During the 1970’s while American cult film lovers were frequenting the Grindhouse and drive-in scenes, in Japan, Nikkatsu was making a name for itself with its “Roman Porno” erotic line. Between 1971 and 1989 the studio released over a thousand “Pink Cinema” films, and now thanks to Impulse pictures, those of us in America are finally going to get to see (at least 25 of) them for the first time. Subtitled, chock full of half-naked Asian cuties and filled with all manner of bizarre Japanese fetishism, let us examine this collection in order of release and see if American audiences have a “yen” for this sort of thing?
Volume 21 of the Nikkatsu erotic films collection: FEMALE GYM COACH: JUMP AND STRADDLE is about gymnasts. Why not? As purveyors of this perverted series knows by now, if it involves an everyday Asian female occupational outfit that is easily fetishized and is based on a time honored occupation performed by women well steeped in Japanese tradition, there are probably at least ten “Pink Cinema” movies about it. Let us take a look at this “Female Gym Coach” and marvel at its hyper sexualized cultural atrocities skillfully balanced on a precarious plot foundation like so many tiny feet.
Kei is the young coach of her Gymnast team, and they are struggling with a new routine that will take the day. Of course, this becomes immediately irrelevant as the corporate sponsors of the team immediately announce that they are cancelling the team’s contract at once, and instead changing the whole organization into something called “Rhythmic Gymnastics”. What it means for Kei is that she is no longer coach anymore, and has been relegated to being a mere performing gymnast working with the girls she used to coach (during the first five minutes of the movie). What it means for us however, is lots of scenes of Asian women wearing different solid colored unitards stretching and posing with hoops, pins and balls, looking like an all Asian Version of the Fantannas or a strange squad of Power Ranger Prostitutes. Though the film might suggest otherwise by its shameless litany of crotch conscious camera shots, the real story here is that Kei is being replaced by a man named Aoki, a former one-time lover of Kei. It seems the one and only time they had sex after a training session, Kei not only messed up her routine and did not win the competition, but Aoki himself was forced to quit the teaching staff due to his own innermost, personal codes of honor. The fact that they would now be working close together with he as coach and she as performer, are a classical attempt at sexual tension. At least they would be in most any American film.
But because this is a pink cinema film that must have the filthiest possible unrated sex scene every ten minutes with a running time of a basic hour the following plot nuances are in place. It seems Aoki the coach is highly lusted after by the entire girl’s gymnast team. Many of the girls seek ways to seduce him and it usually ends up in some sort of madcap stalemate that is only over once they expose themselves to him and he cannot perform. There is a love triangle involving two of the gymnasts and one guy but as none of these characters are developed enough to form any emotion anywhere near as complicated or nuanced as jealousy in a film.
In the end it seems that Kei and Aoki must confront their unrequited, undying feelings for one another and do the responsible (predictable) thing which should be pretty easy to guess by now if you are 21volumes deep into this series as I am. How will their rekindled relationship affect the upcoming competition? The film ends shortly after they have sex so will we will never know, but like my girlfriend said at this point “This film wasn’t really about the competition to begin with, stop being such an anal retentive film geek and just shut up and enjoy the sex going on like everyone else for once.” Like the old saying goes.. “Out of the mouths of babes, oft times come these gems”.
One thing that does separate this film from all other films in this series the fact there is absolutely no (completed) sexual assault in it whatsoever. Considering that the previous volume SEX HUNTER: 1980 with the most malicious and misogynistic film in the entire series thus far, this came as something of a shock. There is admittedly a scene of attempted male on male rape for the first time ever in a pink cinema film where Aoki is almost assaulted by the male corporate head of the team when it is believed he is gay when it becomes known that he refuses to sleep with any member of the female gymnastic squad. I didn’t like this much, but I sat through it anyway as I realized that on a purely karmic level I was probably overdue for having to sit through a scene like this considering my fondness for women’s prison movies with those awful and glorious lesbian predatory archetypes. Still, this was admittedly my least favorite moment in the entire series ever since volume 4 “ZOOM UP: THE BEAVER BOOK GIRL” where that Asian woman named Yoshie kept pissing on everything. Still you know what I have always said “American erotica arouses you for looking. Japanese erotica punishes you for watching”.
Nonetheless the plot was solid, sensical and at times, dare I say contained a normal love story based on self-sacrifice and deferred gratification that was downright sensual according to the western tradition. It wasn’t my favorite but it might make nice gateway film to get your girlfriend to watch the harder volumes of this series with you (all twenty of them).
Extras include the original film trailer and those liner notes by Jasper Sharp that explain this films place in the 1000 film Nikkatsu legacy. No, seriously.