Fantastic Fest 09: Everything You Need to Know About Yôjirô Takita's GROPER TRAIN
Groper Train films, including Search for the Black Pearl and Wedding Capriccio, were often detective stories in which a man named Kuroda (Yukijirô Hotaru) was hired to solve a crime or a problem. Kuroda was paired with a female sidekick named Yuka, who was played by Yoshimi Kai. Takita occasionally changed up the routine. For example, Ninja Time Trip sent warring ninjas played by Yukijirô Hotaru and Yoshimi Kai forward in time to find a treasure. Of course, the first place they landed after traveling hundreds of years in time was on a train. Its also worth noting that there was a "groper bus" movie, which presumably follows the similar logic (or illogic).
It's easy to guess what happened when these films shifted to a train: groping. The loose pinku format (i.e., 60 minute film shot on 35mm for $30K with a set number of softcore scenes) allowed great latitude to integrate series-defining groping scenes no matter what was actually happening in the story. For example, the three films discussed here feature a brief setup that quickly shifts the action to the train. The films return to the train multiple times.
The other key element of Groper Train movies was super-stupid comedy. Women getting groped on a train doesn't sound like a ripe source of comedy but that didn't deter Yôjirô Takita from trying. In his book Behind the Pink Curtain, Jasper Sharp compared Groper Train humor to Benny Hill. This description is on point except that Benny Hill never took ink prints of women's privates (Search for the Black Pearl) or segued from a comical Close Encounters of the Third Kind homage to a sex scene with a blue fluorescent dildo (Wedding Capriccio). Quasi-sneak camera techniques were also used for comedic effect. In Wedding Capriccio, a character is shown driving a homemade "tractor" down a city street with people looking on. Ninja Time Trip is full of scenes of the two leads mugging it up in public spaces (trains, train stations, streets).
Films like Groper Train were never really intended to reach beyond the limited world of pinku eiga theaters and Japanese home video. Luckily, this era in Yôjirô Takita's career has been preserved for closer inspection: Pink Eiga is releasing Wedding Capriccio and Search for the Black Pearl later in the year. Groper Train raises all kinds of cultural and social red flags, but there is no point in a deep analysis. The films were intended as goofy prurient entertainment and that intent is still evident decades after their creation.