NOTE! The post contains minor spoilers and content of an explicit nature
Rarely do I write about television shows on my blog, but I couldn’t help but write about my thoughts on The Naked Director, a new show from Netflix. Apart from its title, what mainly caught my attention was its subject matter: porn. Those of you who have watched a Japanese drama series before would probably know that this sort of show wouldn’t air on Japanese TV so Netflix definitely felt like the best choice, especially when you consider some of the high-profile actors in it, such as Ryo Ishibashi (Audition, The Grudge), Koyuki (The Last Samurai) and Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins, Densha Otoko).
The story is based on the true story of Toru Muranishi (Takayuki Yamada), one of the most prolific and controversial figures in the Japanese porn industry (he is often credited as the man who made JAV the way it is today). Set in the 1980s, the story starts off with Muranishi as a normal, middle-class businessman in Hokkaido trying to provide for his family. One day, after arriving home early from work, he finds his wife having sex with another man. They immediately file for a divorce, with Muranishi’s wife stating that he had never made her orgasm once while they were together. While at a bar, Muranishi meets Toshi (Shinnosuke Mitsushima), a conman who introduces him to the world of pornography. Feeling a renewed sense of purpose in his life, Muranishi sets out to enter the world of pornography, while also trying to change it in the process.
As I mentioned earlier, Naked Director’s subject matter is what interested me the most about this series. In Japan, while people are mostly open-minded about sex (as seen with the “delivery health” services and porn mags you’ll usually find when coming here), it is still seen as a taboo topic in Japanese society. Because Japanese TV regulations are usually very strict when it comes to the depiction of sex and violence, it would not be possible to tell a story like this without facing some serious censorship (which is ironic because the show deals with censorship in JAV and how it is compared to Western porn, which is uncensored). With Netflix, however, which is a company with its own rules and regulations, the show is able to freely handle its subject matter. Apart from that, airing the show on Netflix also meant that the show could have a bigger budget (there is even an episode that was shot in Hawaii).
Naturally, there are quite a few sex scenes in the show. However (apart from the porn that plays in the background in some scenes), I mostly didn’t find them as mere titillation for the audience. Rather, I found that the sex scenes did a good job in enhancing the plot. For example, Muranishi catching his wife having sex with another man is what sets him on his quest to discover more about women’s inner desires. Similarly, when Kaoru Kuroki (Misato Morita), a university student who grew up in a very conservative household, has sex with Muranishi in her debut porn video, the scene is depicted as her sexual liberation and following this, she becomes more comfortable with her body and herself. The sex scenes, especially the scenes where Muranishi is directing one of his films, also give some interesting insight into JAV and how some directors were able to get away with certain things due to censorship. Also, some of the porn scenes are so absurd at times that you can’t help but laugh at them.
The casting for the show was excellent, but the star performers were Yamada and Morita, who played Muranishi and Kuroki respectively. Yamada perfectly portrayed Muranishi as a man with visions of grandeur, but at the same time someone just trying to prove himself to the world. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of the real Muranishi or not is up to the audience, but I feel that he did a wonderful job portraying him on screen. Morita, who is fairly new, perfectly portrayed Kuroki as an innocent, yet seductive woman full of sexual energy. Some of her best scenes in the series are when she teases her sexuality to other guys without making it obvious to other people around her. Her use of body language is well done and adds to the charm of her character.
Overall, Naked Director is an ambitious, funny, sexy and interesting portrayal of the Japanese porn industry and how one man sought to change it. It is definitely not your typical, run-of-the-mill Japanese television show, but that adds strength to the series’ fascination. Naturally, this show is not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a well-written and interesting show and looking to take a break from American shows, then I’d recommend that you give this show a watch.