Roman Porno DVD Double Feature #2: EROS SCHOOL: FEELS SO GOOD & ZOOM UP: THE BEAVER BOOK GIRL

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
There really is nothing like Japanese sex cinema.

I want to preface this review by saying that there is nothing funny about rape, and my comments in regards to these films should be taken solely as a reaction to the very particular circumstances put forth therein. Rape as entertainment is far from uniquely Japanese, however, they seem to have a singular point of view when it comes to violation and the way it relates to sexual and social power dynamics. Far beyond the sleaziest corners of sexploitation, Japanese films and filmmakers have employed non-consensual sex as an integral part of character development and plot for decades, especially in the first few decades following the US occupation after World War II. Hyper-sexual men with sadistic libidinous urges populate sex films, yakuza films, and comedies from the '60s straight through to the '80s. However, I must say, there can't have been too many as strange as those in Eros School: Feels So Good.

The simplest way of describing the film is as a sex comedy about a school aged serial rapist with a pet pig. Welcome to Eros School, just your average '70s Japanese high school full of sexually frustrated teenaged boys being cockteased into oblivion by overly mature teenaged girls. When young Tadao falls in lust with Misa, the most popular girl in school, he is chastised and beaten up by the other girls in class. Misa holds such sway over the school that the faculty propose bringing in a sexual ringer to knock her down a peg, enter Ryu. He is a straw hat wearing bad boy straight out of juvenile detention for a rape at his previous high school. Ryu has made it his goal to rape his way through Eros School, with Misa as his coup de grace. Can Misa fight him off? Will Tadao be able to protect her from Ryu's superior raping skills? Who is going to protect the pig? All these questions and more will blow through your imploded mind in the most fucked up sixty-seven minutes of cinema you're likely to experience for a long time.

When I called this a sex comedy, I wasn't kidding. Eros School: Feels So Good has far more in common with something like Revenge of the Nerds or Screwballs than it does with more harrowing views of sexual violation like Irreversible. There are wacky sound effects, goofball songs, and of course, the pig. Ryu plows through the female population of the school with abandon, and they are all unable (or unwilling) to stop him. As is customary with these films, all of his sexual assaults begin violently, but end with apparent submission. This isn't the kind of physiological reaction that you read about among rape survivors whose bodies betray them in order to survive their ordeals, this is enjoyment, or so it seems. In fact, in order to protect Misa one of Ryu's past victims offers herself up in Misa's stead, and the girls joke about his sexual prowess, even after they've all been "conquered". The fact that it's all mixed together with slide whistles and bouncy pop tunes only manages to make the whole thing weirder, add to that the truly incredible mindfuck of an ending, and you've got something truly incredible on your hands.

It may have become a silly joke in the Internet age, but there really is some truth to the meme that every fucked up idea in the world finds a home in Japan, and Eros School: Feels So Good is evidence of that. The film is competently made, well shot, has some genuine laughs, and was produced by a reputable studio for public consumption, and that is unbelievable. The fact that I found myself engaged in this film rather than being enraged by it either says something about the good quality of the filmmaking, or something really bad about the quality of my character. I choose not to delve further into that question, as I may not like the answer.

ZoomUp.jpgThe second film in this batch of releases is Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl, which, while it certainly has the more colorful title, pales in comparison to the craziness that is Eros School. Zoom Up is the story of a men's magazine photographer who has a particular skill for upskirt photography, a la Love Exposure. When his usual model gets too tired, a mysterious older woman appears with the skills to pay the bills and a flair for the waterworks. Who is this mystery woman and what does she want? She accepts no pay, gives no name, and appears and disappears of her own free will. Does it have something to do with one of their dark pasts? Of course it does! But you'll have to watch the film to learn the truth about The Beaver Book Girl!

Again we are treated to violation as entertainment, though on a significantly smaller scale than in Eros School. One character is described as an "artist of rape" in mixed company with no hint of irony. The major difference between this and the previous film is in tone, as they both feature some pretty wild sexual antics. Zoom Up is an erotic thriller of sorts, the mystery woman doesn't murder anyone, but there are clearly ulterior motives involved, and the whole thing is predestined to end badly. The shenanigans in Zoom Up are mostly in the form of upskirt photography sessions turning into bizarre tableaux of sexual humiliation and sado-masochism. Natch.

Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl is not slouch in the sleaze department, but I think it suffered when watched immediately after Eros School. There was an incredibly high bar for depravity set by the first film, and Zoom Up, in spite of its best efforts, staggers across the finish line when it comes to truly out-there fucked-upness. It is difficult to judge it on its own merits in this case, simply because I'd just had my mind turned inside out, however, if you're a fan of sleazy cinema, either one of these will do the trick, as long as you don't mind getting a little wet.

The Discs:

You know, there are times when I find it difficult to concentrate on the A/V quality of a disc, and this is one of those times, though I did manage to pull it together frequently enough to be able to say with some authority that these are very good discs. The scope photography in both, but especially Zoom Up, is very clean and sharp, and the colors are still fairly bold. It is apparent that Nikkatsu has taken good care of these films. Zoom Up is probably the more artistically ambitious of the two, but I'll be damned if Eros School wasn't the craziest shit I've seen in a long time.

There isn't much in the way of extras here, but I think that retaining a bit of the mystery here isn't necessarily a bad thing. Both film feature liner notes from Jasper Sharp, noted expert on Japanese sex cinema. In fact, last night I tweeted about watching these films and I got this response regarding Eros School: "@jaspersharp: Yeah, my jaw was on the floor for much of it!" That about says it all. Sharp's liner notes may be brief, but he manages to put the films in context with related titles and gives the sleaze fan a lot to chew on in a very small space. Other than that the discs are barebones with the exception of a theatrical trailer for Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl.

Golly gee, I don't even know how to end this. If anything I've said interests you in the slightest, let me only warn you that I've only just scratched the surface. If it interests you any further, Synapse Film's Don May, who distributes Impulse Pictures, was informed that these titles were deemed inappropriate for Amazon and had them taken down due to complaints. He was told in no uncertain terms that these two discs in particular were not getting on Amazon, no way, no how. That's gotta score some street cred, right? As a result, our usual Amazon links have been replaced by links to DiabolikDVD, a very reliable and trustworthy purveyor of the world finest exploitation and horror films for several years now. Please, check these films out, but don't blame me when your brain melts out through your nose.
Special Features:
- Both discs feature liner notes from Jasper Sharp, author of Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema
- Theatrical trailer for Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl
- Newly translated subtitles
Around the Internet:
  • arturo

    No offence fergus but your an ass, the very fact that you have come back onto this page shows that you do have some type of interset in this type of movie, and the review that Charlie gave covered all the main points for this type of movie, its just a sleazy little asian movie that will no doubt fly under the radar, there is no need to look at it from every single angle, and for the record my original comment had nothing to do with what you said, it was in response to what The Shape said...

  • Jon Pais

    Perhaps I should add that while Ishii has said he wasn't interested in making "porn films which portrayed women as noble but ended up humiliating them", viewers may feel otherwise.

  • fergus1948

    Just to be completely clear...

    1) I did not at any point "suggest that we ignore this type of movie."

    I suggested that reviews of a film like this should delve a little deeper in their analysis of the subtext.

    2) I am not a prig, whatever you may think, and at no point did I say such films should be ignored or that they should not be reviewed or distributed. I want them to be reviewed and I want it done comprehensively.

    3) "If you dont like it, then don't watch it, in fact don't even bother reading the review." No offence Arturo, but you're an idiot. I don't know whether I would watch it or enjoy it until I've read a review and all I want is for the review to look at the movie from every angle, including the film's basic message.

  • Jon Pais

    Fergus, sorry I should have made myself more clear. I wasn't aiming my comment about priggishness at you. I was referring to the poster who said that reviews like this make him/her not want to read this website.

  • Brian Clark

    Yeah, as were my comments about ignoring this type of film.

  • Jon Pais

    I haven't watched the Flower and Snake films (not sure if you're referring to the original, Takashi Ishii's, or some other director's take on this S&M film), but I have watched and reviewed "Red Classroom" for Twitch (http://ee.twitchfilm.com/site/..., and it's not exactly what I would call "totally progressive" in its attitude toward the representation of women. In the film, Nami does take control of her own destiny, but at the expense of debasing herself. However, Ishii's films stand out from the rest, in that he isn't interested in creating films that would titillate the (normal) viewer. As far as being progressive in their filmmaking, in terms of technique and sheer (twisted) imagination, they have never been surpassed (except perhaps by Ishii himself, with "Alone in the Night"). Maybe I misunderstood your comment, but let's be clear - ALL of Ishii's films contain rape and misogyny.

  • Brian Clark

    Ha, using the word "totally" was a bit much. Well played. Two quick points:

    I was talking about Hana to Hebi by Masuru Konuma from '74... I thought Flowers and Snakes was English title but I have no idea. In french it's Fleur Secrete.

    I'm certainly not going to defend red classroom as feminist in any academic sense of the word. But yeah, I do think that what the movie does in terms of male and female roles and what it says about the way men view women and idealize them is interesting and progressive.

  • Charlie Hobbs

    To be fair, I think that I probably put more effort into contextualizing these films in my review than probably anyone else out there. The majority of the reviews I've read only talk about how amazingly crazy the films are, which is a valid approach to take, but I started my review with the acknowledgement that these will not be for everyone.

    With films like this, it is a difficult line to walk. I choose to talk about them a bit more in-depth than most because that's how I see them, as a fan of history and the culture it creates. The fact that I then made the decision to approach them at their own level was also intentional. I think that once that introduction laid out the major conundrum in watching these films for enjoyment, anyone who kept reading knew what they were getting into.

  • James Marsh

    Excellent piece, Charlie. You've certainly piqued my interest, if not to seek these films out then certainly to read more about them. I'm disappointed to read that some readers feel Twitch's efforts to cover an ever-broader range of titles is not being wholly appreciated in the way it was intended. We do, as ever, cater to all sorts.

  • arturo

    The promotion of movies like this is why fans of exploitation movies love to visit Twitch..They have a right to explore all types of movies not just clean cut films for stiff uper lip snobs..The very fact that you read the entire review shows that there is a fascination for this type of movie, and remember people have a choice to watch sleazy asian cult films...If you dont like it, then don't watch it, infact don't even bother reading the review...You can dismiss it the way people dismiss slasher movies..Well done Charlie for brining this sleaze pit of a movie to my attention..

  • Jon Pais

    After all, it's called sexploitation! While I appreciate what Fergus has to say, I don't think Charlie is brushing aside anything. He's let the reader know exactly what to expect when watching these films - pretty much what you'll see in every other pinku or roman porno flick. In fact, I think he goes to far greater lengths discussing his own issues with this type of subject matter than many reviewers,who tend to gloss over this aspect of Japanese sex films. What I do resent are prigs who would try to circumscribe exactly what kinds of films are appropriate or inappropriate for review or for distribution.

  • The Shape

    The promotion of "movies" like this make me not want to visit this website.

  • Heterosexual Omnivorous

    Tell you the truth, the promotion of the continued procreation of Homo "Sapiens" like yourself out there in the planet often makes me not want to leave my home.

    However, I'm glad there are places like Twitch and open-minded people who exercise their democratic right to discuss and enjoy films such as these and many others, to help me forget about the forgettable aspects of human societies without feeling the need to spit on other people's plates.

  • Brian Clark

    It's really not fair to lump all of the pink films into some misogynistic rape-fest category. Some of them like Angel Guts: Red Classroom and Flowers and Snakes are totally progressive both in terms of the filmmaking and their attitudes and representations of women. Which is why you can't just ignore some entire genre of film just because some of the films within offend you. I think Fergus makes a decent point about the potential to use some movies as a starting point to examine problematic ideas ingrained in Japanese culture (though that would be an entirely different piece), but to suggest that we ignore this type of movie all together runs against everything that this site is about.

  • fergus1948

    "I want to preface this review by saying that there is nothing funny about rape...

    ...the fact that I found myself engaged in this film rather than being enraged by it either says something about the good quality of the filmmaking, or something really bad about the quality of my character. I choose not to delve further into that question, as I may not like the answer."

    I really think you SHOULD HAVE delved further and answered your own question.

    Is it possible there is a serious problem with attitudes to women in Japan and some J-movies? Might that fear/hatred of women explain why women were raped with bamboo sticks in the Japanese atrocities in Nanking?

    I'm a huge fan of Japanese movies and culture but some important themes should not be brushed over quite so lightly with disturbing subtexts and their implications ignored for the sake of casual journalism.

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