The Pink Book: The Japanese Eroduction and Its Contexts

Thursday, July 3, 2014
The Pink Book Cover

Edited by Abé Mark Nornes

With essays by Roland Domenig, Kimata Kimihiko, Kirsten Cather, Yuriko Furuhata, Julian Stringer, Andrew Grossman, Sharon Hayashi, Miryam Sas, Michael Arnold, Peter Alilunas and Donald Richie. Also features a fascinating collection of photographs from Tsuda Ichiro’s The Location.

The Japanese eroduction, known locally as the Pink Film (pinku eiga), stands out among its soft-core cousins in other parts of the world for its scale, intimate relationship to the mainstream industry, and its occasional ambition. Pink films are ultra-low budget, soft-core, 35mm narrative feature films. They emerged in the early 1960s and quickly became a significant portion of Japan’s annual output (between 100 and 700 films a year), showing triple bills in their own network of national theater chains. Their success was accomplished in the vacuum left by the crumbling studio system. Today, the industry is itself in its death throes, unable to compete with the more explicit home video market known as AV. Triple bills in air conditioned comfort can no longer compete with the privacy of home. Now is an opportune time to examine the history of the Pink Film, now on the cusp of its disappearance.

Words of praise for The Pink Book

Just as Pink Film was a challenge to fixed ideas about Japanese cinema, being so central to the development of contemporary Japanese film yet existing on the denigrated margins of the movie world, The Pink Book, while containing work by top scholars, is a challenge to academic Japanese cinema studies. It dares scholarship to explore ways to understand the intersections between sex, gender, politics, industry, and history without resorting to safe categories like “art film” or “pop culture”. An independent production like its subject matter, it breaks boundaries with its breadth and diversity, and offers models for where film studies can go.

—Aaron Gerow, Yale University

This strange collection of brains has drawn an untouchable picture of the Pink Cinema. It is not simply a record of their wanderings around the utter darkness of the Japanese soft core sex film world. It is a story—for any reader—more pleasurable than a child’s secret treasure box!

—Adachi Masao, director

Japanese cinema has an unusual history of sexual representation. Where standard Hollywood style kisses were long forbidden in Japanese cinema until the U.S. Occupation, in the 60’s and 70’s a particular type of sex film flourished. Analogous to, but much more stylistically adventurous and widespread than, the American genre of “sexploitation”, Pink Films were differentiated from “Blue” movies by the absence of hard-core sexual action. But beyond that limitation, almost anything was possible in these widescreen, feature length, 35mm treasures where many a Japanese director learned his or her craft.  The fascinating The Pink Book is for anyone who has pondered the odd prohibitions and permissions of Japanese cinema.

­—Linda Williams, UC Berkeley

How to Get a Copy

Free Electronic Versions (PDF and ePub):

Paper Version: A print-to-order paper version is available for purchase. Send a $25 check and a USPS self-addressed Priority Mail label to Irhe Sohn, Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, University of Michigan, 6348 North Quad, 105 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285.