Pop Culture and Japan

The Naked Director Review: A Raunchy Depiction Of Japan’s Sexual Awakening

One of the most common images to be associated with Japan is that of a polite society steeped in conservative traditions. Historically, the Japanese have struggled to push back against this status quo, but the 1980s were a time when the country started to experience a rebirth in terms of attitude to taboo subjects like sex and pornography, and a man at the forefront of this change was porn director Toru Muranishi.

Netflix’s The Naked Director explores the rise of Japan’s notorious ‘Emperor of Porn’ and the emergence of sexual liberation in Japan’s adult film industry. Raunchy, graphic and gritty, The Naked Director veers between crime drama and comedy biopic.

A semi-autobiographical sexual escapade

With the series being based on the life of Toru Muranishi, The Naked Director employs a mixture of real-world events and attitudes that were prevalent during the 1980s economic bubble in Japan. Muranishi, played by the extremely talented Takayuki Yamada, rose to fame by breaking all the traditional views of Japanese sexuality in his porn films. Reckless and innovative, he was known to star in his own productions and was arrested several times for employing underaged girls.

At the start of the series, Muranishi has lost everything: his wife, his children and his reason for being. A chance encounter with a porn peddler named Toshi leads Muranishi to discover the “hidden world” of Japanese pornography. Muranishi soon realises he can put his quick-talking salesmanship to good use by selling plastic wrapped porn magazines called bini-bon. From there, he sets out to create an empire that is constantly threatened by corrupt cops, yakuza and rival porn kings.

Muranishi’s rise is contrasted alongside the sexual awakening of a teenage girl called Megumi. Having grown up in a devoutly religious household, Megumi has become resentful of her controlling mother. After learning that their life is financed by her mother’s married lover, Megumi rejects her upbringing and looks to become her true self by getting into the adult film industry.

On meeting Muranishi, Megumi takes on the role of Kaoru Kuroki and shoots to superstardom as Japan’s hottest new sensation. This is bolstered by Megumi’s refusal to shave her armpits in the same way that the real-life Kaoru Kuroki did to protest traditional views of feminine beauty.

Pushing the boundaries of television

Muranishi and Megumi are both presented as renegades who actively flaunt Japanese societal norms. The director regularly appears in little more than a pair of white briefs and busts out lines like “people have seen my asshole. But I’m not embarrassed. To be human is to live as who you really are. In other words, adult videos show humanity itself.”

Megumi can be described as an advocate for female empowerment. By refusing to shave her armpits, she takes a stance against how Japanese women are meant to be perceived.

Beyond the antics of Toru Muranishi, The Naked Director is the story of Japan’s sexual awakening. It is an unapologetic depiction of how a country embraced a craze that catapulted it into the 21st century. When that idea of change is combined with graphic sex scenes and unadulterated violence, The Naked Director is boundary-pushing television at its finest.

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