Time to commemorate Valentine’s Day with one of my favorite romance movies of all-time, courtesy of the Japanese.
- Love Exposure is quite possibly the most epic romance movie you’ll ever see in your life, and I’m not exaggerating because I can’t think of another romance story out there with the size and scope this film contains. At a staggering 237-minute length, this movie somehow manages to retain tight narrative focus and strong hilarious characterization for the majority of its runtime to the point that it’s no different from playing a decently-lengthed video game that you enjoy.
- Directed by Sion Sono aka the only Japanese film director I pay attention to until someone gives me a good alternative, Love Exposure centers on a young average highschooler named Yu Honda, who turns to delinquency after his mother dies and his priest father ends up getting dumped by a psychotic bitch in order to confess sins that will get poor papa to forget his women troubles and treat Yu like a father should. After getting involved with one of the friendliest gangs I’ve ever seen, Yu ends up mastering the art of panty-shooting martial arts, allowing him to take pictures of upskirt shots like a ninja and becoming recognized as one of the manliest of men amongst his new friends.
- However things go wrong when Yu ends up taking an upskirt shot of a psychotic girl about his age named Aya Koike, a high-ranking member of a cult called the Zero Church who takes an interest in converting Yu’s priest father to the group and using his influence to get more followers. So through a very overcomplicated scheme that she most likely made complicated on purpose because she gets off on that, Koike forces a meeting with Yu and a delinquent girl also his age named Yoko, causing Yu to fall in love with her whilst Yoko falls in love with his female self because for reasons I can’t bother to get into, Yu was dressed as a woman at the time.
- It turns out that Yoko is the “daughter” of the woman who broke the heart of Yu’s father, and said woman wants priest dick again, so after about an hour-and-a-half of setting up to the point where Yoko calls Yu “onii-chan”, the rest of Love Exposure basically turns into a series of mind games, religious defiance, and more than a thousand other elements that you’ll have to see the movie to digest. And it is an awesome ride. Whenever I wasn’t laughing hard at the absurdity on screen, I was getting emotional over the tough circumstances these characters were digging themselves into. The ability to make you tear up in feels one minute and then laugh like a hyena the next is something that not many products can claim, so the fact that I’m saying Love Exposure has the ability to do that is one of the highest recommendations I can give it.
- The movie is basically a giant satire of Catholicism and religion in general, questioning how far people will take their faith in order to get what they want whilst dealing with massive boners, the sex industry, lesbianism, and abusive fathers. And since said satire is carried out by little girls chopping off penises and causing them to shoot hilarious amounts of blood in the process, if you’re one of those really devout followers of the faith, this movie is really not for you.
- Of course, this is a Sion Sono film, so that means the plot contains a bunch of crazy seemingly unrelated characters whose lives intersect with each other due to sheer coincidental circumstance. It’s not quite as Narita-ish here as it is in his previous works since the three defined camps are connected by the three sides of the love triangle that forms the backbone of everything going on, but you will most likely require multiple viewings to understand the deluge of plot points thrown in your face, let alone how they connect.
- The movie is divided into chapters so that you could reasonably take a break and come back to it like you would a TV series, but like Planetarian, the actual length of each chapter is wildly inconsistent due to being set up based on how much time said chapter needs in order to convey its story. The first one is like an hour long, the next two don’t even reach ten minutes, and then the one after those goes on for almost two hours. I’m not really sure why that fourth one is so long because there’s enough of a difference between the first half and the second half that you can divide it into two separate chapters, but what do I know about the Japanese entertainment industry?
- Personally though, you’ll never see me take a break from the film unless real-life issues crop up whilst watching, because everything about Love Exposure just clicks with me. I love exploitation. I love thought-provoking films. And what I love the most about Sion Sono is how he’s able to marry the two seemingly unrelated sides so that he can give us the best of both worlds at once.
- Expressing romance through violence is nothing new of course. We’ve got stuff like Aquarion EVOL or Gurren Lagann (sort of) if you want an anime example of that. But while Love Exposure doesn’t have mecha, it does have a guy in drag cutting down a bunch of religious nuts to get to his true love. And who can forget the Corinthians 13 scene, which must have taken a really long time to shoot given how long that speech and shot is? Of course though, the biggest element that gives this movie the upper hand over similar products is its crazy religious satire. The amount of rolls Jesus probably did whilst looking at this film from the grave probably outnumbers the number of American citizens who got drafted to Vietnam.
- What I really appreciate the most though is how the movie treats its main characters given the stereotypes they fall into and the amount of whining they do when things don’t go their way (which happens alot). Yu is pretty genre-savvy for an average rule-breaking teenage male, but he’s not genre-savvy enough to get the upper hand on Koike and her manipulations when she starts taking an active role into ruining his life. Yoko herself toes the line between man-hating bitch and lovable female lead quite well, kind of like Madoka from Kimagure Orange Road with much needed updates. And of course, Koike is a religious Junko Enoshima who you’ll never sympathize with, but I laughed so hard when she and her cronies beat up a bunch of karate students that happened to be jogging nearby.
- The adult characters are a bit more stupid and hard to take seriously, but thankfully they get less important as the movie goes on. Yu’s friends are just hilarious though, always there for him whenever he needs help, and always coming through when it counts the most. I’ve heard people say it’s a better relationship than the actual love stuff and…yeah it’s hard to deny that given how Yu and Yoko don’t really get along for most of the fim.
- I only have two real criticisms of the movie and one of them is the epilogue. It’s basically the length of a standard anime episode and it could have stood to be a lot shorter since the only thing accomplished in it is a lot of unnecessary setup for the final scene, which is touching, but we didn’t need that much time devoted to the recovery after the major incidents were resolved in order for it to work.
- The other criticism is that the action is kinda crap, which is a pretty stark contrast to the sweetly choreographed panty-camera ninjutsu. Not that I’m expecting Japanese action scenes to look like a Thai martial arts film, but I’ve seen Sono do sweet cartoonish action before in films that admittedly came after this one. However, Love Exposure generally keeps the camera way too close whenever someone throws a punch to the point that you can’t actually see it land on a dude, let alone the twenty or so guys that usually surround the protagonists. It reminds me of the shaky-cam filled opening scene in Batman Begins and how Nolan flat-out admitted he couldn’t figure out a believable way to have Bruce fight multiple attackers at once.
- Aside from that though, Love Exposure is easily one of the best films I’ve ever seen, period. If you haven’t seen it yet (and especially if your online name is Draggle), I’d highly recommend you free up some time for it someday. I’d like to extend a big thank you to Wendeego for bringing it to my attention. And hopefully those of you who get interested in this film by my review will give similar thanks to me as well.
- The amount of reactions made when I showed this to a friend on movie night could easily take up a two-hour long Youtube review. And that’s only half the length of the actual film.
- I’m honestly not sure what exactly Koike feels for Yu. She seems to have a different viewpoint on the loser depending on what plot point she’s forwarding next.
- So is it a thing for famous Japanese musicians to act as well, considering Yu’s actor is the main vocal of the band AAA?