This article contains discussions of a video game intended for adults, as well as mentions of sexual assault.
Erotic gaming gets short shrift when it comes to critics. Most outlets don’t care for the SEO hit discussing adult games takes, and most critics are too embarrassed to touch sexual content with a ten-foot pole. As I wrote in an interview with Nutaku’s Jay Acevedo earlier this year, “sex is seen as less acceptable than horrific violence, and regardless of the intent behind sexual content, it’s construed as something worthy of mockery or derision.”
But these games exist, and they’re important. Erotic games are products of their era – the tropes, the standards of beauty, the kinks on display… they’re all endemic of what year they came out in. To discuss smut games is discuss culture, and as a journalist, there should be no shame in doing that.
So, to that effect, I’d like to take a few moments in this spookiest of months to discuss Bible Black – a stellar little horror VN, and one of my all-time favorite games.
Bible Black follows Taki Minase, a thoroughly average student with an uninteresting life. He’s presented as a fairly docile and complacent character – unambitious and oblivious to the blatant romantic affection of his childhood friend, Imari. That all changes, however, when he finds a little black book in the basement of his high school. Inside this strange tome are dark incantations, chants, and rituals, which Taki naturally decides to start messing around with.
That goes about as well as you’d expect.
The remainder of Bible Black is a chilling, engrossing erotic thriller. Magic contained within the book gives Taki the ability to essentially brainwash and bend anyone to his whim – at first, anyway. Soon, his newfound magic powers are noticed by villainous school nurse Reika Kitami, who was part of a dark coven twelve years prior. Kitami wants the book and the powers within for nefarious purposes, and Taki doesn’t know if he wants to help her, stop her, or do something else entirely. How the story plays out is ultimately up to the player, and which of the game’s 12 endings they come to.
Those endings are some of the wildest and most memorable I’ve come across in all my years of gaming – and you have to get all of them to see the intended “true” ending. This means that to see a relatively happy, normal resolution to the story, you have to watch Taki really get put through the wringer. Most endings of Bible Black involve the protagonist dying in increasingly graphic and gruesome ways – and almost always at the hands of women that he’s wronged.
And, as you might have predicted, it takes a lot of weird, raunchy, and witch-y sex to get to each ending. Being an eroge, Bible Black doesn’t shy away from explicit depictions of sex, and revels in shocking the players with sexual acts that were, at the time, not super commonplace in mainstream hentai games. Most of it’s pretty at first – a blowjob here, a gangbang there. As the game goes on, however, it’s not uncommon to see wax play, watersports, inflation, enemas, Q-Tips in urethrae, and chest wounds (!) during its myriad sex scenes. For 2000, this game pushed a lot of boundaries, and paved the way for franchises like Taimanin Asagi and Kangoku Senkan to up the ante in terms of bizarre sexual acts.
That being said – Bible Black is a fascinating game for more reasons than its wild sex scenes. It’s a fairly transgressive title, in that it’s a narrative where the empowered female deuteragonists trick men into thinking they have agency, then use them as they see fit. Despite Taki being complicit in some truly heinous acts, he’s ultimately a pawn in Kitami’s game – and fresh meat for any coven member that he crosses. At no point is he a particularly powerful or autonomous character. Bible Black’s script is concerned with male anxieties about power and agency, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that men are powerless on their own in almost every ending.
Playing into that is the character of Kitami herself. Kitami, a sheer delight in just how much joy she takes in being a vicious sociopath, embodies so many traditionally masculine fears. She dictates who Taki sleeps with, how he conducts himself at school, and practically every other aspect of his life. Furthermore, she wields a cult of women that are at her beck and call, and who are all involved in some form of sapphic relationship with her. Kitami is also hermaphroditic, which plays into the toxic and harmful male fear of being “tricked” into sleeping with trans women.
In lesser hands, this is all subject matter that could be handled in the grossest way possible, and certainly, the game isn’t without problems. But overall, it’s impossible to not see the game as a prolonged male disempowerment fantasy, filled with interesting and complex female characters that all have their own motivations. These characters all present a distinct threat to the male character, and in the end, he’s given no recourse – no chance to come out on top. Because in the end, these women (trans or cis) run this world of black magic and blood sacrifices, and only through trusting the right ones can a hapless man hope to survive in it.
That theme is no accident, either. Bible Black was a deliberate attempt to capitalize on smash-hit occult media like The Blair Witch Project, The Craft, and Charmed. All of those things, in one shape or another, showcased the male ego being powerless against distinctly feminine magic. Witches were having a cultural moment, and Bible Black saw fit to capitalize on that by mining male fears for wank material.
It worked. Bible Black was a smash-hit success in both Japan and the US, and even had some crossover appeal in US anime fandom, thanks to a solid 2001 OVA adaptation. In the early-to-mid aughts, the series was notorious among extremely online anime fans, and it wasn’t uncommon to see cosplayers decked out in the school uniform worn by almost every female character. To this day, it’s something of a cult hit – in and out of hentai circles.
To me, that comes as little surprise. Bible Black broke a lot of barriers for a single eroge – chief among them being the game’s “un-manning” of its protagonist. It presented a smutty experience where women weren’t just fodder for masculine sexual violence, and where the primary players that drove the plot forward weren’t men. Plus, in terms of porn games, it’s an extremely good one of those, with art by the prolific Seishoujo. Seishoujo would go on to make even more extreme games with femdom focuses, including 2011’s delightfully campy Starless.
While some elements of Bible Black have definitely aged like milk, it’s still a compelling and sexy thriller with some interesting and bizarre depictions of sex. If you’re looking for a spooky, smutty game to play during the designated scary month, it’s still very much worth checking out.
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