Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: The Sex Films
by Jasper Sharp
Thomas Weisser's pioneering attempts at charting the dark nooks and crannies of the industry where few others dare to peer is better served when he tackles subjects dearer to his heart. Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: The Sex Films is an extraordinary achievement, in every sense of the word, though perhaps not as dubious an undertaking as one might expect given the rather high percentage of Japan's cinematic output that erotica took up during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and how many important films were made under this category. In this respect, any English language book about Pinku Eiga is a much welcome addition.
Whereas it's hard to agree with Weisser's proposal that erotic cinema "may be the most important Japanese contribution to world cinema", its something the author obviously believes: the Sex Films is almost the double the size of The Essential Handbook! Featuring an introduction by Nikkatsu rope queen Naomi Tani, articles on Japanese censorship and a brief historical perspective, and written with an exhaustive approach that leaves no stone unturned in its attempt at listing every single title that falls under the pinku banner, Sex Films has all the strengths and weaknesses of the previous book. Factual errors, typos, and repetitions of text go hand in hand with a peerless collection of stills and profiles on actresses and directors such as Tetsuji Takechi, Takahisa Zeze and Hisayasu Sato, hitherto ignored by other writers.
Again, Weisser clearly hasn't seen a lot of the films on review, with a lot of the synopses cobbled together from video sleeves or secondary sources, and clearly he is not the best man to come to for a critical evaluation on films such as Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses or Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes. Reviews are duplicated verbatim from his other books, where relevant, and once more films are indexed by Weisser's translations of the original Japanese title rather than existing English language titles. This is perhaps not so much a weakness as in the Essential Handbook, as obviously a lot of these films have never seen release outside of Japan, though seems strange when the director has assigned an English title to his film. In any measure, these Weisser titles are pretty damn entertaining in their own right: Lolita Vibrator Torture, Rope Sisters: Strange Fruit, Molester and Peeper: Gynecology Ward, White Rose Campus: Then!... Everybody Gets Raped, Grotesque Perverted Slaughter.
Okay, it's obviously not a book your going to read in one sitting, as most of the synopses are not particularly enlightening, but again, as a list of titles there's nothing like it. Yes, it was a dirty job, but someone had to do it, and until someone comes along and does it better, Weisser's contribution remains the best guide to the subject.