As far as sex is concerned, Japanese morals differ from the Judaeo-Christian-based culture of “the West” in many aspects, but, above all, in the permissive way they deal with the matter. A few years ago, I wrote a review about a Japanese movie called Nude, in which a countryside young woman from Saitama gradually enters the world of Porn Videos (euphemistically known as Adult Videos or AV) as an actress. She is hypocritically rejected by former friends and family but eventually she overcomes those feelings of guilt and shame because she considers herself as an actress and, therefore, enjoys her profession.
In the case of 溺れるナイフ (Oboreru Naifu, Drowning knife), adapted from a 少女漫画 (Manga for young girls) of the same title, the director presents us Natsume’s story: a fifteen-year-old middle school girl whose sexy photographs in men’s magazines make of her a young national idol. What takes her to popularity and fame also means the impossibility of having a “normal” life in the Wakayama village she moves afterwards to with her parents. Besides, she suffers an attempted rape by one of her grown-up fans, causing her a trauma and destroying the relationship with his also teenage boyfriend. It is obvious the director’s open reflection about the sexualization of minors in an adult’s world with the silent complicity of the parents, and ultimately of the whole society.
However, this movie is not just about Natsume’s precocious career as a model and its ambiguous consequences, because it also depicts a confrontation of lifestyles and values: the urban, modern and fashionable Tokyo, which is represented by the capricious girl; and the more traditional, old-fashioned Japan of the 田舎 (Inaka, Countryside), with its slow pace and its animistic summer festivals, represented by こうちゃん, her boyfriend, who suffers the consequences of Natsume’s arriving in town as an element that disturbs in the village the spiritual balance among men and nature.
On a different level, this is also a story about coming-of-age, about crossing the blurry borders between childhood and adulthood, at times violently. We see girls who start using make-up for their 高校デビュー (Koukou Debyu, High School Debut, aka KKD) and look like different people; male teenagers like こうちゃん who join fights to prove their manhood in a self-destructive way. And above all, Natsume, whose dream of success becomes real, but at the price of the loss of her innocence.