The Japanese Wife Next Door Review
Takashi Ichinose (Naohiro Hirakata) has recently separated from what he considered to be a lonely four year relationship, finding that he now yearns for a wife to settle down happily with. Luck seems to take a sudden turn for the better when he attends a singles bar one evening and is greeted by two attractive businesswomen. The first to set her sights on him is Sakura Miyoshi (Reiko Yamaguchi), a vibrant young woman, recently returned from studying in America, who knows how to get what she wants. The other is Ryoko (Akane Yazaki), who happens to be the daughter of the company president that Takashi works for. But he has little time to discuss hobbies and so forth when Sakura takes it upon herself to drag him to the toilet on account of a little fib.
Six months later and Takashi and Sakura are husband and wife, and Takashi feels that it is time for her to move in with him and his family. Grandpa (Koji Makimura) and dad Mitsuo (Kikujiro Honda) seem all too happy to have another lady around the house, as does sister Yayoi (Kaoru Akitsu), who quickly foists the household chores upon the new resident. After a few weeks, Sakura seems to have settled in nicely, but somewhat to the annoyance/envy of her family as her sex sessions with hubby are becoming increasingly disturbing. Even Takashi begins to feel himself drifting away as he struggles to keep up with her insatiable libido, wondering if he might have made the wrong choice after all. Soon he starts putting in longer hours at work, and in doing so Sakura begins to find other ways to satisfy her needs. She eventually turns to his family members and seduces them one by one, in turn curing them of their ailments and psychological problems. Through these couplings the family finds itself drawing ever closer, except for Takashi, to whom all of this is unbeknownst, who now believes that he’s going backwards in life.
Released in 2004, The Japanese Wife Next Door [Inran Naru Ichizoku: Dai Isshō - Chijin-tachi no Tawamure] and its other half - both directed by Yutaka Ikejima and featuring many of the same cast members - created an interesting scenario in their presenting of two parallel storylines, which asked what would happen if Takashi did chose the other girl instead? Here though it’s all about Takashi and Sakura, two people seemingly perfect for one another, but who are about to find out that their own personal beliefs are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Japanese Wife Next Door is a charming little take on sexual politics, which sees one young, headstrong and very sexually active woman take over the lives of a prim and proper family that has for far too long been repressed through tedious moral values. While initially Takashi appears to be the star here, Ikejima swiftly introduces love interest Sakura and places her in the forefront of a feature which clearly has something to say about the close-mindedness of a society when it comes to something so completely natural. “Japan is behind the times” expresses our feisty nymphomaniac on numerous occasions as she eagerly embraces newfound western ideals, which of course justifies her means of bonking Takashi’s entire family in a bid to liberate their most inner desires. The ultimate embracing of sex allows the household bond to grow stronger, while our leading man gradually becomes more despondent and alienated from his own kin, in turn seeking solace in the woman he originally walked away from. Naturally Ikejima’s approach toward making his point known - or rather screenwriter Kyoko Godai’s - is completely absurd; the family’s incestuous antics (well, as close to) may not seem particularly inviting from the outset, yet ultimately they still serve to promote exactly what the director is trying to achieve with considerable success.
With said commentary delivered, Ikejima sets about fueling his tale with an eclectic mixture of sexual encounters, and quite frankly they’re a blast. The director - who himself has starred in over five hundred features and has helmed over an unprecedented one hundred within the industry - more than delivers here in sealing his reputation as one of Pink Cinema’s leading greats. It almost becomes a question of what doesn’t he do? From its early build-up to the insanely over-the-top finale he assaults the viewer’s senses with a wild assortment of fetishist behaviour, each one progressively topping the last in terms of pushing taboo to its limits; it’s all here, from the fairly routine to toy-tastic BDSM and lesbian adventurism. Ikejima generally keeps things quite titillating, with several scenes bordering on the very convincing thanks to some skilfully placed shots and hushed industry secrets (although thanks to the included commentary track that is no longer the case!). Above all they’re extremely fun and rarely without humour; the occasional breach of the fourth wall captures it for all its tongue-in-cheekness, while elsewhere there’s even unashamed spots of product placement with the repeated use of the ‘Pearl Nebuto’ dildo and all the effusive praise heaped upon it.
Further tantamount to the film’s enjoyment is the excellent cast made up of screen veterans. As the straight man of the piece Naohiro Hirakata does well to convey the eventual disbelief of what we’re seeing, while those playing his family members are simply delightful throughout. Koji Makimura playing the Grandfather is especially hilarious in his discovering of new joys, while Kaoru Akitsu’s sexually frustrated nail-biting and Kikujiro Honda’s vexation build up to huge payoffs. But it’s prolific adult video star Reiko Yamaguchi who runs the operation: an incredibly charismatic, strong-willed and shapely lead who we just can’t take our eyes off. It would be a stretch to say that she has a commanding presence as such, but she does have an ability to lull us in with her character’s bubbly personality and uninhibited freedom. As the sole voice of a generation’s younger and fresher ideology Sakura is one incredibly special gal, discounting of course that she will take your entire family to the cleaners if you’re not careful.
Pink Eiga’s 1.85:1 non-anamorphic presentation looks fairly decent. The usual transfer problems persist, with a bit too much aliasing, minor mosquito noise and lack of progressive playback; there is also noticeable haloing, so I’m not sure if Pink Eiga are purposely enhancing edges or if it’s a present part of the materials they’re being sent. The image is a tad soft, but acceptable, while the overall colour balance feels natural, along with good contrast and black levels.
The Japanese 2.0 soundtrack, which like so many of its type have so little to go on about, is perfectly fine. Hitomi Oba’s playful use of Mozart compositions - classical music curiously being very popular with the genre - adds an overall sense of fun to the film and is presented clearly, while the usual moans and groans have a predictably stronger edge over the dialogue, which in itself is clear with no notable distortions.
English subtitles are included, once more matted to the image, and they’re free from errors, providing a solid translation.
The headlining bonus feature is a video commentary with director Yutaka Ikejima, star Reiko Yamaguchi, screenwriter Kyoko Godai, music director Hitomi Oba, and producer for Shin-Toho Pictures Akira Fukuhara. It takes a good five minutes for the participants to warm up as they watch in almost silence, making a few passing comments in reminiscence, but it does get on the right track and winds up a fairly open discussion. The atmosphere remains relaxed throughout as Ikejima discusses certain portions of the 2-day shoot; he tells some location stories, makes a couple of inside jokes and even gives away some tricks of the trade with regard to his sex scenes. It perhaps spoils the illusion, but his down-to-earth willingness is appreciated. He does go back to making passing comments now and then, but thankfully Fukuhara is on hand to prompt him later on, to which we then learn a little more about his working relationship with non-professional actors/AV stars and his thoughts on cencorship. The ladies meanwhile seem to be enjoying the show; many compliments are directed toward Yamaguchi who has lost some weight in the years since, but it’s unfortunate that they don’t provide any real insight into their work. Oba’s score is largely glossed over, while Godai, who has scripted over 100 Pink Cinema tales, says nothing about her story. A shame, as it would have been nice to find out if she had any meaningful intentions, but I guess these pictures can be interpreted any way you like. Still, the overall comradery is entertaining enough, and it’s certainly nice to be able to see people’s reactions to what they’re watching. Hopefully Pink Eiga can do this kind of thing again in future, perhaps if we ever see part 2, which the cast and crew already hope for.
Interview with Actress Reiko Yamaguchi (13.42) sees Yutaka Ikejima conducting. It’s amusing in that the most detailed part of the piece is her professing her love for cock, while other moments relating to her life and career remain fairly brief but informative enough. She lists her hobbies; talks about her weight loss; starting out in the AV business and keeping up with current industry demands, along with comparing differences between working on Pink Cinema and AV sets. Above all a pleasant young woman who seems to greatly appreciate the attention she’s been receiving overseas.
Mr Pink - Exposed: What Happened Next Door (14.46) continues on from the pieces found on the Groper Train discs. Director Yutaka Ikejima, speaking from within the Shin-Toho vault, answers a series of questions related to the Japanese Wife Next Door movies: their genesis, shooting period, casting and working with new talent and of course the sex scenes. He elaborates upon points made in the video commentary when discussing cencorship laws in Japan and finally speaks of his delight in reaching an American audience. There are certainly some interesting insights into the industry to be found here, and those new to the genre should appreciate this little introduction.
With the main bulk of material out of the way this leaves biographies and partial filmographies for Yutaka Ikejima, Reiko Yamaguchi, Akane Yazaki, Naohiro Hirakawa, Koji Makimura and Kikujiro Honda. They missed out the only other member, Kaoru Akitsu! Still, they’re once more handy little things. The disc rounds itself off with a short photo gallery, a look at the poster art, and several international trailers.