One of the most inter­est­ing things about Nikkatsu’s line of “Roman Porno” soft­core films is how fear­less they were about div­ing into taboo areas of sex­u­al fan­ta­sy. In their attempts to cater to every con­ceiv­able whim or fetish of their audi­ence, Nikkatsu film­mak­ers delved into areas that would be con­sid­ered too taboo or under­ground to be explored in major stu­dio films. Nikkatsu not only allowed this to hap­pen, they also allowed such for­bid­den sub­ject mat­ter to be explored in entire series of films.

Nikkatsu’s Female Teacher series is a good exam­ple of how this stu­dio allowed the film­mak­ers’ col­lec­tive psy­cho­sex­u­al id to run wild on the big screen. This line of films exploit­ed high school set­ting for all man­ner of con­tro­ver­sial kinks: sex­u­al­iza­tion of teenagers, inap­pro­pri­ate con­tact between teach­ers and stu­dents and, as is often the case in Japanese erot­i­ca, heavy themes of rape and S&M. The fact that the­se films were done with pro­fes­sion­al film­mak­ing tech­niques, above-aver­age pro­duc­tion val­ues height­ened the sub­ver­sive edge of the­se films — and the dark con­tent was often sup­port­ed by sur­pris­ing­ly skill­ful script­ing and per­for­mances.

Female Teacher Hunting was released in 1982 and offers a mem­o­rable illus­tra­tion of this sin­gu­lar blend of kink and sto­ry­telling skill. The pro­tag­o­nist is Miss Sakitani (Yuki Kazamatsuri), a teacher who involves her­self in the lives of stu­dents Midori (Kyoko Ito) and Daisuke (Hajime Ishigami) when Daisuke is accused of rap­ing Midori on the school’s grounds. Daisuke ignores the teacher, decid­ing to leave the school and enjoy a sum­mer vaca­tion on his own. Miss Sakitani vaca­tions in the same town, pur­su­ing an affair with a mar­ried man that is doomed to end when he returns to his wife. 

However, Miss Sakitani isn’t pre­pared to give up on her stu­dents. She con­tin­ues to pur­sue both and dis­cov­ers that the sup­posed rape was just a rumor spread by a jeal­ous stu­dent. The news shocks her and she acts out by becom­ing impul­sive with her lover while con­tin­u­ing her attempts to “redeem” her stu­dents. Meanwhile, Daisuke is liv­ing with a bar-own­ing cou­ple who teach him their own kinky lessons about sex and romance. The finale spins out a series of con­fronta­tions between Miss Sakitani, Daisuke and Midori that push the sto­ry into sur­pris­ing and very dark sex­u­al ter­ri­to­ry.

Though the fin­ished film has sex sce­nes through­out its run­ning time, Female Teacher Hunting nev­er feels like sim­ple, straight­for­ward erot­i­ca. Hiroshi Saito’s script is amaz­ing­ly com­plex for such a short (only 65 min­utes) film, with a care­ful struc­ture to how it parcels out plot and char­ac­ter info to the audi­ence and a slow, sim­mer­ing build-up to the con­flicts that dri­ve the sto­ry. When those con­flicts have to be resolved, the script unleash­es a dark view of the world in which men must be sex­u­al­ly aggres­sive to tru­ly be men and wom­en must accept the pas­sive role (but can fig­ure out how to use it as a means of con­trol). The final ten min­utes are tru­ly stun­ning, with char­ac­ters mak­ing choic­es that are shock­ing yet total­ly make sense in the fetish-dri­ven world the sto­ry estab­lish­es.

Director Junichi Suzuki takes an approach that works well with the script’s sub­tle, moody approach, giv­ing it an ele­gant but under­stat­ed visu­al style that plays up ocean/water imagery (a recur­ring motif in the script). He also off­sets the styl­ized sto­ry­line by get­ting straight­for­ward, unaf­fect­ed per­for­mances from the cast. Ito and Ishigami do well in demand­ing roles full of tricky emo­tion­al tex­tures but it’s Kazamatsuri who takes the major hon­ors as the film’s cen­tral fig­ure. She man­ages to be com­pelling yet enig­mat­ic, deft­ly under­play­ing a sex­u­al­ly demand­ing lead role with poise.

Simply put, Female Teacher Hunting might deliv­er all the sex its premise sug­gests but does so in an art­ful style that incor­po­rates a sur­pris­ing amount of psy­cho­log­i­cal com­plex­i­ty. If it wasn’t mar­ket­ed as sex­ploita­tion, it would be easy to mis­take it for art­house fare.

DVD Notes: Impulse Pictures recent­ly gave this film its first U.S. DVD release as part of their Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection. The anamor­phic trans­fer han­dles the film’s cool visu­al style, par­tic­u­lar­ly some chal­leng­ing sce­nes shot at dusk, and the English sub­ti­tles are well-timed and bright. Disc extras are lim­it­ed to a the­atri­cal trail­er but Impulse also includes an infor­ma­tive set of lin­er notes from Jasper Sharp in the DVD case. Sharp offers a sharp analy­sis of the film’s abstract expres­sion of sex­u­al fan­tasies and also cov­ers the his­to­ry of the Female Teacher film series.