a lot of us have older (or younger) brothers and sister’s that we think, objectively speaking that is (although rating beauty at the end of the day is always subjective) are beautiful and attractive people, but the idea of being involved with them disgust us for social and psychological reasons. In television, movies, anime, or manga though, we can escape that reality though, and honestly, that’s what tv, books, anime, and manga do; they allow us to escape reality and insert our wishes.

    In the real world, you would be disgusted at the idea of dating your hot sister or brother who, proximity-wise, is easily obtainable, but in the entertainment media world, you would be more receptive to the idea of two siblings in a relationship because you figure “hey, those siblings are hot and they have all the traits i look for in a relationship. I know in real life this cant happen but this isnt real life so i dont have an attachment. In this case, i want to see these people hook up because they’re great characters”. Ive caught myself once saying “Mikan (to-love ru) is the best girl…if only she wasnt Rito’s younger sister”. Great post.

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:48 pmStilts

      Thank you!

      And yes, it goes back to one of my favorite things to continually say – sometimes, realism in fiction is overrated : )

      • October 23, 2013 at 6:32 pmsonicsenryaku

        agreed; which is why at times i think some ppl tend to miss the point of fiction when they try too hard to crack on how things in fictitious narratives doesnt match realistic situations. Yes, there are some rules stories must follow, and if it sets a realistic tone then it’s understandable to expect realistic events, situation, laws, and physics. But if it does not do that, one should just let their minds roam free, escape reality and stress for a lil bit, and enjoy the ride.

  • October 23, 2013 at 11:27 amrh75

    Reality and fiction are like matter and anti-matter. They shouldn’t meet or bad things will happen. In reality, there are all sorts of triggers that make people turn away from ‘abnormal’ ideas. Fiction allows us to lock the triggers and indulge in all sorts of abnormalities without fear. I also don’t think it is limited to incest in manga or anime. How many also like the older person falling in love with a much younger one, or the rare triangle where the boys/girls actually stay together instead of one being excluded.

    As for the incest of the article, I have to agree with #2 and #4 for why incest is so popular. Sonicsenryaku’s above explanation is so much better so read it

    Of course, you’ll still get looks from those that can’t separate reality from fiction if they see what you read or watch, and don’t approve.

    • October 23, 2013 at 12:51 pmKarma

      What’s so bad about light and gamma-rays?

  • October 23, 2013 at 12:29 pmNeck Neck Neck

    Imouto x Oniichan fantasy is only for people that grew up without sisters.

    People that do have female siblings understand that
    sisters in real life are pain in the ass and nothing more.

    Bitch stealing 20 dollar bills from my wallet every once in a while….

    • October 23, 2013 at 1:05 pmNothingLess

      Lol,I bet your sister(if you have one)give you one hell of a treatment.In my case,I have a sister but I’m still enjoying Incest Anime between sibling.But well,I admit that there’s time when my Sis really piss me of,but not to the point of hating her.

    • October 23, 2013 at 3:41 pmStranger

      Nononono-

      You’re supposed to be a pain in HER ass- not the other way ’round.

    • October 23, 2013 at 5:27 pmNothingLess

      Lol,either way,I don’t feel that she hate me that much…

  • October 23, 2013 at 12:49 pmKarma

    Well for starters, murder is also forbidden.

  • October 23, 2013 at 2:21 pmqwert

    My high school Latin teacher had his own version of the Willy Wonka line which in his case applied to the Roman gods but also applies here.

    Candy is dandy, liquor is quicker, incest is best.

  • October 23, 2013 at 6:22 pmNiles

    Between one and four siblings, depending on how you count??

    So you ARE an eroge/harem protagonist.

    • October 23, 2013 at 7:02 pmStilts

      Ahaha, they’re all older than me, and mostly male, so not quite. I’d explain what I mean, but it’s an interesting tale all told, so I think I’ll save it for a future novel. Giving one of my characters a fun family like mine oughta make them interesting indeed ; )

  • October 23, 2013 at 7:47 pmArsa

    Man I hate the weird little sister shit in anime. I can watch anime if it’s not a huge part of it, but it always bothers me. The thing that annoys me the most though, is when they go out of their way to say, “It’s okay, they’re not blood related or they’re actually cousins!!!” That’s a load of horseshit. Anyone who’s grown up with a non-blood related sibling (step-sister, adoptions) knows that it makes no difference. That person is your sister and you don’t think of them that way.

    • October 23, 2013 at 8:37 pmamado

      indeed, that is one of the most annoying and worst thing shows could do that would ruin the whole thing. it ends up wasting all that effort and tension of the relationship.

      either go the entire way or dont at all(or as stilts said, if its just for comedy eh its fine to alternate and stuff). the people who’re going to be watching it are the ones interested in seeing it happen, only very few people would watch it hoping for them to be not related. if your hoping to win people back by revealing they werent related, well those guys are the ones not watching it. you’ll just end up alienating both sides.

  • October 23, 2013 at 8:00 pmstardf29

    This is a pretty good analysis on the appeal of incest stories.

    That said, regarding #4: I think the appeal of osananajimi goes further than just the whole “convenient girl/boy you don’t have to go out of your way to date” aspect. I mean, I’m not going to deny that is a part of it. At the same time, though, and especially given that childhood friend romances are popular in Western fiction as well, I do think there is one additional appeal to such stories.

    A lot of people desire faithfulness in a relationship, and want the kind of romance that lasts a lifetime. However, you can’t really portray that kind of long-term faithfulness and intimacy in a standard “boy meets girl” romance. Those are frequently too based in the thrill of novelty (which wears off in long-term relationships) and otherwise just generally take place in too short a timeframe to mirror those particular qualities that well. The childhood friend romance serves as a middle ground that, while still retaining aspects of classic “boy meets girl” romances, can also better reflect those qualities of faithfulness and intimacy (and ability to put up with a lot of crap) from long-term relationships, and thus appeal to those who want that kind of long-lasting love.

    Then, with incest stories, you get all of that, plus the fact that the two lovebirds are also family, just like how a husband and wife are technically family. (Yeah, I know, different “type” of family, but still.)

    Now, while I’m a fan of childhood friend romances, I look at incest romances more along the lines of #1, and the various interesting psychological and social implications that can come out of exploring such a taboo area. I’ll always appreciate a good incest story like Koi Kaze for mainly that reason. They can also be good comedies just for pure comedic value, though lately the only show to really give me good laughs over incest is Nisemonogatari with toothbrushes.

    • October 23, 2013 at 9:33 pmShirt

      I can’t look at a toothbrush the same again. That was a turning point in the history of kinky anime scenes for me.

    • October 23, 2013 at 9:52 pmStilts

      Another good point. It has that romantic “they’ve been together and they love each other” quality that an old happy married couple has, while still having all the scary, gut-wrenching fun of a new relationship! Plus they’re not old, and we all know that young characters sell better, unless they’re played by Sean Connery or Morgan Freeman.

  • October 23, 2013 at 9:29 pmShirt

    Thank you for writing this. I’ll sub to your blog because I love reading interesting and scandalous topics regarding anime and its themes. Plus dat Sora makes my skin tingle with taboo excitement. X3

    • October 23, 2013 at 10:04 pmStilts

      I talk about more than just anime, but I’ll do my best! It definitely leaks in there though, since I spend a lot of time watching it :X

  • October 24, 2013 at 8:13 amBored

    I dislike animes with the concept of ‘incest’ being introduced, I immediately turn it off. I think its wrong in many ways. You see when an idea is introduced in an anime or any show for the matter, the concept gets into one’s head. It would be hard not to imagine relationships with your siblings, or aunts, uncles, dad, etc. Not saying I have, but there are weak minds out there. When something is viewed in TV over and over, it starts to become a ‘norm’, when things become norm, doors open for possibilities. It is similar to the concept of being ‘gay’. I have nothing against gays or lesbiens, but lately, every American TV show has a concept of some ‘gay relationship’ in it, which is really starting to become boring and actually makes it look like the whole planet is gay and normal people don’t have it rough as much as they do. People say stuff like ‘I’ll go see 2 girls kissing’ which is ok, but it is not ok when a guy gets ideas of ‘playing with his sister’ forexample. Unlike gayness, incest actually might screw the world’s genetics.

    Sorry just ranting on, I will go back to my cave.

  • October 24, 2013 at 2:53 pmsupex

    I love incest anime/manga and I want to eff my 18 yr old sis, sadly she’s disgusted by incest yet she calls her bf her goddamn brother and I know they’ve had sex by now.

    • October 26, 2013 at 9:27 amNothingLess

      WTH,you say*sadly*?!Are you serious?!You feel that way toward your own sis?!Holy crap!
      Hope that Sis of yours is just in your Imagination =_=

      • October 26, 2013 at 10:01 ammythnut

        Please don’t feed the troll.

  • October 25, 2013 at 1:26 amScarletNyx

    Mentioning mikan as the best imouto and kill la kill in the the same article earns u SSS+ rank

    I loved Yosuga no Sora for many reasons despite the incest, oreimo was…well…it ended weird didnt it guys, bakemonogatari koyomi needs to sex both his sisters up already so many hints jeez, and he needs to make a harem and be done with it.

    in short good article read all of it, agree with ur opinion way to go stilts keep on bloggin brotha!!

  • October 25, 2013 at 8:21 amkabayongtao

    Article: HARVARD STUDENTS CELEBRATE ‘INCEST-FEST’

    http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/11799/

  • October 26, 2013 at 7:00 pmSalbazier

    Well, I don’t have much to say (What the hell, I almost ‘much sisters’ there!) except this was an amazing article (and the comments are Golden too) :)