Cream Lemon is an omnibus video series featuring various stories, from school dramas to sci-fi fantasy and magical girl parodies, all written in the name of having young-sounding voice actresses moan and groan as their junior high and high schooler celluloid counterparts perform various sex acts.
Though often cited as such, Cream Lemon was not the first hentai release in Japan. However, with 36 video releases, as well as several spin-offs, Cream Lemon was one of the most popular and widespread of the mid-80s renaissance of pornographic titles. Adult-themed anime had been attempted some time before, but had never succeeded to any degree until this time period.
One of the main reasons Cream Lemon was such a success was the fact that it cashed in on the then-in-vogue (and still extant) Lolita craze in Japan. You see, the Japanese pornography laws are incredibly idiosyncratic. In an attempt to halt the distribution of hardcore pornography, Japanese censors prohibited the showing of pubic hair and adult genitalia on film, whether in movies or in magazines. To get past this (and taking advantage of the then-complete lack of an age of consent), many Japanese, in an incredibly questionable but eerily logical move (from a Western standpoint) turned to child and teenage pornography.
Animation swiftly followed suit, as the number of children and teenagers willing to do such things in real life on film was (and is) understandably low. (Not to mention highly illegal.)
To cut a long story short, several anime dealing with obviously underage characters were made and became popular. Cream Lemon is the most famous of them. And, no, this is not softcore, off the screen stuff, either, like other anime writers have described this in the past. It's, um, explicit teenage porn. Animated.
With all that having been said, the animation itself is actually good for its time. They actually threw a budget into this, though, with many of these titles having been animated in the mid-80s, it looks about equivalent to Kimagure Orange Road or Touch. The character designs are fairly well done, with big shoujo eyes and all. Unlike most '90s anime, where "teenage" characters sport triple-F bra sizes, the characters look to be about their stated age, though the lack of pubic hair (partly due to those same idiosyncratic Japanese obscenity laws) also goes a long way towards that. The music varies between tastefully done classical piano and synthesized porno music of the worst sort.
Cream Lemon's plot and characterization ... are frighteningly better than most of today's hentai anime, with some episodes (like Black Cat Mansion's December 1941) actually succeeding in giving off period ambience, and atmosphere, as well as plot and characterization. The animation is adequate for setting up the backgrounds of the episodes, from Catholic school dormitories, to love hotels, to teenage girls' bedrooms. (You think I'm being facetious, don't you?)
It's mostly just an excuse for the sex, of which there is a LOT. Most of the episodes I saw qualified as "hot lesbian schoolgirl action" (like Escalation), and while obviously unrealistic in its premise, Cream Lemon actually comes off as being quite a bit classier than, say, La Blue Girl or Cool Devices. (Though that isn't hard to do.) Many of the episodes explore the theme of the budding sexuality of young girls (Don't Do It Mako: Sexy Symphony), and, if it's a bit too easily facilitated, that's only to be expected. Still, this title does touch frequently on the "oneesama complex" (see Brother, Dear Brother) and other themes of everyday life in mid-80s Japan, though in a way that perhaps might be explored better in other non-pornographic titles. But for those seeking sexual content (and only that), I don't think this will disappoint, except, of course, by its inclusion of mosaics to "censor" the close-up shots (I wouldn't be terribly surprised to hear of "uncensored" versions for the Western world). Apart from one episode dealing with a gang rape, though, I wasn't offended to the point of bashing in my television, despite depiction of themes such as incest (especially the Nonomura Ami series) and bondage.
I should probably tell you at this point that the North American releases are probably not to be trusted if you are a "purist" hentai fan. This series is only available in the United States through pornographers like Filmco and Excalibur Films, who are not generally in the business of accurate subtitling or dubbing. You've been warned.
You can probably tell by this point that I'm trying not to be judgmental about this title. Technically speaking, it's actually better than one would expect. But it IS pornography based on the exploitation of (albeit fictitious) teenage girls, so that's going to be the deciding factor on whether one should even begin to seek this stuff out.
Yeah, it's not real, but the moral question does remain here.
If you're a regular anime fan just thinking to watch this for the sake of completism (especially if you're female), I'd avoid this like the plague. But if you really like this sort of stuff ... well, you now know what you're in for.
It's well-executed and often well-written pornography aimed at a male audience, which is why I give it the rating I do. Not technically bad, just against my personal morals. I hardly expect the Japanese (or anyone else) to live by that, though. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENAGERS. Though junior high and high schoolers are the primary age depicted in at least the early part of this series, this title is strictly for adults (or horny teenage boys who can sneak this stuff from their otaku older brother's collections). At least one episode I screened dealt with rape (played for laughs, if you can believe that), but apart from that, the sex is primarily consensual, though depending of your region's or culture's age of consent, that could be called into question.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Partial (6/36)
Cream Lemon © 1985 Fairy Dust / Soeishinsha
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