Educating Yuna Review
After the recent hoopla surrounding the eagerly(?) anticipated release of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, it seems that S&M is all the rage! Actually, I don’t know if that’s true, but it only takes a few saucy lines of dialogue to get tongues wagging. Well, if you did get dragged along by your missus, only to be left wondering what all the fuss was about, then consider Educating Yuna - a film which puts the whole embarrassing ordeal into perspective. “Too much fuckin’ perspective”, to quote David St. Hubbins.
Yuna (Mari Yamaguchi) is something of a shy and introverted young lass, who has recently failed her entry exams and has turned her attention toward studying modern Japanese. When sitting by a park one day, she bumps into famed art critic Takehiko Shibuya (Koji Makimura), who fled the big city to the countryside in order to “focus on his writing” he tells her. Taking a liking to her, he soon asks of her to join him at his home in Yamanashi to help him organise his art collection.
Excited by the opportunity, Yuna indeed shows up, where she’s quickly greeted by Erika (AV star Ran Kurenai) and her mistress Miho (Satsuki Mochida). Yuna, now slightly suspicious soon learns that Mr. Shibuya is in fact a long-time practitioner in the arts of BDSM and he’s about to teach her some important new lessons.
Yes, 2005’s Educating Yuna, from the celebrated Yutaka Ikejima, does not disappoint when it comes to exploring the dark corners of sexual desire, as the director pushes himself to his very limits in trying to bypass some rather heavy censorship. In exploring Yuna’s sexual awakening, Ikejima and bondage consultant Chiaki Kano devise some interesting scenarios designed to take the character through various emotional states, from initial humiliation to lust; while certain parts of the narrative call for tertiary characters to face their fears and be put through the ringer, such as a publishing editor atoning for his attitude by giving up his dignity for the benefit of Mr. Shibuya’s pleasure. And all of this covers most of the bases: bondage, lesbianism and otherwise lesser-seen acts of femdom. Hurrah!
It seems clearer for this outing, then, that Ikejima indulges himself as much as he can in order to make up for the script’s weaker aspects. His wife, Kyoko Godai, who has undoubtedly written some damn fine pictures in her time, simply seems unfocused here, with what is the first of a two-part storyline, placing more emphasis on sexual acts than really digging at the psychological heart of the matter. Educating Yuna, which may well be for all intents ‘Educating Japan’, harbours some important messages beneath its debauched exterior, raising issues of religion, self-doubt and cultural identity. It’s most pertinent offering, however, is its closing warning of having unprotected sex, which is all-too-indicative of the nation’s overall lack of awareness on the matter, despite the number of safe-sex campaigns which have trickled out over the years. It’s a shame that these areas are given but mere minutes, considering how overlong the taboo encounters last, but at the very least there’s an effort being made, which certainly warrants attention.
The DiscIt’s unfortunate that Pink Eiga doesn’t seem to get many breaks when it comes to the presentation department. Many of their releases have been for films made within the past ten years, yet often don’t look it. Educating Yuna has seen little love, exhibiting a host of problems inherent to a crappy analogue source. It’s certainly disappointing, after seeing how good some of these films can look. That said, it’s serviceable, with natural tones and acceptable levels of detail.
The original Japanese mono track is also fine and at its best during the film’s many racy scenes - just in case you needed to worry about the neighbours. English subtitles are also present and hard-matted.
Bonus material consists of all the usual Pink Eiga stuff: Trailers for the film and other releases; a featurette entitled “What is Pink Eiga”; original poster art and still images. The most worthy inclusion is an interview with composer and fave collaborator Hitomi Oba.