Review: Nikkatsu Pairs Sex With Surprisingly Serious Issues In ‘I Love It From Behind!’ and ‘Sex Hunter: Wet Target’
Japan’s oldest major film studio, Nikkatsu Corporation, began producing romantic pornography (aka Roman Pornos) in the 1970s. The movies are a mix of sex, nudity, violence and nuttiness, and while they range from dramas to comedies the focus never veers very far from the obscene and offensive. The studio has been out of the business for a while now, but Impulse Pictures is resurrecting the films on DVD.
I covered a pair of releases last year (review here), and while one of them managed to be both funny and sexy the other was too rape-happy for my tastes. One bad egg wasn’t going to ruin the entirety of pink cinema for me though, so being the consummate professional that I am I’ve gone spelunking once more in the fleshy caverns of Nikkatsu’s back catalog with two recent releases from Impulse.
I Love It From Behind! (1981)
“Gender doesn’t matter when true love is concerned!”
Mimei is due to be married (via an arranged marriage) in a few short weeks and is taking the time to hang out with her friend Rei and Rei’s lesbian girlfriend Matsumi in Tokyo. She figures the big city is the ideal place to complete her goal of sleeping with and penis-printing 100 men before the wedding. Strangers or friends, it doesn’t matter as long as they let her ink up their member and make a print.
One night the girls share tales of first love, but while Rei’s starts with sweet dates and kindness it takes a turn into darkness as she recalls a man taking her back to his place, threatening her with a razor, shaving her pubic area and shoving a dildo up her ass. Unsurprisingly she hates men now. Mimei alights upon her story as an opportunity for diversion and the pair set out for revenge on the guy. They have so much fun they move on to other malicious pricks too, but along the way Mimei finds a man whose penis print she covets more than any other. The cost? An epic night of lovemaking to see who can satisfy the other one first.
I Love It From Behind! is a bit of an odd bird in Nikkatsu’s exploitation aviary in that it hints at a desire to discuss and tackle some thorny issues in addition to filling the screen with fornication. Mimei has a gay friend who chastises her for calling him queer (instead of gay), and the lesbian couple seem at first to offer a judgement-free look at same-sex coupling, and collectively these threads signal a not-so subtle commentary on the societal treatment of gays and lesbians.
But then it all unravels. The lesbians fall apart as one is “cured” through straight sex and attempts to help the other “abnormal” one, and the girls’ revenge acts devolve into shoving dildos up a guy’s rear end while yelling “Turn gay!” No further effort is made to show gay relationships as normal, let alone acceptable, and instead the entire issue as dropped as everyone accepts the need for phallic penetration.
And of course I’m referring to male organs as well as Matsumi’s experimentation with veggies and other objects in her cooch. Aborted drama and social relevance out of the picture, the film becomes what it was always destined to be, a pure sex comedy. It succeeds in being sexy and occasionally funny, most notably in Mimei’s marathon sex session, but it’s difficult to be aroused or entertained after the direness of earlier events. Ultimately the movie is an interesting but half-hearted experiment that fails as much as it succeeds.
Sex Hunter: Wet Target (1972)
“Just look at the soldiers these days. All of them and their sweaty faces… how are you going to suss any of them out?”
Okamoto is a half Japanese/half black convict who hears the disturbing news that his sister has been raped and murdered by American GIs in front of a shrine. Unable to do anything about it, he stews in his own rage and repeatedly pictures the attack in his head. His fury fuels a misguided escape attempt that just adds more time to his sentence, but once he’s eventually released he immediately searches for justice and more information.
His quest is rebuffed by the authorities who inform him that per a Japanese/US treaty the American servicemen are exempt from prosecution, but if they think he’s going to let the law get in the way of his revenge, they’ve got another thing coming.
Rape is not uncommon in pink films, in fact it’s way too common, but unlike some entries (like Eros School: Feels So Good) where the act is played for demented laughs the incidents in this film are acknowledged for the cruel assaults that they are. Neither funny nor sexy, the rapes are played as serious as they should be but they still manage to add an additional wrinkle to this particular tale.
Because our avenger, our “hero,” is not above committing a sexual assault or two of his own on this quest for justice.
This not-so-minor character flaw prevents Okamoto from becoming an attractive or appealing lead and instead leaves viewers watching a story populated only with sleazy bad guys and female victims. Luckily that substantial negative is balanced by an unexpected weight and depth in the film’s treatment of race. Not only is there an exploration of the friction between American whites and their Japanese hosts, but we also see Okamoto’s own mixed ethnicity lead to conflict with his own countrymen.
It’s not all bleak and depressing though as there’s plenty of consensual sex happening thanks to Okamoto’s part-time gig at a live-sex show. Even better, and like the depth above highly unusual, there’s also a fairly impressive action scene or two here. One scene features a seemingly uninterrupted-take fight scene that moves room to room, crashing through walls and doors and furniture, and the choreography isn’t bad at all.
So what does all of this have to do with the rather excellent and enticing title? Sadly, not a damn thing. But strange name aside, this is easily one one of the more impressive and unusual entries in Nikkatsu’s library.
Sex and nudity aside, both of these entries share an abundance of potentially offensive material in the form of sexual assault and derogatory, sexist and racist language. As a result neither film succeeds as pure entertainment so if you’re looking for straight forward Japanese titillation you’ll need to look elsewhere.
But if you’re open to the idea of T&A films tackling serious topics like sexual preference, identity and racism then both films are worth a watch.
Buy I Love It From Behind! and Sex Hunter: Wet Target