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40 years pass since Nikkatsu flick ‘Love Hunter’ deemed obscene

Shukan Asahi Geino Dec. 13
Shukan Asahi Geino Dec. 13
During the 17-year period that studio Nikkatsu produced its “roman porno” genre of soft-core pornography, certainly one of the most memorial episodes was the banning of the film “Love Hunter (Koi no Karyudo)” on obscenity charges in 1972.

Actress Mari Tanaka tells Shukan Asahi Geino (Dec. 13) that she still thinks about the proceedings of the eight-year trial that resulted.

“Even now, when I look back, it is a mystery as to how it could be me appearing as a target,” says the actress, who the magazine describes as being in fine form for a woman who has exceeded her 60th birthday. “It’s as if the actress was another person entirely.”

Directed by Seiichiro Yamaguchi, the 72-minute film, which stars Hidemi Hara, features a sexually frustrated housewife who possesses wild, erotic dreams of incest that she eventually turn into reality. Tanaka and Sumiko Minami played supporting roles.

After appearing in Nikkatsu’s gangster pic “Girl Leader: Defying the Moral Code (Onna Bancho Jingi Yaburi)” in 1969, Tanaka made her porn debut in “Sex Rider: Wet Highway” just before New Year’s Day of 1972. “The actress scheduled for the role had backed out,” Tanaka says. “I knew what it meant to have a film release for New Year’s. At the shoot, the atmosphere was so hot. I thought that being there was a real learning experience.”

She thereafter found herself thrust into the limelight shared by other Nikkatsu actresses, such as Kazuko Shirakawa and Yuko Katagiri.

On January 18 of that same year, “Love Hunter” hit theaters, but on the morning of January 28 screenings nationwide were ordered to be suspended. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police took Yamaguchi and various Nikkatsu employees into custody.

This was not the first time that Japan’s porn industry had experienced tumultuous times.

In 1964, Tetsuji Takechi’s fantastical trip to the dentist in “Daydream” engaged in battle with government censors over visible female pubic hair. The next year, his followup film, “Black Snow,” was met with similar resistance, and the director was subsequently arrested on indecency charges.

In November of 1971, Nikkatsu started its roman porno genre, a label that would eventually be attached to a whopping 1,133 features up until its demise in 1988. Three months later, Yamaguchi’s “Love Hunter” came under scrutiny by government censors.

“It wasn’t just my movies that were excessive,” says Tanaka. “However, two other films (of mine) were also cited. I did not understand the reasoning at all.”

Love Hunter
“Love Hunter”
One of those films was “Warmth of Love,” but Tokyo police did not proceed with obscenity charges. All told, five films came under examination.

A trial for “Love Hunter” commenced, and as the proceedings unfolded director Yamaguchi simultaneously anointed Tanaka the star of the sequel, “Love Hunter: Desire,” which was released in 1973.

In June of 1978, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the entire film was not obscene, though it was noted that some of its contents were in violation of censorship standards. The ruling was appealed by the prosecution, but two years later the defendants were acquitted.

“By then (1978), I was married and had given birth to my eldest daughter,” Tanaka says. “As an actress, the trial left a strong impression, and my work opportunties decreased. I then retired.”

Tanaka’s first photo collection is set to be released on December 11. Shukan Asahi Geino says that the book shows she has not aged a bit since her glory days.

“The location, clothes, and make-up made it so comfortable,” she says of the shoot. “I happily looked back at myself. It was a real blast from the past.”

Source: “Tanaka Mari, roman poruno no onna toshi ga 40nenburi shinso geki shiro,” Shukan Asahi Geino (Dec. 14)