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Edo Porn - Hokusai Manga (Shindo Kaneto 1981)


Edo Porn
[Hokusai Manga]

Genre: Dramatized Biography of Artist Hokusai Katsushika

review in one breath

This is a biographical film which follows the struggles of Edo-era artist Hokusai from his poorest beginnings to his famed accomplishments, including his notorious libidinous drawings. Though risque in much of what is depicts, this comes across as a straight-forward jidai-geki exploring a well-known historical figure's life and obsessions.


Despite the intriguing English title given this film, Edo Porn is in fact a historical biography of Edo-era artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Hokusai is one of the most well-known Ukiyo-e artists, whose works combine woodblock printing, colored inks, and a very stylized depiction of landscapes and characters. The Japanese title of this film is Hokusai Manga, which is the name of the 13 volume sketchbook he published around 1814. This work, and his very well-received collection of woodblock prints entitled Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku Sanjuurokkei) gained him widespread fame while he was alive and even greater renown by subsequent generations.

A subset of the drawings contained in the Hokusai Manga were shunga depicting the extremely amorous exploits between lovers in various revealing poses. Thus shunga were in essence the pornography of the Edo-era, an artistic tradition Hokusai thoroughly immersed himself in. One particularly infamous/notorious theme pursued by Hokusai was of an orgasmic woman being erotically overcome by a large tentacled octopus. It probably would not take much effort to suggest that Hokusai is here the grand-daddy of all contemporary tentacle hentai, but that particular discussion would lead us far far down an entirely different path.

The film covers the career of Hokusai, starting with his very poor and drunken beginnings through his key successes, eventual fame and last years of life. It covers his creative struggles with his major accomplishments, including the Manga, his time spent drawing Mount Fuji, and of course the Amorous Octopus. But the narrative also goes well beyond these obvious biographical elements and includes many other artistic accomplishments and personal relationships.

Human relationships covered herein include that between Hokusai and his daughter who stood beside him throughout the entirety of his life. The troublesome dynamic between he and his father is also depicted, including his father's suicide. And Hokusai's fascination and obsession with the strikingly beautiful model Onae also adds plenty of intrique and inner turmoil to the plot.

But clearly the most profound and important relation explored is that between Hokusai and Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848) a personal friend of Hokutai's who would go on to become Japan's first professional writer. Kyokutai is the author of the epic 106 volume Nanso¬ć Satomi Hakkenden or "Legend of the Eight Dog Samurais". This amazing contiguous tale follows the brave and honorable exploits of eight brothers of samurai rank as they roam throughout the country encountering various challenges. The tale has been readapted many times for contemporary audiences including the 1990 and 1993 anime series The Hakkenden and Kinji Fukasaku's 1983 film Legend of the Eight Samurai.

Hokusai provided the illustrations for an earlier work by Kyokutei, a period covered in this film. By the time Kyokutei was writing the Hakkenden, their friendship had run into hardship and a different illustrator was hired for the enormous work.

This 1981 film is the work of Onibaba director Shindo Kaneto and stars a range of top talent including Jo Shishido, Toshiyuki Nishida as Kyokutei, and Ken Ogata as Hokusai.


This is a rather straight-forward biography of a very well-known historical figure, chocked full of nudity and erotic charicature. It is clearly within the jidai-geki (historical piece) genre and quite thoroughly depicts the more low-brow aspects of life in Edo. Bathhouses, prostitutes, drunkeness and seedy pleasures are brought to the foreground, while depictions of samurai, nobillity and politics are nowhere to be found.

The Japanese public and history in general remember Hokusai in a highly favorable light, and here, despite his hedonistic fixations (which dominate this film's storyline) he emerges as a very noble and disciplined individual exemplifying the highly preferred qualities of tenacity and utter dedication to one's work.

This is worth seeing as a historical piece and as a study in the life of Katsushika Hokusai. Despite some infused humor, this film comes across as a rather serious treatment of the subject matter.

Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VCD

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Rather straight-forward biographical depiction of Edo-era artist Hokusai. No lucky orgasmic octopus was harmed in the making of this movie. Edo-era eroticism up the wazzoo (and the octopus' snout!) Despite the proliferate bOObies, you will definitely learn some history here!

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