ZENRA Interview: The Challenges Facing JAV Today

Published : June 13th, 2024 Written by Fried Chikan

The man behind ZENRA recently talked to Tokyo Kinky about JAV and the industry at large. Below is a snippet of the interview which they have allowed us to share in part. For the full interview in-depth read it on Tokyo Kinky. Aside from covering JAV from time to time they also cover all things sex and adult related in Japan from Gravure models, Politician sex scandals, to sex toy tongue reviews.

Q. What makes JAV so special and popular globally?

This is a funny question because in spite of its succinctness, it may require the longest explanation. This along with what I’ve seen such as the questions below this one I have been considered writing in a memoir of sorts sometime in the future. There is A LOT to write and what’s available in English is either out of date, biased, or insufficient (of course my account also may not lack a bias, but being involved in the industry in a strictly non-production business-only position should bring something unique to the table).

Not counting the nascent TAV scene which at this point in time is still mostly emulating JAV with burgeoning artistic creativity while also utilizing a woefully small talent pool, there isn’t too much like it. What makes JAV special, as the readers of Tokyo Kinky may already be aware, is less being simply “weird” — for which only really can apply to a small percentage of its output, but by the sheer amount of it produced given the size of the country. What’s more, in the west where adult film stars film “scenes,” be it a big or smaller studio, in mainstream JAV they film “movies.” Not 50-60 minute stories, but releases that can go over two hours.

Of course uncensored JAV veers more towards western run-time sensibilities and what I call “scene creep” is becoming an issue as late (“scene creep” I call movies that appear long just for the sake of being long mostly due to lazy editing). You really do get your wallet’s worth in a JAV movie! As per JAV’s global popularity, that’s questionable. Sure, in countries surrounding Japan, it’s big and sometimes big enough to have actresses fly out, but I still think of it as more niche than other types of Japanese media. After all, if any of S1’s biggest names appeared at the AVN Expo, for example, even with name tags, it’s doubtful many — if any — there would know who they are.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry right now?

There are many and most are self-inflicted. As the next question deals with billing, I will save my thoughts about that for later. The two biggest issues in “mainstream JAV” (basically anything from studios most fans at Tokyo Kinky are familiar with) are too many hands and resistance to reality. Japan has had an established adult video industry for decades and it borrows a lot from other entertainment industries within the country. Studios shoot, agencies manage, distributors distribute, and stores/sites sell. In a perfect world, great, but that the internet is as open as it is, piracy knocks it all down and the industry even now is ill-equipped to handle it.

Studios don’t necessarily need dedicated distributors or even reliance on big platforms if they focus more on selling their brand and that users should go there first to buy their movies before going elsewhere (after all, while Vixen movies may legally be available on various platforms, most users still will initially associate going to their official sites to get them). Agencies do a ton for actresses, but often charge an arm and a leg for it. Actresses with enough smarts can and should be able to do all their booking and managing needs on their own or with a personal assistant that surely would cost a lot less.

Distributors may help the studio that mainly just wants to focus on creating a product to get their works up for sale, but as we see, on the internet at least one platform in Japan among most is make it or break it for many studios and physical stores are dwindling in number every year.

 

Piracy, as noted is the now Grim Reaper holding a bag of Doritos behind a keyboard, and the JAV industry through its own self-inflicted actions has dropped the ball harder than any other entertainment industry in the world. Part of this comes from the Japanese market: it’s not a huge country and an aging one at that, but due to less people getting married and the otaku culture and oshikatsu, Japanese fans have the capability to spend a ton of their earnings. Thus, while studios do indeed want to sell abroad as much as in Japan, the impetus to do so in any meaningful way is not there yet.

Why put so much effort into such little return if fans in one’s own country still buy so much? Of course, these same Japanese fans are getting smarter with the internet and know just as well as any foreigner that typing a code into Google may show DMM/Fanza first, but a few links down…

 

On the note of DMM, while R18.com when it was active did not totally destroy piracy, it surely helped lessen it compare to today. With DMM having so many exclusive studios and geo-blocking most of the world to boot, they are doing nothing to help reduce the spread of the industry’s biggest poison fruit. It almost seems a joke that they launched a JAV Anti-Piracy Project the other month and note on the site to buy from DMM. Oh, and I do purposely call the site DMM, not Fanza. When they have the guts to change the URL from dmm.co.jp and test their luck with Google, we can start calling it the other name.

Q. What is the recent trouble with payment providers?

There are many fan theories about this on Twitter. In fact, with DLSite, Getchu, and now Fantia losing major credit card processing, the rumors are running riot. First, the three aforementioned sites will probably get it back soon.

 

Rather than attempt mental gymnastics regarding pressure from religious lobbying in Japan (there really isn’t any it seems), the big two wanting out of digital adult (they have said on multiple occasions that if it’s legal, they will process for it), or anything similar, the simplest reason I believe they lost processing is either non-existent compliance and/or their biller (singular because if they had multiple like most western sites do, this would not be happening) finally realizing that if these sites are accepting foreign cards, they need to abide by global processing rules — one of them being no “non-consensual adult content.”

Japanese adult content, as you know, has something of a non-con problem. It is also possible their biller is/was fine with adult, but the biller’s acquiring bank for the big two card issuers had a change of heart for some reason (remember, these banks are the actual customers of the card companies, not merchant sites, not billers, and not the billions of people with plastic in their wallets).

 

On the subject of non-consensual content, while for anime, it’s obviously not real and for JAV studios like Attackers, it’s obviously staged and starring only 18+ performers giving their full, informed consent, most billers don’t want to play with fire because doing so could impact their own relationships with banks and card companies.

As for why Japanese adult platforms like DMM, DUGA, Sokmil, etc., are safe while DLSite and others aren’t? They all for the most part only allow Japanese-issued cards. As we noted more on our blog the other year, Japan has JCB. JCB built Japan’s processing network. JCB probably does not have same rules forbidding professionally-shot non-consensual adult content. Thus, no issue in Japan. Even if the Japan-issued card has a certain logo on it, it goes through JCB. This is similar to how Russia created its own card network, thus when American companies pulled out of the country a few years ago, those cards could still be used.

This is also where R18 failed I believe: it was piggybacking off DMM’s processing setup and eventually encountered early on the same issues that now are plaguing DLSite, Fantia, and others. R18’s staff were probably given an impossible task of finding a Japanese biller to take them on and that obviously failed. It’s tragic because if they simply focused on the top-selling vanilla content, they’d have no issues with processing. Hopefully, if it does return, this is the path they take (hi DMM, if you are reading this and want to talk common sense compliance, you know how to reach me).

 

Alternatively, they and most any other J-platform like the ones mentioned here can and should incorporate abroad and spin up western versions of their sites without any compliance landmine content. If this isn’t already being covertly done at a frantic pace by the likes of Fantia, I’d be very surprised.

Q. How can overseas viewers and fans show their support for JAV?

The best way is by buying $55 USD T-shirts sold by DMM’s Anti-Piracy Project of course. Joking aside, instead of plugging our site and taking the easy way out, please visit a list of legal JAV sites that have English versions (not auto translations, but ones that seem like the entity put in effort to make it) at r/jav. Of course though we can and will use this opportunity to also plug our site. While as noted way above, we may not have all the new movies for mostly editorial reasons, if you still want to support the industry, even spending $7.95 to stream a movie by a studio you like (even if you don’t watch it, they get credited) can go a long way. Like SOD Stars? Mana Sakura? Buy streaming access for a random SOD movie from our site each month.

Over the summer we plan to add even more ways users can help out studios without spending a dime in the form of writing especially good comments on our site for PPV credit. Use credits to buy movies and studios earn not from your wallet, but simply for helping us out.

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