Friday, October 23, 2009

REVIEW: Tsumugi

制服美少女 先生あたしを抱いて
(Seifuku bishōjo: Sensei atashi wo daite)

Released: 2004

Hidekazu Takahara

Sora Aoi

Satoshi Kobayashi
Takashi Naha
Shigeru Nakano

Running time: 61 Min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

Tsumugi (Sora Aoi) is a curious, funny girl. She lives in a dream world, prancing around, speaking of mermaids being rescued by handsome princes. In reality, she’s an 18 year old school girl who lingers in a sexual sort of limbo, torn between two men. The first is her teacher, Katagiri (Takashi Naha). His wife, who lives at some distant, undisclosed location, is pregnant, and he’s obviously conflicted about the entire situation. Tsumugi initially catches him having an affair with a fellow teacher. When Katagiri arrives home that same night, he finds Tsumugi waiting on his doorstep. Maybe she wants to blackmail him? No, she instead yearns to have an affair with him, to see if this mature, older figure is in fact the prince charming she dreams of. At first resistant to sleeping with a student, Katagiri eventually gives in, and eventually falls in love. The other man is a fellow student named Kosuke (Satoshi Kobayashi), a virgin who appears to be good at nothing. He’s not very good at school, at athletics and is even socially quite awkward. However, after being broken in by Tsumugi, he begins to lose interest in her and focuses all his attention on becoming a triathlete, so that he may become an Ironman, and maybe even become Tsumugi’s prince.

It’s this duality between the two men that leaves Tsumugi looking for something she can’t seem to find. Katagiri, obviously having a mid-life crisis, even begins to relapse into his old punk rock ways. He takes Tsumugi to a punk show and tries his hand at crowd surfing, only to be mocked by his friend, who happens to be the singer of the band. It turns out all the mature males in the film are locked in some kind of juvenile cycle, trying achieve some long lost dream, incapable of growing up. Katagiri’s love for Tsumugi borders on obsession, as old feelings are reawakened. On the flip side, Kosuke becomes nonchalant about the whole thing. His relationship with Tsumugi has a similar affect to that of Katagiri, a sort of spiritual awakening, however for Kosuke, he uses it for something constructive, for something to better himself, to help him grow up and mature. And this only causes Tsumugi to become more attracted to him.

"Tsumugi" aka "Uniform Beauty: Shag me Teacher!" is a surprisingly heartfelt pinku eiga. One reason is that the story is nuanced with some wonderful little moments, leading to a bittersweet climax. The director, Hidekazu Takahara, returning from an 18 year absence in the pinku genre after directing mainstream films for some years, obviously knows how to put together an emotionally involving film. The other reason is Sora Aoi, the AV star turned pinku star who plays Tsumugi. She’s pretty popular in Asia , having moved into mainstream film such as the Japanese detective show "Galileo", the Thai teen film "Hormones" and the Korean TV drama "Korean Classroom". She’s able to switch from incredibly cute to smoldering and sexy at the drop of a hat, and her performance is quite endearing. Takahara is able to pull such a real performance out of her due to the fact they’ve worked together before, albeit on strictly AV films.

And while the punk rock sub plot does appear to be tacked on, especially when considering the band leader Asu, played by real life punk rocker Shigeru Nakano is a close friend of the Hidekazu Takahara, it does in fact help to solidify the films theme of the struggle to grow up, as well as hinting that the regression these middle aged men are dealing with will having consequences that they least expect.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

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