Update: Kenichiro Takaki has now stated the following on Twitter:
I’d like to make it clear that it is not my intention to tone down the content in Senran Kagura overseas.
If age rating boards require changes to allow a release, we will have to comply. But otherwise, I want everyone to enjoy the same content!
Thank you Takaki-san for both clarifying this and reassuring your fans.
In a recent interview published by PlayStation LifeStyle, Senran Kagura series producer Kenichiro Takaki was asked about toning down the franchise’s busty females. His reply was quoted as:
A little bit. The game started out very small and that was the big selling point in order to move units. Now that the franchise has grown, and is getting more popular, it might be worth considering having features that differ depending on where it’s being sold. That way it might be able to sell better in certain regions where it would be problematic to have that kind of content.
In another recent interview with DualShockers, Takaki-san revealed that he had just had his first child, a daughter. And when asked if the Senran Kagura series were to end, stated that:
[I]f I was to go off in a new direction I would want it to be content for children or something that maybe my daughter would enjoy.
As a father with two daughters, and also living in Japan, I feel that I can somewhat understand Takaki-san’s line of thinking here. I too felt I wanted to share my gaming interests with my children; and am happy to say that my eldest is very much in love with gaming and considering a career in the industry.
Where I was happy to introduce her to the Dragon Quest series, to Kirby, Pokemon, Monster Hunter, Youkai Watch, Fantasy Life, Pikmin, and the Hatsune Miku games available on Nintendo systems (her current gaming formats of choice due to the portability of the DS and Switch), I would of course not specifically introduce her to the Senran Kagura series.
However, I don’t shield my children from such games either. They know I enjoy the Senran Kagura games, the Neptunia games, Photo Kano, Reco Love, and a wide range of similar titles that they have dubbed “oppai games”. I won’t turn off my monitor when they enter my room while I’m playing such games. They make fun of it, but they don’t consider it disgusting.
Nor should they. They have grown up in Japan, the land where thrusting your fingers at an unsuspecting anus is consider fun by young children. Ask anyone who has lived in Japan for a good length of time and they are sure to have tales to tell about “kanchou”.
Another thing that most Japanese children will have grown up with, regardless of their gender, is bathing with their father. If you have seen My Neighbour Totoro, then you’ve seen an example of this. Such bathing is considered bonding time. A time where a (new) dad and his child can be together, while mum has a well deserved short break.
The point here is that human bodies (and the differences between the sexes) are not overly seen as something to shy away from, or something that should be treated as taboo. There was a time when it was even considered normal for people of both genders to bathe in the same public bath (an act referred to as “konyoku”).
That is, until several foreign elements, including Commodore Matthew Perry, started to raise a fuss about it being ‘shameless and immodest’ during the mid 19th century when Japan began to open its borders more. Today, mixed bathing has almost become all but a memory — living on primarily in anime and manga.
A more open acceptance to the human body could be considered the reason why slightly suggestive, sometimes lewd, content is found in entertainment aimed primarily at children. For example, the long running joke in the Doraemon series where Nobita will often wind up interrupting Shizuka while she is taking a bath. Similarly, mahou shojou (magical girl) shows aimed at young girls often hint at nudity during transformation sequences.
So the thought of my being excited to play a new game that focuses on booby based fan service, elicits little surprise. It’s just another genre of sorts in amongst the visual novels, third person adventures, and role playing games lining the same shelves.
But then, in these games you see no nipples and very little nudity overall. And you certainly don’t see any sex. As Takaki-san also mentioned in the DualShockers interview, the content we see in the Senran Kagura games is as far as CERO will allow it (or at least, as far as Takaki-san has found they will allow it).
As far as other Japanese forms of entertainment go, the sexual content found in games is at a fairly tame level. See the uncensored version of Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid for example sold on Blu-ray and DVD in Japan.
These games, typically with a CERO D (17 years and up) rating are considered normal in Japan, so it often comes as a surprise when Japanese gamers — with little to no knowledge of gaming outside Japan — find they are the cause of complaints and used as fodder by certain gaming media to show how disgusting Japan is.
Now Takaki-san is stating that he would consider toning the content in his games down during development to appease other markets. To put it bluntly, I am disappointed. There are many fans of the Senran Kagura series around the world, from all walks of life, who love the series for what it is now. Do not take that away from them due to the — I hate to say it — naive notion that you could sell more. Takaki-san, you will not sell more. You will sell less.
I know from his Twitter account that Takaki-san is a huge fan of games, both Japanese and western. And I would like to remind Takaki-san of two games in particular. CD Project Red’s The Witcher 3, and Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. Both games have sold amazingly well the world over.
In the west, a big thing was made by several sites over how The Witcher 3 featured a good 16 hours of motion captured sex. Unlike the Senran Kagura series, this is actual full blown sex. As one such article justified:
There’s a reason for the bedroom dalliances though, as Geralt is a flesh and blood human, or a modified human at any rate, with desires and emotions.
In other words, Geralt, like most people, needs and wants sex. And in most regions, Geralt gets to have sex with women who even manage to retain their nipples (displayed for the everyone to see). Likewise, Grand Theft Auto V features topless lap dancing. Again, these women are lucky enough to keep their nipples intact too. The poor cast of Senran Kagura cannot boast about being so lucky.
Now, I bring Takaki-san’s attention to these games because both were altered (and effectively toned down) in Japan as a result of CERO’s rating process. The women in The Witcher 3 now refuse to remove their bras, while those in Grand Theft Auto V sport some very ugly body paint. I don’t know if Takaki-san has a Steam account but if he does he can try both of these games uncut by buying the PC versions.
The key point here, is that these alterations were made as a result of the CERO rating process. Not simply because a producer felt it necessary to tone down the content. Please, Takaki-san, keep making the Senran Kagura series just as it is today. Continue to let Marvelous Europe and XSeed Games worry about any potential changes required after they have submitted the games to their respective rating boards.
Not only will you likely find no changes are required (outside of removing ages — and I wonder if this is even still required), but you’ll also ensure that you continue to sell your games to many fans eager for the next entry. On the other hand, if you tone the content down unnecessarily, you may manage to appease some review sites. But in doing so, you will most certainly drive your fans away.
And we know to some extent, that Takaki-san is aware of this as the PlayStation LifeStyle interview ends with him stating:
However, there are also reviews that ignore the games due to the sexual content, and write it off from the start, so those aren’t very helpful. If you’re going to write it off due to a main component then that game just isn’t for you, and that review isn’t really useful as feedback.
Unfortunately, Takaki-san, I believe this would remain true even if you did tone the content down. There is a huge double-standard when comparing the acceptability of games. Japanese ones, even with a hint of a female cast, tend to be dismissed simple because they are not of western origin. This is not so much merely due to any sexual content, but to the differing art style.
I dare say that complaints for such a game would be less “just another poor Vita booby game” and more “just another piece of anime trash”. Such media outlets are inherently dead-set against all but the biggest Japanese games.
This shows time and time again when the likes of Persona 5 force these sites to reluctantly admit that Japan has some good games — but they’ll still find something to complain about (in Persona 5’s case, one such complaint was that the player character was a heterosexual male).
I’ll end with saying that I am very interested in seeing what Takaki-san would create as a family-friendly game, but I don’t want that to be an entry in the Senran Kagura franchise. I buy Senran Kagura (both Japanese language and English language releases) for it’s fun sexy, bouncy content.
I wish to continue to do so, happy in the knowledge that I won’t be playing spot the difference between versions; nor that I will be playing something that has been watered down worldwide to appease an audience that will never be interested.
Below is a comparison of the private dance feature in Grand Theft Auto V. The first image shows the mini-game as experienced in the US and Europe. The second, as it is experienced in Japan. Note the addition of the body paint.
Screenshots were taken by the author from the Japanese version of Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash, the worldwide PC version of Grand Theft Auto V, and the Japanese Xbox 1 version of Grand Theft Auto V.