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Underwater Love - A Pink Musical (Onna no kappa)
Japan/Germany 2011

Opening 27 Oct 2011

Directed by: Shinji Imaoka
Writing credits: Shinji Imaoka, Fumio Moriya
Principal actors: Sawa Masaki, Yoshirô Umezawa, Ai Narita, Mutsuo Yoshioka

A Japanese pink film is “a style of Japanese soft-core pornographic theatrical film (Wikipedia).” In this case, Japanese director Shinji Imaoka presents the soft porn in a setting of Bollywood and traditional Japanese myth.

Asuka (Sawa Masaki) works in a fish factory and, although not the youngest, most attractive factory worker, she has romantic plans to tie the knot with her boss, Hajime (Mutsuo Yoshioka). Naturally, fate raises its ugly head in the form of a Japanese water creature which slides out of the water and into her life. This creature is a kappa, the reincarnation of her old boyfriend Aoki (Yoshiro Umezawa) who had drowned years ago. These days old boyfriends turn up via the internet; traditional myths must take a different path.

The storyline is unimportant, and it isn’t supposed actually to go forward. Instead it must provide situations in the water, in the factory, and on the beach where the actors can break into song and do a kind of dance (in which they stand in one place and wave their arms), or they take off their clothes and moan a bit as soft porn requires.

Basically, the film is next to nothing, as far as films go, except in its context as a pink film, and here the history is quite interesting. Pink films became popular in Japan in the early 1960s. Director Koji Wakamatsu is considered to be a pioneer in the field since 1965, although Satoru Kobayashi is recognized as the founder with his film Flesh Market (Nikutai no Ichiba) from 1962. During their hey day 200 pink films were produced annually and showed in 600 cinemas which specialized in the genre. The popularity slowed in the 1980s with the advent of hard-core pornography. Today about 40 pink films are produced annually and show in 60 specialized cinemas. It is part of the genre, too, that they be produced on a lowest, one-take-only budget and filmed in one week. The cameraman for this film, Australian Christopher Doyle, said in an interview that the biggest difference between Japanese and Western soft porn is that the Japanese version is more ironic. And it’s true; you have the feeling that the actors are having fun and never taking themselves seriously. (Becky Tan)

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