The Japanese Wife Next Door - Part 2 Review
The sequel can’t ever be an easy thing going into. They inevitably come with baggage: anticipation and trepidation in wondering if they can live up to past glory. Some films would have you believe that bigger is better, while others prefer the simpler ethos of building upon the characteristics that made the former so successful in the first place. In rarer instances there’s the back-to-back workflow, which capitalizes on prior success by ensuring that audiences hungry for more wouldn’t have to wait long for their next fix of epic adventurism.
The Japanese Wife Next Door - Part 2 is astounding in a sense that director Yutaka Ikejima not only made a damn fitting follow-up, shot back-to-back with part 1, but he did both flicks in the space of five days. That kind of output isn’t uncommon for a single Pink movie, but it only makes you wonder just what directors like this - who understand how to maximise a shoestring budget - could do if they had more cash. I imagine the film industry would be in a better place for it.
TJWND 2 is in fact a loose sequel, however, owing itself more to the “What if…?” parallel universe concept than it does in further developing an already established roster of characters and events.
Mirroring the first feature with its shot of businessman Takeshi Ichinose (Naohiro Hirakata) expressing his want of a happy married life, TJWND 2 swiftly sets up the main storyline with our downtrodden fellow finding himself at a bar-meet sandwiched between two lovely lass’s in the form of Sakura (Reiko Yamaguchi) and Ryoko (Akane Yazaki). Struggling to decide between the two, Ryoko takes charge of the situation by shooing away the aggressive Sakura before whisking Takeshi away to a quieter spot, where they soon get a little more acquainted with one another.
Six months later and Takeshi and Ryoko are now married. Takeshi has moved in with her family, the father (Koji Makimura) of whom is a bit of a conspiracy theorist and runs a successful business, of which he never truly discloses, while her mother (Azusa Sakai) happily picks up the chores. Her sister Mina (Lemon Hanazawa), however, has been left in a mentally unstable condition ever since the death of her biological mother, which leaves Takeshi feeling all the more curious as the days pass. With not a great deal to do, Takeshi soon becomes bored of sitting around, and asks to be involved more in his new family’s business, but first he’s going to have to fill out a life-insurance policy. Things are about to get very strange indeed.
Whilst thematically similar to its predecessor (I should note that both films came out within months of each other), TJWND 2 is quite different tonally. This time, rather than the estranged wife awakening the family’s innermost sexual desires, we’re soon made aware that Ryoko’s kin are already raging masochists. The follow-up retains the same levels of oddball activity present in Ikejima’s first tale, but it gradually descends into far blacker territory with its shades of Takashi Miike and Kim Ji-wun as it crosses that fine line of what constitutes taboo - more so within its familial context - and blurs it with often uneasy realism and comic surrealism. Of course TJWND 2 brings with it a rather outlandish plot, but it’s one that’s focused with an uncompromised determination via its underlying themes of social paranoia and depraved sexuality.
Ikejima’s direction certainly feels fresh from the standpoint that here he takes his comedy of errors and builds it up around a horror-like narrative, which unfolds through a gratifyingly mysterious build up; while there’s a ominous vibe strung throughout - backed up by Hitomi Oba’s low-key but haunting score, and some terrifically voyeuristic compositions - it’s never quite clear as to where the feature will end up on account of the director’s constant teasing. Despite its strangeness the character transitions and motivations feel credible enough in Ikejima’s hands, and of course it helps that we’ve most of the same cast returning and putting their chameleon-like skills into creating another unforgettable family of misfits.
The DVDBeing a more recent production, TJWND 2, holds up a bit better on DVD than some of Pink Eiga’s older titles. Although it still suffers from being interlaced and non-anamorphic, it does have an overall pleasing amount of detail and colours are vibrant with a natural feeling. Contrast and blacks are dialled in a little more appropriately, leaving just a few niggles such as ringing and mild compression artefacts to keep it down.
The Japanese 2.0 leaves me with little to say. It’s not bad, merely functional with nothing to worry about. English subtitles are matted as usual, and provide a decent translation.
Pink Eiga has managed to strike up a nice relationship with Yutaka Ikejima and Reiko Yamaguchi since screening their films at various festivals recently. As such we’ve more exclusive interviews with the pair. At 8 minutes, Reiko Yamaguchi isn’t led into talking about the sequel specifically (though she is hardly in it to be fair), but instead talks about making the transition from AV acting to Pink Cinema, citing key differences along the way and expressing her overall preference for working in the genre. Yutaka Ikejima’s interview runs a little longer at around 11 minutes, and here he discusses the process of putting together a Pink film, from using film over digital and working with light budgets to ADR and editing. He also explains how the formatting generally works for Pink Eiga in terms of dividing dramatic and sexual content, ultimately summing up his philosophy on a genre that has continued to thrive for half a century. Finally composer Hitomi Oba sits down to discuss her role on the film. It’s brief at just 4 minutes, but she talks about her working relationship with Yutaka Ikejima and her happiness at fans enjoying her work. By the sounds of it, we may have some CDs to look forward to at some point.
The disc finishes up with Biographies for Yutaka Ikejima and most of his main cast; a photo gallery; a look at the original DVD artwork and finally the international trailer.