Netflix just released a trailer for Season 2 of The Naked Director, a goofy quasi-autobiographical comedy-drama about the history of the Japanese adult film industry. The show is proof that not every Japanese show is good and not every Japanese show made by Netflix is good.
The Naked Director is based on a non-fiction novel by Nobuhiro Motohashi about the life and career of Toru Muranishi, a director of adult video movies who tried all kinds of innovative and experimental approaches how he shot his movies in content, form, and technique. He was considered a pioneer in the world of adult filmmaking. Season 1 charted the rise of Muranishi (played with a cocktail of "aw shucks" goofiness and laser-visioned determination by Takayuki Yamada) from lowly encyclopedia salesman to quasi-cinematic auteur of VHS smut at the top of his game in the boom years of the 1980s. Muranishi became a cult figure and folk hero in the eyes of the rebellious and progressive parts of Japan.
The show is as if you imagined The Sopranos set in the world of the Japanese adult film industry. Muranishi is the lone artist in a world of crass sexploitation and cold commerce. As successful as he gets, his world is constantly on the verge of collapsing, in danger of arrest, being shut down by the police, the stigma of shame and guilt constantly looming over his head and everyone who works with him. This is why Muranishi is The Naked Director. Season 2 will chart the bubble bursting in Japan and the economic downturn, coinciding with Muranishi's downfall.
The Naked Director tells an interesting story, but it is not necessarily a good show. Its point of view is entirely male. While Netflix worked hard not to present the sex scenes as sexist or demeaning to the women, the general viewpoint of the show is very much a male Japanese one, which is still hugely sexist. The women in the story are still props in Muranishi's stories and he never really attains any real self-awareness as he careens through his life like it's a rollercoaster heading over the peak. The series takes the view that it's all okay because Muranishi is a lovable goofball. The show's attitude is very typical of a retrograde Japanese male lens, written for men by men. Maybe the Netflix algorithms showed there were enough viewers to greenlit a second season. Maybe season 2 is the payoff to this fictional saga of Toru Muranishi, the canary in the coal mine of the Japanese adult entertainment industry and Japan's boom-and-bust years.
The Naked Director is streaming on Netflix. Season 2 begins on June 24th.
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