Onanie Sister Tagiru Nikutsubo, 2015
With Japan continuing to find itself troubled by increasingly low fertility rates and high life expectancies, its government has scrambled over the years for solutions to its current population crisis. As recently as 2014, it was reported that a quarter of the country’s citizens was made up of those over the age of 65, with an insufficient social care system in place to better cater for elderly needs; concurrently, many able-bodied pensioners still work well over the intended retirement age in agricultural and other general labour sectors. Given the inevitable increase of government spending on care services, its welfare infrastructure has recently come under review once more, as it was revealed earlier this year that the country will require as many as one million qualified personnel for such an undertaking. With many carers being seniors themselves, Japan has sought help from other Asian territories such as Indonesia and the Philippines, to provide younger professionals in the field and thus perhaps negate the need for expensive Carebots.
The contemporaneous concern amongst charitable organisations – whereby more and more elderly illness sufferers are quite literally dumped on the doorsteps of hospitals due to financially-burdened families or otherwise – provides additional context for Hideo Sakaki’s 2015 Naked Desire (aka Onanie Sister Tagiru Nikutsubo), featuring a framework which certainly has a lot to say about the nation’s modern climate.
The story stars Shou Nishino as Kayoko: a former care giver who wakes up naked on a seafront hillside, after what you could say was a rough night out on the town. Eventually stumbling upon a quaint-looking beach house, which she enters without an invite, she’s soon introduced to a sister by the name of Akane (Gravure idol and singer Ui Mita), who accuses her of being a thief. This misunderstanding is soon played down by the uninhibited and vivacious vixen, who quickly learns that Akane is caring for an elderly gentleman and former social activist by the name of Mr. Yamanami (Shigeru Harihara), who has been abandoned by his family. Opting to stay at the house and help care for Yamanami, they’re soon interrupted by the arrival of another party: school teacher Rina (Yusuyo Shiba – The Wolverine, Man from Reno) and her student lover Shinji (Yuta Kogiri). meanwhile, hot on their trail is a trio of police officers (played by Tadashi Mizuno, Mataro Umeya, and Ayumi Tamiyama), who have been tasked by family members and the school board to bring home the runaways in an attempt to save them from humiliation.
With pink cinema serving as a budget-conscious battleground for sociopolitical observations, it comes as no surprise here to see actor/director Hideo Sakaki (yes, he of Versus, Alive, Azumi) utilise the genre as a springboard for the similarly pertinent commentary his earlier films have been known for. Specifically, his 2008 feature debut My Grandma (Boku no Obaachan) and 2012’s A Drop from Tomato (Tomato no Shizuku), both told the importance of rekindling family bonds and caring for those through daily hardships, while detailing the importance of communication, all under the security of sentimentalism and cartoonish behaviour. With screenwriter and acting A.D. Koichi Miwa (who also appears in the film as a creepy old man who bribes Rina with covertly shot videos in exchange for sex), the pair bring to the fore a subject which does enough to resonate within the confines and constraints of the format, while managing to find the time to throw in a subplot about the devotion to one’s faith, its effects on how we perceive human desire and what denotes true misappropriation of a solemn vow.
Enter Shou Nishino, who acts as the films central voice of reasoning; whose outlook on life simply boils down to being able to enjoy it regardless of bodily restrictions and pre-judged assumptions thrown our way. Her mantra of “No sex is no life” – stamped upon a shirt she dresses Yamanami in – is not unlike that of the character Sakura, from Yutaka Ikejima’s celebrated The Japanese Wife Next Door and its sequel, in which the idea of sexual therapy provides suitable ammunition for a tale of repressed passion. Nishino brings to the role a lovely sense of free-spiritedness and cheeky authoritarianism; she’s a mysterious entrant, with an angle that Sakaki admirably keeps under wraps for much of the feature’s early portion, building into a well-rounded figure whose influence on others proves to be a positive factor when pitted against taboo boundaries which aren’t strictly meant to be crossed. Arguably, the subplot of Akane wrestling with her devotion to Christianity, coupled with imagery of her releasing pent-up sexual frustrations, remains a tricky subject, but nonetheless, it harbours a deeper sentiment which holds a certain sense of subjective reasoning.
Compared to the average run time of a pink film, Naked Desire’s 87 minutes may seem enough to justify the presence of its various themes, with a fairly large ensemble given the reigns to fully liberate themselves on screen. With an impressive roster, all of whom commit enjoyable performances, Sakaki maintains, for the most part, a well-measured comedic tone, backed by consistently strong sexual encounters; however, an uncomfortable – for all intents – rape scene, does threaten to spoil proceedings somewhat. As events shift between the central household and that of our bumbling officers’ investigation, moments do waver from time to time: the cops’ sub-story features its share of padding, with encounters that don’t lead to anywhere worthwhile, while the brazen sexual buffoonery shared amongst them – and in particular toward that of Ayumi Tamiyama’s hapless female officer – is bizarre to say the least, only being remedied by her deadpan delivery. Likewise, the film’s climactic event is slightly undermined by a revelation of sorts, when Yamanami enjoys a biblical-like rejuvenation, which finds itself juxtaposing political activist slurs from a bygone era and a strange sexual liberation which disbands our core cast beyond initial expectations.
Braving some serious subject matter, while retaining a welcome comical presence, Naked Desire is overall an enjoyable sex romp with good production values, a committed and likeable cast and a sense of conviction which dares to challenge its audience.