There are several things you can say about Impulse’s Nikkatsu “Pink Cinema” series of films, but one thing you cannot say is that it ever the ever offer the same film twice. Granted all volumes of the series contain an incredible amount of sexual violence, bizarre fetishism, and imagery not seen in many other films. Other volumes in the series have mimicked teenage sex romps, a tragic love story, and even a sitcom. SEX HUNTER: WET TARGET actually resembles a Blaxploitation film, but, of course, it is far more, graphic, loud, and, more than likely, completely baffling to an American audience. Let us take aim at this target and see if it satisfies or at least hits the mark.
In the opening credits a mixed race (half black/half Japanese) man named Okamoto is told in prison that his sister was raped and killed by a group of American Soldiers. As expected, he is released and he makes it his lifelong all-consuming ambition to make sure that the offenders get theirs. Yet, because these soldiers are part of the authorized occupation as part of a much maligned peace treaty with the USA during the Vietnam War, getting justice through official channels will be impossible. This seems to suit Okamato just fine, and he soon takes a job in the exact same seedy sex club where her sister bartended, even moonlighting as a male performer in the live porn shows. It is by participating in these shows that Okamato makes the acquaintance with Etsuoko, one of the three victims who survived the attack that night and is emotionally devastated from the tragedy. Other underworld contacts are made, including a fragile friendship with a despicable Asian pimp who knows the real story behind the murder of his sister, the recreation of which is steeped in all the blouse ripping, grunting men, and forced “piss play” that you would expect from this series by now. With his sisters attackers now exposed, and his likely accomplice egging him on, Okamato starts his own revenge/ rape campaign even though the three men who hurt his sister actually offer little resistance, as they too are victims of a sort and really do not provide him much fulfilling sport, much less catharsis as he visits them.
Had WET TARGET ended a few minutes sooner, it might have been a statement about the nature of war, if not the futility of hate. But the ending we actually get is where Okamoto is shown back working in his old job of sex show performer, having relations with Etsuoko while rich club patrons mock him and say brutalizing things to him about his ethnic makeup even as they praise him for his large genitalia, just as scores of people have done many times during this film. After a few minutes of this, Okamoto snaps and commits astronomical violence on everyone and everything and we get a grisly, filthy, yet self-cleansing ending reminiscent of Shakespeare’s HAMLET if not Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS. The extreme depictions of R-rated sexuality and rape so common to every volume of this series actually fit, here, as this is meant to be a revenge thriller. My problem with the film is that Okamoto is far less than an innocent victim. For revenge thrillers to really pop onscreen, there should always be some sort of morality about the main character which makes their grisly, revenge sprees acceptable to watch if not vaguely justifiable. By this measure, Okamoto is a terrible protagonist, and difficult to identify with. Even as the original three attackers of his sister largely evade his wrath, he routinely rapes a few innocent women who have committed no other wrong in the world other than being the lover of someone who he dislikes. Maybe this film’s complete lack of a decent protagonist is a deliberate high concept message, pointing out the disgusting evils of all war, racism, or sexism in this world, but I doubt it. It did have one moment that made me do a double take, however. The scenes where we first experience the three G.I. rapists reminded me of the offensive, brutal stereotypes I have seen assigned to Japanese soldiers in propaganda films made during the second war, and this is the first time I have ever seen Americans themselves portrayed as evil, ethnic “round eyed” brutes in Japanese cinema. In the end this is an interesting cinematic commentary regarding hate, violence and intolerance of all sorts, especially one that has been designed to sexualize it, glorify it and make it as ultimately meaningless and brutal as possible. Oh well, I suppose it’s called “Pink Cinema” and not “Think Cinema” for a reason. At least the R rated nudity isn’t “blurry” even if the actual message of the film is anything but discernible; clear.
Liner notes by Jasper Sharp (finally) and the original theatrical trailer.