Anaakii in jyapansuke, 1999
Takahisa Zeze is another name from a notable list to have emerged from the pink scene and onto becoming a much-respected director of commercial features, with hits such as Rush, Moon Child, and the more recent Heaven’s Story. His background in pink cinema, however, is considerably prestigious in it extending a period of over 20 years. Breaking out at the end of the 80s when the genre seemed to be on the verge of extinction, Zeze ultimately proved to be instrumental in keeping the genre alive through his more unorthodox methods. During the 90s he earned the moniker of being one of the “Pink Shitenno” (“Four Heavenly Kings of Pink”), alongside Kazuhiro Sano, Toshiki Sato and Hisayasu Sato. Eschewing the usual rules imparted on these types of features, Zeze’s films were often experimental pieces, focusing more on social concerns and less on using sex as a more obvious means.
1999’s Anarchy in [JA]Panty – almost literally reproduced here from the original title Anarchy in Japansuke – tells the story of Mizuki (Yumeka Sasaki): a rape victim whose experience would ultimately teach her how to get the things she wants from men. Unable to bear a child, she turns to kidnapping a young boy at a convenience store, naming him Yoshiki, and raising him as if he were her own. Eight years pass and Mizuki finds that fate has once again caught up with her at a convenience store. Here she meets Tatsutoshi (Kazuhiro Sano), a down-on-his-luck store worker, whose lot in life seems to be visiting brothels with his socially awkward friends. Things start to look up when Mizuki and Tatsutoshi seem to settle down as a family, but Mizuki is about to realize that keeping her illegitimately procured son’s past from him is a dangerous gamble.
Chronicling an eighteen year period, beginning in 1981, Anarchy in [JA]Panty is a tragic-comedy of sorts; a journey spanning a time of economic distress and youthful revolt. Zeze’s film is built upon often recurring social themes, with inspired characters that echo the working hardships and deep-set frustration set within an uncertain, yet inevitable climate of change. All of this is fairly admirable, to the extent that the director adopts an unusual approach with regards to the often hindering sex scenes. While these are present in abundance, their inclusion appears to be designed in order to offset the more serious overtones of the picture. Laughs aren’t always going to be guaranteed, however; with Zeze’s figures being a morally indecent crew of desperadoes, many of these acts culminate with some rather crude humour, which additionally nullifies any sense of eroticism that may ordinarily be found.
It’s perhaps unsurprising though that the director chooses to follow this path. Anarchy in [JA]Panty does indeed work best as an examination of human morality and frailty. It’s a grounded piece of work that often resists the temptation to overdo the performances outside of its sexual content, settling on more of a European inspired art-house sensibility, while featuring a loose feminist streak set to a “men are bastards” mentality. Zeze manages to craft some memorable moments in the process, enabling his feature to overcome some minor shortcomings.