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|Koushoku Ichidai Otoko
| This is an animated version of the novel 'Koshoko
Ichidai Otoko' (The Life of an Amorous Man) by the
17th century Edo period novelist Saikaku Ihara. The
stylised design of the colour animation art draws heavily
on the woodblock prints of the period.
THE SENSUALIST (dir. Yuko Abe), (Western
Connection), 55 mins, cert 18, £14.99
This Japanese animated film opens a window on the life
and culture of the Edo period, and in particular the
Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. The libertine Yonosuke has
spent his life in quest of sexual pleasure. Disowned by his
father, he inherits great wealth at the age of 34.
When Yunosuke is 57, one of his tailors named Juzo
comes to see him before setting out for Edo. Juzo has
unwisely made a bet with a rich merchant that he will
sleep with Komurasaki, the most remowned courtesan in
Edo, at the first meeting. If he succeeds he will win a
villa, but if he loses he will lose his manhood. Yunosuke
is astounded as he knows how hard the high rank
courtesans are to get. The best courtesans, tayu, as well
as being beautiful, were highly cultured, being educated
in poetry, calligraphy, painting, tea ceremony and other
arts. They would sleep with a client only on the third
night, the other two nights being taken up with greetings
and other social niceties.
Humble men, to whom they were 'untouchable' looked
up to them with adoration and respect.
Indignant, Yunosuke takes Juzo to Edo and enables him
to meet Komurasaki. Juzo is a laughing-stock at the tea-
house because of his nervousness, and soon becomes
drunk. He clumsily spills wine over the Courtesan's
kimono. Unperturbed, she goes out and returns wearing a
fresh, identical garment.
The film is based on incidents in a novel 'Koshoku
Ichidai Otoko' (The Life of an Amorous Man) by Saikaku
The visual style of the film is quite startling, based as it
is on the ukiyoe prints of the Edo period; in fact those
who know something of the art can play 'spot the print'.
According to the distributors, much more effort was put
into making the cells than is customary in commercial
anime. Cels were retouched, or paper or cloth was put on
the wet cels and pulled off again to create textures. Not
much of this detail shows up on video, so it would be as
well to see the film in a cinema if the opportunity arises.
What does appear on video is quite beautiful, if rather
stylised, with rich blocks of colour. The design of the film
lends itself very well to realization in animated form.
Interspersed with the story of Juzo are other erotic inci-
dents with courtesans, culminating in a long scene
between Yunosuke and Komurasaki in which they
discuss Juzo, and which indicates that they meet as
equals, sexually skilled and masters of social graces.
The film contains coy sexual images; flowers with large
stamens, toes curling in ecstasy. In voiceover, Yunosuke
regrets his own aging and the aging of the women he has
loved. A female voice narrates details of his life.
To properly appreciate the film one needs to know a
little about the segregated 'yukatu' pleasure quarters of
the Edo period, and about Japanese attitudes to sexuality.
The 'yukatu' maintained many of the traditional Japanese
arts, and the quarters and their denizens probably filled a
place in the lives of humble men that TV, films and
theatre fill today. Certainly, woodblock prints of the
famous courtesans were made and sold. Though this is
certainly an erotic film, its main appeal would be to
adults with an interest in history, art and the Japanese
customs of the period. It also makes an interesting
contrast with commercial anime which, with the probable
exception of samurai anime (rarely seen in the West), is
modern or futuristic in tone.
If you love Japanese art you'll probably like this.
The film is both erotic and visually striking. Recommended.
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|References & Help
|Look up the latest data on this title at:
Richard Llewellyn's Animated Divots, or
Anime News Network (see Encyclopedia section) ,
or in "The Anime Encyclopedia" (Clements & McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press, 2001).
Help & further information.