Stuff

I Spent the Night in a Hentai Porn Theatre at Canada’s Biggest Anime Convention

The first rule of anime porn club is keep your hands where everyone can see them.

by Allison Tierney; photos by Luis Mora
Jun 2 2016, 5:49pm

I stumbled in through the right side of the door after flashing my ID to show I'm over 18 and immediately tripped over an overstuffed messenger bag. I wedged myself in between the wall and a garbage can—one of the only spots left to stand in the mid-sized conference room with aged, patterned red carpeting and two massive glass chandeliers. As I held my hands on my shoulders in an attempt to squeeze myself into the crowd, a guy from across the room boisterously yelled, "Get that pussy wet!" right as I noticed the first flesh-coloured pixelation in the centre of the screen. His demand provoked a roar of excited screaming from the crowd of about 100.

The hentai screening room at Anime North, Canada's biggest anime convention by attendance, is the stuff of anime nerd fables. Well, for some fandoms at least. I wasn't even sure it was real until I saw it for myself. For years, anime fans I met at raves would regale me with tales of how they stayed in the hotel-conference-room-turned-anime-porn-theatre overnight at the convention when they couldn't afford a proper hotel room, while others said it was the perfect place to come down after a night of raving at Anime North's legendary dance parties.

This year, at 11 PM when the Paris Room in the International Plaza Hotel nearby Toronto Pearson Airport switched its programming from all-ages anime to anime porn, the curator had chosen one of the OG hentais to screen: Cream Lemon. The series premiered in 1984 as one of the first video hentais ever and is known for its bizarre storylines.The episodes are standalone, and the content ranges from sci-fi to incestuous romance to coming-of-age tales.

Travis, who was curating the hentai screening this year, and is a comic artist and serious anime fan, told me, "They always have late-night hentai, and in previous years I found it was like censored or just not really good or interesting. A lot of people were disappointed with what was being aired; they want it more raunchy." So this year, Travis decided to take on the responsibility of choosing what hentai would be shown.

As I watched one of the first episodes of the night, in which a group of rebels overtakes a desert town and fucks women in it, Ben, the volunteer helping to watch over the room yells, "Hand check!" as he walks down the centre row of chairs and flips a switch to turn on the the lights in the room. Each person in the crowd promptly raises both their hands as giggles erupt throughout.

I was pretty confused about how serious the hand checks were, a confusion which only increased as Ben called for them roughly every 20 minutes, so I had to ask a vet of the hentai room what the fuck the intermittent monitoring actually meant. I ran into a dude I knew from my raving days at the con (surprise, surprise), Darcy Epikuro, who was headlining the indoor dance party at the con that evening. After his DJ set, he had come to the screening room—as he has for years to decompress from partying—with his girlfriend Kitty, who sat on his lap while they watched hentai together.

Stopping every so often to make lewd comments about the current episode of Cream Lemon that was screening ("Don't Do It Mako! Mako Sexy Symphony Part I"), he explained to me that though the hand checks are generally a joke, over his many years at Anime North, he's seen some incidents of note: "There's just various dudes jerking off and getting caught... People have seriously tried to jerk off in this room. It is half joke, half real—but the one time someone doesn't raise their hands, you've got to be worried."

As the night went on, around 2 AM, I felt like my brain had hit some previously unknown capacity to deal with the obscureness of hentai with all its sparkle-covered genitals, the seemingly identical perfectly round breasts of every female character, and the level of screaming from the audience who sounded like jocks at a sports bar during playoffs. By this point, my friend who had vowed to stay with me all night had abandoned the room to go sleep in my car because of the permeating stench of feet. The audience, unsurprisingly, was heavily male, and as one of the few females who were there for more than one episode, I felt like I was peeking into a boys' clubhouse where anything goes. (I still can't get the now-familiar chanting of "Fuck her!" out of my head that punctuated everything from a simple kiss to full-on penetration.)

I found Tom, who was in the hentai room for much of the night with a massive crew, standing up dabbing in the front row during a particularly raunchy scene when two female characters started sucking each other's nipples and, as one of the more visibly and audibly excited members of the audience, I had to ask him why he was there.

"As shitty as it sounds, I mostly come to the hentai room ironically. The hentai room is a big joke where you just clap at an orgasm." A eight-year veteran of the con, Tom had once again found himself in the room while looking for a party. "Usually it's very obviously not serious, but then you'll always see an old dude by himself—but then again, that could be me eventually if I'm here like 20 years from now and don't have any friends anymore."

There were a few guys who were alone and sat silently throughout the entire night seemingly glued to their chairs, but the majority of the audience was of the same school of thought as Tom and appeared to be in the room to have fun and scream shit like "Tag team her!" and (during a particular unfortunately themed episode) "Fuck the Nazi out of her!"

"I try to tell people not to yell out too much because it distracts from what you're actually supposed to be watching, and then the joke becomes about what was said instead of what you're seeing," Travis told me. "You can't do anything once it gets to a certain point, controlling the crowd."

As the usual new wave of people flowed into the room as a new episode started early on in the night, I met a young couple, Michael and Erica, who were standing behind me because of the lack of seats. "This is my first time watching hentai, and boy is it a good time!" Erica told me in-between outbursts of screaming from the crowd. "Look at the shining light of the vagina!" Though her boyfriend Michael said he'd watched hentai before, he explained that many people who are into anime (like himself) aren't necessarily into anime of the pornographic variety. "In [the screening room] it's a lot less sexual for most here, and a lot more just 'What the fuck's going to happen next.'"

As it neared 3 AM, the only thing keeping me sane was clutching my Neon Genesis Evangelion-themed body pillow as the night got insurmountably weirder. A sci-fi episode of Cream Lemon came on, aptly named "Star Trap," and I thought my long wait for the first tentacle porn of the night was over. But then, just as the monster had two youthful female characters in his lair and had contained them in an egg, he magically caused one of the females in question to shift gender and grow a penis instead so they could have hetero sex. Typical.

Adam, a man I spoke to who has been to this particular screening room at Anime North "many times" and has been coming to Anime North for five years told me he's a fan of hentai because, "One, they go a lot more raunchier, they push a lot of boundaries... It's also anime, so you've got that great sense of humour too."

Around 4 AM, right after I had developed a headache from lack of sleep and being out in the sun for most of the day at the con, I was subjected to Nazi porn for the second time in my life. (The first was in a friend's dead uncle's basement in Edmonton when we found the motherload of French Canadian porn he'd left behind, but I digress.) Around this time, there was a group of bros cosplaying as Marines from One Piece in the back of the screening room doing trust falls.

After the Nazi porn, I had definitely hit my personal saturation point, and as the crowd had thinned out a bit since it was late, I put three of the metal-and-scratchy-red-fabric chairs together and tried to sleep. But sleep would not take me. I suddenly realized how strange the music in Cream Lemon was, like some sort of deranged carnivalesque symphony. Giving up on rest, I resumed to people-watching and noticed nearly half of the 15 or so people left in the room had fallen asleep. Bastards. One dude who'd been making out with a woman next to him earlier in front of me, though he was sitting straight up, had his Pikachu fitted-topped head crooked back on his seat and was passed the fuck out.

By 5 AM, Travis announced that after about 17 episodes, the rest of the Cream Lemon files he had were corrupted, so this was the end of the night. I was finally free and stumbled out of the room after my six hours of hentai, squinting my eyes as I walked through the fully lit hotel lobby and saw people sleeping on various couches and chairs. As I left the hotel and walked toward the parking lot across the street, I heard the menacing sound of birds chirping—the effective toll of death for the night. On what was one of the strangest walks of shame in my life, I saw cosplayers passed out on sidewalks, pieces of costumes littering the ground, and people who seemed to be waiting in front of the main building for Sunday's convention activities to start.

Though the hentai room was a bit depraved and taught me a bit too much about how men behave when they're primarily in the company of other men, after watching so much of Cream Lemon, I can't help but agree with how the curator of the room described how he feels about hentai: "I think it's art—that's why I like animation and comics and anime is to see the art, and then [hentai is] also sexy art... I like it as a sci-fi or fantasy story, not as something to masturbate to.

"But if people are into that, whatever—you can masturbate to anything."

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