More often that not, sex comedies tend to be the great oxymoron of cinema, rarely delivering the erotic elements and laughs or, even worse, combining the two elements in way that negates each other.  However, it is possible for the form to be done well.  It’s just a matter of keeping the elements balanced and looking for elements to keep the formula fresh.  The amusingly titled Nympho Diver: G-String Festival offers an example of how it can be done, mixing a very Japan-specific cultural concept with plenty of sex and laughs spiced up with some bonus eccentricity.

Nympho Diver: G-String Festival exploits an iconic figure of lustful fantasies in Japan, the pearl diver.  For those not familiar with the concept, the pearl diver or “ama” is a 2000 year-old Japanese profession which involves diving to obtain seafood and pearls.  Ama were usually women and they often dived wearing little more than a loincloth.  As you might imagine, this concept had been exploited for years in Japanese films so it was natural it would eventually become grist for Nikkatsu’s roman porno mill.

The plot here involves a small town seeking to spice up its national profile.  The town’s elders decide to import a quartet of nubile young women to serve as pearl divers.  The young women quickly learn their trade and the men enjoy the fringe benefits of having independent, sexually available young women around.  One of the young lasses is a history student who discovers the two once held a “g-string festival,” which inspires the town to resurrect the custom.  Against this backdrop, there is also a romantic triangle subplot that leads to a catfight and a truly surreal plot twist that resolves the conflict.

Nympho Diver: G-String Festival is as garish and trashy as its title suggests – but if you’re willing to sign on for a title like that, it actually delivers everything it promises.  The female leads are attractive, the story comes up with plenty of occasions for nudity and sex and the economy-minded nature of the Nikkatsu Roman Porno style ensures that it moves at a fast clip (it’s only 69 minutes) and has professional production values.

Better yet, director Atsushi Fujiura knows what the audience is there for and delights in showing every inch of his actresses.  He doesn’t show much actual diving but he does work in a topless beachside catfight, which definitely makes up for that.  He also manages some nice sight gags, including a funny titles sequence in which all the ladies are coerced into coming to town: no dialogue is used and it’s all done via vaudevillian pantomime, accompanied by catchy library music.

That said, the big attraction with Nympho Diver: G-String Festival – beyond the bumping and grinding that occurs every reel – is the irreverent weirdness that gets crammed into every space of the brief storyline in the name of comedy.  For example, the town’s local monk happens to be a perpetually aroused lecher who manages to snare one of the honeys into the local temple’s private chambers.  There’s also the title festival, which involves the lady divers running around in g-strings and nothing else while toting large mockups of a penis and a vagina – culminating in the “merging” of these two items as the crowd cheers.  Best of all, the surprise reveal at the end of one character’s unique obsession is truly gob-smacking.  Without getting into spoilers, it’s safe to say you are incapable of predicting what is revealed in this moment.

In short, Nympho Diver: G-String Festival is probably a throwaway sexploitation film to the eyes of most cineastes – but the culture-specific plot hook and all the eccentric flourishes make it a fun way for exploitation buffs to catch up on an obscure yet entertaining corner of sex comedy history.

DVD Notes: Impulse Films has issued this film on U.S. DVD for the first time and it’s another excellent addition to their Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection.  The anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer looks great and it features new English subtitles to accompany the Japanese mono soundtrack.  The extras are a memorably strange yet skin-packed trailer and a typically strong set of liner notes from Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp.  He gives the reader a quick sketch of the ama subgenre’s history, including plentiful info on Nikkatsu’s entries in this tradition.