"I feel like clicking on this link will get me put on some kind of government watchlist," is a comment I get a lot, generally from friends I've just recommended a manga to.
Sometimes this is because I'm reading something genuinely freaky, but more often it's because there's some kind of sexual content that makes people uncomfortable. The idea of the culturally-stunted American who lives in perpetual fear of sex and sexuality while worshiping violence is an old cliche and obvious insult - one often invoked by people afraid of being "shamed" for their tastes because calling someone a prude is easier than engaging with criticism - but there is a tiny element of truth in it. In my experience, western comic audiences are far more open to extreme violence than sex. We seem to be much more comfortable with seeing the inside of someone's skull than the inside of their underpants and that strikes me as incredibly strange.
That being said, let's be honest with ourselves: Some of the sexual content depicted in manga is weird as fuck. I'm not just talking about the tentacles. The sexualization of young girls, the trivialization of sexual violence and pedophilia, incest played for laughs or actual romance. It's all very strange when you pull it out of the weird contextual bubble of Otaku culture, but it's surprisingly common across a large selection of genres. If you've been reading anything beyond the usual shonen fluff for any period of time and tend to think critically about your entertainment, you've likely developed a tolerance for it. I know I have. At some point, panty shots just stopped registering on an intellectual level. They've become visual punctuation - invisible, yet somehow vital.
But for those new to the medium, the "what the fuck am I reading?" effect is a very real thing. It drives them away from work that pushes boundaries and towards safer, more conventional stories.
So this is a little experimental article series I'm calling "The Watchlist". It's about interesting, well-crafted manga you might have passed up because they look or sound a bit weird or pervy. It's not meant to be a more-hardcore-than-thou list of ultra-obscure guro manga. In fact, the more hardcore body-pillow-owning types among you might find my choices a disappointingly tame. Still, the next couple of pages deal with manga aimed firmly at adults. There's no expressly NSFW content, but I'd still advise you not read it directly in front of your boss unless he or she is, you know, wearing chaps.