The Hokusai Manga

aka Edo Porn
Japan, 1981

Director: Kaneto Shindô
Starring: Ken Ogata, Toshiyuki Nishida, Yûko Tanaka, Kanako Higuchi
IMDB: 7.1

Katsushika Hokusai was an Ukiyo-e (woodblock) artist in Japan's Edo period, most well known for his 36 Views of Mt Fuji, especially the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa (shown below). In Japan this film is known as The Hokusai Manga, as the film is basically a historical drama about the artist's life and work.

If you're wondering how a historical drama fits under the auspices of this blog, note also that Hokusai is widely believed to be the originator of Tentacle Porn. And indeed, in the West the film is known as Edo Porn - which I guess neatly enfolds its key aspects, if somewhat simplistically. While Hokusai was known for much more than his erotic art, its the Tentacles that earn it a place here.

As a young man, unable to make a living for himself through his painting, Hokusai (Ken Ogata) envies the success of contemporaries who are painting erotic pictures. One evening he comes across a beautiful young woman, Onao (Kanako Higuchi), and brings her back to his house to pose naked for him.

In an example of the film's minimal exposition, its never explained why she so willingly, and wordlessly accompanies him. Even less so, why she happily complies when he gives her to his father as a gift! Her oddly accommodating nature, sexual availability, and a habit of noisily chewing a local fruit makes for a beguiling and enigmatic character, more than befitting the woman who was the artist's muse.

Nevertheless, Onao mysteriously disappears, and both Hokusai and his father are distraught. Especially Hokusai who spends the rest of his life yearning for her. Over the coming years, he returns to painting landscapes and enjoys great success, even being asked to paint for the Shogun. But by his twilight years is living in relative poverty with his daughter Oei (Yuko Tanaka).

One day, being a thoughtful and devoted daughter, she brings a young woman back to the house, also named Onao, to be a new model for her father. She's a dead-ringer for her namesake, and it seems has the same free-wheeling sexuality. With a new muse to inspire him, Hokusai resumes painting with renewed enthusiasm.

This brings about my favorite part of the film, a live-action re-enactment of his famous work The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife, which features his model in a highly erotic ménage à trois with two Octopi ¹. The original is shown below, along with its cinematic representation. Now there's something you're not likely to see at your local multiplex!

In the film, Hokusai makes it clear that his work does not represent Octopi violating a woman, but rather the woman fondling Octopi. Ie: This was not a rape scene as might commonly be imagined, but depicts a woman's sexual fantasy, a theme that Hokusai enjoyed exploring.

Let's just say that if there were an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Tentacle Porn Sequence, then this film would surely own it. Although I can't profess to have seen much in this sub-genre, it certainly has way higher artistic validity than the tentacle-themed La Blue Girl series. But if any readers out there want to suggest another contender, please leave a comment.

For those interested in Japanese art and culture, this biopic gives an interesting account of the artist's life, and the times that he lived in. Although slow and ponderous when judged by modern sensibilities, the film is thematically rich, covering themes such as aging, lost love, and the artistic impulse. It is also beautifully filmed.

It was nominated in multiple categories at the Japanese Academy Awards, winning one. Perhaps the only instance of an Academy-Award winning film featuring Tentacle Porn!

Rating: 7/10

Unfortunately this is not an easy film to get hold of, however an R3 DVD has been released by Panorama in Hong Kong, and can be found at most online Asian DVD specialists.

¹ ref: the correct plural of Octopus

A few more screenshots

The first two are Yuko Tanaka, who won a Japanese Academy Award (Best supporting actress) for this film. The 3rd pic is Kanako Higuchi (who didn't - despite her valiant Octopi entanglement.)


Japanese Movie Poster:

Preferring to accentuate the titillation over the art, this 1981 film poster is certainly a product of its time. Featured is Academy-Award-winning actress Kanako Higuchi who went on to feature in such films as Zatoichi, Casshern, Kagero and many others. Click here to see a larger version.


Anonymous said...

The film is available in full on Hulu:


Thanks for the link. A note to other visitors - it's only available to viewers within the USA.

Anonymous said...

I have a roku player and just watched this on Midnight Pulp channel.

Unknown said...

This guy is my favorite Japanese director.

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