in medias res • ISSN: 1604-5104 • Årgang 1 • Nr. 2

Consuming the Female Body: Pinku Eiga and the case of Sagawa Issei

By Pia D. Harritz


We all have an appetite for seeing or, as Jacques Lacan puts it: ‘appétit de l’oeil’. It is through the eyes that we ingest and digest ‘the other’; the world, other human beings and the opposite sex. This is in a way what this paper is about - even though I will dare to push the full notion of ‘appétit’ a bit further.

My attempt in this paper is to draw attention to the more extreme representations of this visual appetite as it unfolds itself in the crossing-point between fiction and reality. It is also an attempt to call attention to some unexplored issues in the discussion of pornography and the representation of the male gaze and the female body in Japanese Pink Cinema or ‘Pinku Eiga’. I will introduce two separated but related notions; ‘the abject gaze’ and ‘the male cannibalistic gaze’ as operating tools in an analysis of the pink movie The Bedroom (Shisenjiyou no Aria) directed by Hisayasu Sato (1992), starring the real cannibal murder Sagawi Issei.


Gazing at the Orient: Some reflections on theories and methods

“The women of Thailand are so beautiful that they have become the hostesses of the Western World, sought after and desired everywhere for their grace, which is that of a submissive and affectionate femininity of nubile slaves – now dressed by Dior – an astounding sexual come on in a gaze which looks you straight in the eye and a potential acquiescence to your every whim. In short, the fulfillment of Western man’s dreams. Thai women seem spontaneously to embody the sexuality of the Arabian Nights, like the Nubian slaves in the ancient Rome. Thai men, on the other hand, seem sad and forlorn; their physiques are not in tune with world chic, while their women’s are privileged to be currently fashionable form of ethnic beauty. What is left for these men but to assist in the universal promotion of their women for high-class prostitution”[1] Jean Baudrillard

When addressing a culture different from one’s own, one has to take a variety of issues into consideration. ‘The Other’ can be ingested and digested in very different ways. ‘Orientalism’ might be an old and political confusing notion, but it still exists.

As Maureen Turim sarcastic puts it, “orientalism survives all pretence at the postmodern”[2], as Jean Baudrillard’s ironic discourse is a brilliant example of.

Even though Baudrillard seemingly forgets all the non-glamorous facts about prostitution and pornography as the brutal exploitation of women and children (mostly girls), AIDS, poverty and Western exploitation, his thoughts gives rise to an interesting coincidence; that ‘postmodern orientalism’ in all its ‘incorrect political’ irony can be just as seductive and superficial as some of the views on pornography and that both often co-exists.

This reveals itself especially when western film-theorists in the ‘name of tolerance’ fail to deliver a critical and reflexive analysis. Take for example Nöel Burch’s enthusiastic celebration of one of the first Japanese pink movies; Wakamatsu’s work The Embryo Hunts in Secret, 1966.[3] Without any regard to the un-conscious indulgence in extreme violence, perverse torture and misogyny the director is celebrated both as ‘primitive’ and a great auteur. This unfortunate combination of an overbearing eagerness to celebrate another cultures aesthetics and at the same time to show of sexual tolerance has a tendency to end in orientalism and misogyny. On the other hand it would be a great failure to dismiss pink cinema as being overall misogynistic or all western film-analytic approaches as being misguided orientalism.[4] There is something to be said about the absurdity and hysteria of some of the many so-called ‘politically correct’ readings of especially the 70’s and the 80’s. My own ethnographic critical position will be related to my feministic point of view on pornography, which is not a place of political readings and positions. It’s a non-place. A place of (intended) pure observations that I sincerely hope will serve my controversial subject.

Generally speaking there seem to be at least three different critical positions towards pornography in western culture: The liberal tolerant position where pornography is viewed upon as a harmless bi-product of democracy and the right to free speech, the morally righteous position that sees pornography as harmful to family values and common human morality, and finally the feminist point of view, where the main concern is how women are represented and by what degree, the performing women are exploited.

Obviously, the feminist position is not one-sided. Different voices have colored the feminist filmtheories since the early 70’s. Most radical seems the position represented in writings by Robin Morgan and Susan Brownmiller in the mid70’s and the later works by Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin in the 80’s and 90’s. The main argument here is, that there is an undeniable connection between pornography and crimes against women such as rape, violence and even murder. Other feminists, more cautious perhaps, have tried not to make the connection between the consumption of pornographic fiction and the practice in reality, between the pornographic fantasies and real life occurrences. The studies that fall under the latter group have been more curious and sensitive towards the very different types of male erotic and sexual scenarios that pornography puts on display.[5] Here the main point of view is not to crush every male produced pornographic scenario, but to re-think an alternative, that leaves female desire, room for representation.  

My approach here will be both to respect the ethnographic and feministic issues dealing with this subject can rise, and even though I don’t think of my subject as particular ‘Japanese’ or ‘pornographic’, I will not ignore the fact, it has been produced and perceived in that context.

The subject in it self gives rise to many political traps and straps. First of all, even if it is not possible to scientifically prove a connection between fiction and reality, pornography and exploitation of women, it’s striking, that the real life cannibal murderer and rapist Sagawi Issei is starring in a Japanese pink movie that explores rape-, S/M- and fetish-fantasies.This, after his status as a convicted but unpunished murderer followed by a glorified career as a celebrated writer on cannibalism and a popular television- and movie-star with his own fan-club. Secondly, it is not possible to ignore the genre’s extreme tendencies towards pure misogyny – ethnocentricity or not. And thirdly, one has to consider the economic, political and historical context that surrounds Pink Cinema in particular and Asian pornography in general. Before examining the phenomenon Sagawa Issei and his role in The Bedroom, I will therefore briefly try to outline the story behind pinku eiga.   


Pornography or art? Pinku Eiga as movement and industry

“…To make a film that has the influence to drive its audience mad, to make them commit murder.”[6]  Hisayasu Sato

Since the mid60’s various Asian popular culture have embraced erotic imagery and incorporated different forms of pornography in film, animated film and cartoon production.[7] A large part of this production focus on extreme sex and display violent criminal behavior towards women and young (very young) girls. However, the historical context and the social economic reasons vary from country to country, it is not entirely a coincidence, as Maureen Turim and others have pointed out, and there is definitely a connection between a male dominated western ‘orientalism’ (here both imperialism, male-chauvinism and sex-tourism) and a old male dominated Asian culture with severe cultural inferiority complexes and economical problems, but one has to differentiate between the different groups of population, different levels of discrimination and sexual abuse towards women and (mostly female) children according to different Asian countries. With these facts in regard it is difficult, not to say impossible, to chose a position that does not respect the historical, economic, political and feministic aspects of this matter.    

I will not be able to present all the different opinions in this short paper, but I will mention a few that are relevant due to the type of cinema that The Bedroom and Sagawa Issei deal with.

Pinku eiga or Pink Cinema dates back to the 60’s and is not entirely a product – as the porno-industry in Denmark – of political intentions to ‘liberate’ sex and promote women rights. The main reason often given for the appearance of pinku eiga is economic. Even though the 60’s started out well for the Japanese film industry, reaching a record of 545 films, the cinema attendance was falling, probably as a result of the global and rapid spread of television and the development of the leisure industry. By 1962 attendance had dropped to the half of that of 1958 with one billion visits and soon this plunged the major film studios into a crisis and a great deal of studios faced bankruptcy. The industry responded by turning to the mass production of sex movies or what we in the west would call a mixture of ‘soft porn’ and sexploitation, even though words like these do not completely grasp the full notion of the pinku eiga. [8] 

The movies were shown in small cinemas, which could no longer afford the high rental fees of the studio films. Instead, they turned to the independent production companies, which bloomed during the 1960s. The number of independently produced erotic films rose from 4 in 1962, to 58 in 1964, to 250 in 1969.

The first major pink movie is generally considered to be Hakujit sumu (Daydream, 1964), directed by Tetsuji Takechi, produced by Shochiku Studios. Nikutai no ichiba (Market of Flesh) had previously opened in Japan in March 1962 and caused chaotic conditions due to its display of nudity and sexscenes. The distribution was delayed by the police on charges of obscenity, but when the film resumed after cuts had been made it became a major box office success - probably because of its sensational pre-history and the media attention.

The formula of pinku eiga was gradually decided by the industry: The director had full control over the movie, as long as he maintained the following requirements; that the movie 1) had to feature an abundance of sex scenes, 2) had to have an average length of about 60 minutes, 3) had to be shot in 4-6 days on 16 mm or 35 mm and, most importantly, had to be made on a budget of approximately 35.000 $. 

These are not in themselves unusual conditions, if one were to compare these conditions with the production of adult movies around the world, but they become interesting if one takes the quality of the movies into consideration. By quality I mean both the originality of style and aesthetics, the technological superiority, the mixing of genres, and the idea of incorporating elements of surrealistic avant-garde, sci-fi, techno, the art movies, and pop-culture into the adult movie industry. To stress the point even further, the budgets of these movies are in general significantly lower than those of the porno-industry of the west.   

What really stands out is the ability of pinku eiga to engage the spectator in more than just scenes with close-ups of genitals[9] and finally the complexity in the representation of gender and the human mind. It is a common fact that the pink movies are, generally speaking, more intellectual, sinister and sadomasochistic in their display of and exploration of the female body. The female body is not so “willing” and “open” as in so many of the western adult movies (the ‘Pornotopian’ type) where it is always “bedroom-time” and where the woman is almost always a “lusty/busty” and playfull blonde. In pink movies it is generally a more repressed, raped, violated, and mutilated female body that is being displayed.

The pink movies tell stories not only about sex, revenge and violence. They also occasionally comment on politics and social injustice. Especially directors as Yoshida Yoshishige, Imamura Shohei, Oshima Nagisa and Wakamatsu Koji made their distinct mark by questioning the establishment and the repressive sides of Japanese society and pursuing revolutionary politics of the extreme left. 

Not all pink directors were as radical, though most directors of the 1960s shared the social and political convictions that gave their films such a strong anti-establishment appeal. The main subject of pinku eiga was not politics but sexuality, a sexuality depicted through male desire. Though the depiction of sexuality became more extreme and violent with time, pinku eiga never crossed the border to what in the west is called ‘hardcore pornography’ (which means a display of genital intercourse). This resulted in developing an interesting and original cinematic erotic vocabulary, where the filmmakers resorted to indirect depiction with inventive allusions (such as extreme close-ups of armpits shot to look like pubic hair) and omissions (e.g. incriminating areas disguised by a clever use of camera angles and hiding objects). Eventually this particular aspect of pinku eiga made it less competitive with ‘hard core’ video-pornography coming from the west, eastern Europe and other parts of Asia during the late 80’s and the 90’s, and the industry to day only counts a couple of production companies.  

The uniqueness of pink cinema is, however, from a strictly historical point of view that the industry indirectly supported avant-garde, filmmaking and cinema in general, and helped internationally renowned directors as Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Suo Masayuki, Sono Sion and Oki Hiroyuki to grow and develop their cinematic skills. There is probably no other country in the world where sexploitation film can claim the same years of cultural and artistic influence on film and filmmaking.[10]

This particular circumstance combined with the gradually economic fatigue of the market surrounding pink cinema in the late 80’s might be some useful tools to understand why Sagawa Issei is performing in The Bedroom. My analysis will also consider issues related to the work itself. These issues touch upon a core of a postmodern condition of consumerism and media-awareness and a related distortion of the ‘mimetic illusion’, defining fiction as separate from reality. But before revealing the logic of this argument, I will take a closer look on the biographical data surrounding Sagawa Issei.


The Renaissance-cannibal: Fatal transgressions of fiction and reality in the case of Sagawa Issei

“I am amazed. She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Tall, blonde, with pure white skin, she astonishes me with her grace. I invited her to my home for a Japanese dinner. She accepts. After the meal I asked her to read my favorite German expressionist poem. As she reads I can’t keep my eyes off her. After she leaves I can still smell her body on the bed sheet where she sat reading the poem. I lick the chopsticks and dishes she used. I can taste her lips. My passion is so great. I want to eat her. If I do she will be mine forever. There is no escape from this desire.“[11] Sagawa Issei

The life of Sagawi Issei is indeed an extreme and unbelievable story. Sagawa went to Paris in 1981 to study language and literature at the Sorbonne Academy, Cencier Institute. Here he met the young promising blonde student Renee Hartevelt, whom he got obsessed with. She did not return his romantic feelings but they read poetry together and formed some kind of friendship. One evening while Hartevelt read poetry out load, Sagawa fetched a gun and shot her in her back. He then raped the body and started eating it, beginning with her behind and then her lips. I will soon explain the reason for my focus on these details in relation to Sagawa’s performance in The Bedroom.

After a couple of days the remains of the body naturally began to decompose and Sagawa   realized that he had to get rid of it. Few days after the murder witnesses saw an Asian man fitting the description of Sagawa dump two suitcases with body-parts in a park in Paris. The police soon traced the scenario back to Sagawa and he was charged with murder and rape. He was placed at Henri Collin psych-ward in Villejuif, but to avoid the costs of maintaining Sagawa under French authorities, he was deported back to Japan in 1985.

At this point the story takes a strange and unexpected turn. His father Sagawa Akira, president of Kurita Water Industries, worked out a deal with the Japanese authorities and in 1986 his son was released as a free man. Sagawa Issei was now well-known in Japan as the man who killed and ate another human being and somehow got away with it. As most extreme cases the whole affair caught the eye of the media and Sagawa Issei quickly became a celebrity.[12]

This is probably not in itself very surprisingly if one were to compare it with the later American example, the cannibalistic killer and raptist Jeffrey Dahmer, who also achieved a kind of bizarre fame. What is truly striking is the fundamentally different ways in which they were perceived and treated by their surroundings and the media. Where Dahmer was treated with disgust and rejection (he was killed by inmates in prison), Sagawa, besides from avoiding prison time, was treated with respect and curiosity. He managed to participate in various kinds of television shows, on the covers of gourmet cooking magazines and gathered a group of artist-intellectuals who supported his ‘artistic insanity’ and claimed Sagawa’s ‘crime’ had to be committed, otherwise his ‘art’ would have suffered. Besides from his performance as an actor in The Bedroom, he wrote several best-selling books about the subject and illustrated an autobiographical manga (graphic novel) and directed the also autobiographical movie “The Desire to be Eaten”. Today he paints pictures of nude female bodies and has his own website and seemingly also a ‘fan-club’.[13]

Picture 1: Sagawa Issei often posed eating sushi (talk-show) 

Picture 2: One of Sagawa Issei’s several paintings 

Despite his so-called ‘artistic talents’ it is unlikely that he would have become famous had it not been for his crime as well as the fact that he still remains unpunished. Why is this speculation relevant? If he had already been a celebrated artist before his crime, the media-attention would probably not have been less intense but it might have been influential on how the world perceived him and how he would have been portrayed. One might take as comparative examples the cases of O. J. Simpson and, more recently, the trial of Michael Jackson. How come the careers of the two Americans stopped when they were charged with murder and child molesting respectively, and why did the career of Sagawa only then begin? Could it be differences between USA and Japan, the West and the East? Could it be that Sagawa more than willingly committed to his crimes whereas the others did not?

There is no simple answer to this, but I do think is has to do with the different types of celebrities they constitute. When Andy Warhol said we all could achieve fifteen minutes of fame, he did not just predict the potential fame that reality-tv could offer the common people. He also indicated that we do not have unlimited resources for getting fame. Somehow you have to stick at one type of fame. As Sagawa Issei, despite the fact that he tries to become famous in all areas of artistic expression like a true Renaissance-man, the only fame he will ever get is the one that is connected to his crime. It is also crucial to point out that his crime and his status as a cannibal murderer and rapist is the sole reason for his appearance in The Bedroom.


Camera, consumerism and cannibalism: The abject gaze and the female body(x) in The Bedroom

“The public has made me the godfather of cannibalism, and I am happy about that. I will always look through the eyes of a cannibal.”[14] Sagawa Issei

Sagawa Issei’s cannibalism is not only significant for his appearance on the screen, it is also crucial for his performance. The reason for me - earlier on in this essay - to indulge in the details concerning the act of his crime is related to his performance.

In the short time, which Sagawa appears, he acts out some interesting and illustrating behavior. He appears in less than one minute, but due to the movies montage-like editing, he accomplishes a great deal. Said that, I also have to stress the fact that he is not playing an important part in the story and, importantly, he is not playing the part of the killer.

What is so unique to The Bedroom is the way in which the meaning is hidden in the ‘plot-segments’.[15]

The main character, the woman Kyôko, is a member of an exclusive sex-club called The Bedroom where all the girls use a drug with the associative name ‘Halcion’. The drug is highly hallucinatory and numbs the brain and the senses so that the women are unconscious when they are together with the men. As the story unfolds with the daily scenes of Kyôko shifting from her talking with her husband, her girlfriend, her lover and the nightly scenes from the sex-club, the women in the club are being killed and mutilated – one by one. Soon, Kyôko begins to suspect first her emotionally detached and moody lover, Kei, and then her introvert and cranky husband of being the murderer. But the end reveals Kyôko to be the murderess with a strange mistaken identity-twist, where Kyôko is in fact her own younger sister Maya that (maybe) killed Kyôko and took over her life. Actually Maya/Kyôko not only kills all the women in the film, she also in the final scene kills her lover and stuffs him in the refrigerator (!).

The refrigerator plays an important part in the movie in the form of a ‘plot-segment.’ Every time the story shifts from Kyôko’s life during the day to the scenes at ‘The Bedroom,’ the scene dissolves with a shot of Kyôko looking into an empty refrigerator. Every time the shot ends with the camera being inside the refrigerator, Kyôko is looking directly at the camera and slams the door in ‘our’ face (it happens of a total of four times).

These returned gazes at the camera in the refrigerator scenes is not the only ones in The Bedroom. Two other persons are allowed to glance at the camera: the dead sister and Sagawa Issei. The scene with the dead sister glancing at the camera appears towards the end and is the last still in the movie (actually after the movie is ended). Apparently we are witnessing her suicide where she approaches a handheld video camera and mutter the enigmatic words ‘I am back!’ and then roll herself in a sort of wrap that causes her death by choking. The whole scene is played backwards which makes her salute to the camera the last thing that meets the eye of the spectator.

This special relationship with the camera-eye is shared amongst the characters in the movie. At all times they seem to have a video camera at hand that almost participates in the dialogue as an autonomous element. The handheld subjective video camera often overlaps with both the surveillance-camera (from the locations of the ‘Bedroom’) and most significantly the cinematic objective camera, which makes it difficult (though not impossible) to separate the three. Even though this metafictive status of the camera is not unique in the works of director Hisayasu Sato and in later postmodern productions of pinku eiga in general, it is used here to an extreme extent.[16] The camera plays a role – just as the refrigerator and the returned gazes of the three actors in the film. I mentioned the returned gazes of Kyôko/Maya and her dead sister (the real Kyôko) but what makes them different from the last returned gaze, that of Sagawa Issei, is not only that they are from a ‘female’ place, but also that they are not really directed towards the cinematic objective camera.

This marks a significant difference in reading the relationship between gender, camera and spectator. In the case of Kyôko/Maya, she is gazing directly into the objective cinematic camera, but the camera appears to be where nobody is expected to be (the refrigerator) and in the case of the real Kyôko, she is gazing into a handheld subjective video camera. None of the gazes are ‘directly’ aimed towards the spectator. They seem instead mediated by ‘another’ (themselves maybe as the ‘I’ of a video diary, maybe the potential video-viewer but not the cinematic spectator). They are ‘abject’ in the sense of the word defined by Julia Kristeva[17]: they do not seem to aim at any personalized ‘other’. They can only be interpreted as a last minute realization of despair (the ‘real’ Kyôko) and existential emptiness (the empty gazes into the empty refrigerator by Kyôko/Maya). Nothing in their gazes constitutes them as ‘whole’ subjects exchanging gazes with the spectator. They intertwine in their ambiguous identities and lack of substance and aim. This circumstance beautifully underlines the director’s critical representation of the emptiness of the refrigerator as a metaphor of consumerism and woman as ‘the non-subject’ in a postmodern pornographic world of a voyeuristic/exhibitionistic masquerading behavior with no ‘real’ object of desire.

Everything has gone from ‘sexual’ to ‘pornographic’, as Jean Baudrillard has noted, in a discourse that before was the discourse of the subject, but now is the discourse of the object. The returned ‘abject’ gazes of the two women point this out – also in a comment on the genre of porno in general. In typical non-narrative forms of porno (as we know it so well from Western porno movies), there will be various kinds of flirtatious returned gazes from the acting women (Paul Willemen calls them ‘fourth looks’), that insures the male viewers that they (the women) really are ‘in’ to the action. This constitutes a certain imaginary ‘present’ participation from the (passive and absent) male viewers in front of the video-screen.    

The returned gaze of Sagawa Issei is, however, very differently structured and directly aimed towards the objective cinematic camera and therefore also the cinematic spectator.

In the beginning of his one minutes performance, he enters the scene of the ‘Bedroom’ with a camera taking pictures of a partly dressed and undressed ‘Kyôko’/Maya who is lying drugged on the bed (almost in the shape of a podium). He ends his performance by crawling up on the bed, licking first her behind and then her lips. It is before this ‘licking’ that he addresses the camera by looking directly into it. Even so, the eyes of the spectator do not meet the eyes of Sagawa or ‘the eyes of the cannibal’ (as he himself has phrased it). For some reason he wears some heavy black sunglasses. Why? Maybe to stress his status of being the ‘none-being’, the monster that everybody (at least in Japan) knows to be looking at the world with the ‘eyes of a cannibal’. His look has to be ‘abject’ – but in another sense of the word than the gazes of Kyôko and Maya. Their gazes are only abject in the sense that they appear in a movie and are not real subjects, only ‘fictionalized subjects’ representing ‘fictional horror’.

Sagawa’s is always ‘abject’ in the sense that he is ‘real’ and that his gaze is always that of a cannibal (where the borderline between object and subject are always disturbed and undistinct). He is the ‘real’ monster, the ‘real horror’. Here the movie – or director Hisayasu Sato – marks something different from the postmodern discussion of the border between fiction and reality. Here the movie does something different than just filling this postmodern storytelling with clever metafictive and intertexual references, suggesting that the days of ‘mimetic illusion’ and ‘naïve’ storytelling is over. It exceeds them in a fatal transgression, because this marker of ‘the discourse’/ the utterance, is not just another mise-en-abyme (a fiction in the fiction). He is the 'real thing' and more powerful and horrifying than the fictional horror that we have become so used to. He is also more horrifying than the non-fictional stories news-television tells every night, because he comes in the provocative disguise of ‘fiction’. 



The shock Hisayasu Sato tries to impose on the spectator with this particular marker of utterance might be intertexual and traditionally postmodern because the spectator knows who Sagawa is and how he looks, but it exceeds the limits of expectations for what transgressions can be in a fictional story. The ‘uncanny’ is always more horrifying if it pretends to be ‘heimlich’ before it shows itself to be ‘unheimlich’. In that way, this comment on consumerism, camera and cannibalism transgresses itself in a fatal way, leaving only one to point in the direction of what Jean Baudrillard would call a fatal strategy, in which the postmodern subject’s relation to him or herself as a subject and as ‘real’ is no longer an existential or existing condition.

Picture 3: Still from The Bedroom, an ‘uncanny’ kiss

Picture 4: Still from The Bedroom, the refrigerator-look


[1]Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories London/New York: Verso, 1990: p. 168

[2] P. 82 in “The Erotic in Asian Cinema” by Maureen Turim, in Dirty Looks ed. Pamela Church Gibson and Roma Gibson, British Film Institute, 1993.

[3] To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema, by Nöel Burch, Berkeley/Los Angels:  University of California Press, 1979.

[4] See for example David Desser’s moral comments in Eros plus Massacre: An Introduction the Japhanese New Wave Cinema, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988. He definitely has a point, when he criticize Wakamatsu Koji’s The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1966) for being an archetypically misogynistic pink film, but the critique would probably have served better without the tendency to associate moral stands with a western viewer.

[5] See here the studies of Linda Williams, Carol Clover and Gertrud Koch.

[6] From an interview with Hisayasu Sato by Julien Saveon in Asian Cult magazine no. 34, 2002.

[7] Besides cinema, various kinds of manga (cartoons and graphic novels) and anima (animated films) have influenced the market for pornography. The notion manga covers both cartoons and graphic novels with a strong cinematic inspiration in the choices of perspective and aestetics.

[8] The term pink eiga was first coined in 1963 by journalist Murai Minoru. But it did not come into general use until the late 1960s. In the early years the films were known as ”eroduction films” (erodakushon eiga) or ”three-million-yen-films” (sanbyakuman eiga). Because of their erotic nature the films were rated as adult films (seijin eiga) by the Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee (Eirin), the self-censorship organ of the Japanese film industry. The films played to a target audience of young men, who could still be lured into the cinemas. The audience for family and women’s films had deserted cinema for television long time ago. Action movies and the new yakuza genre fulfilled young male viewers’ desire for on-screen violence, while the desire for sex was satisfied by pinku eiga.

[9] The reason for this is actually not that remarkably since an explicit depiction of genitals and sexual intercourse is prohibited by the Japanese Criminal Code and the Eirin regulations (The Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee).

[10]In the 1990’s the Japanese film industry underwent major changes. The studio system ended, enabling the rise of independent producers; the direct-to-video market appearaed; cable and satellite television proliferated; the distribution sector was restructured, and a producer system was established. These developments also left their mark on the pinku eiga production. A major change was the increasing importance of producers. Previously, producers only provided the money for a film. Nowadays they are involved in preparation, production, distribution and marketing. Until a decade ago, all the profit was made at the box office. Today, the box office returns are merely one source of income. Most revenues come from selling video and broadcasting rights, especially to satellite stations, and - recently - from the burgeoning DVD market. The marketing of pinku eiga is now more complicated than when the films were shown only in specialized cinemas. So the professional skills of a producer are indispensable.

[11] In the Fog, Tokyo: Hanashi No Tokusyu, 1983.

[12] Moira Martingale has examined Sagawa Issei’s extraordinary fame in Japan in details in Cannibal Killers, The History of Impossible Murderers, New York, NY, U.S.A.: Saint Martin's Press, LLC, 1995. 

[13] See Sagawa Issei’s personal website:

[14] From Sagawa Issei’s personal website:

[15] By plot and story I am here referring to the definitions of the two notions given by David Bordwell and Kirstin Thomson.  

[16] I have here chosen not to go further into the large discussions on the ‘postmodern storytelling’ and the use of metafictive and intertexual  references (or ‘metalepses’ as Gérard Genette recently called them).  

[17] In my last article in ‘In Medias Res’, I discuss the notion ‘abject’ to a greater extent with some of its  theoretical implications. Here, I will only refer to the notion as a working tool for my analysis. For the full notion of what an ‘abject gaze’ is, see Pia D. Harritz, Ph.D.-dissertation, The Returned Gazes of Cinema: Filmlanguage, gender and the encounter with the keyhole-regime, University of Copenhagen, 2004.