JAPANESE ADULT VIDEO (AV) has a special significance in China. Less and less seen as a tool for masturbation, it has accrued cynical, subversive connotations. Sora Aoi became a model of morality overnight, leading netizens of social strata, including public intellectuals, to vie to be the first to express their fondness for these pornographic productions. Readers eagerly anticipate the announcement of new AV-related Chinese-language publications, and Adult Video Kakumeishi is no exception. The book is not only the first Chinese-language history of AV, but also the first text on this subject to be published in Simplified Chinese. The level of attention it has earned may be second only to what has is considered the first Chinese book of AV: Ching-Siu Tong’s AV On Location.
Written by AV critic TDC Fujiki, Adult Video Kakumeishi provides a chronological account spanning 40 years: a detailed retrospective on an industry that has become a major symbol of Japan. It begins in the 1960s, when major Japanese film studios, threatened by the rising popularity of television, began producing low-budget soft-core pornography. The industry progressed in step with filmmaking and projection technologies, but even today, it remains in a gray area of ambiguous legality. In addition to tracing the intertwined development of technology and the AV industry, the book also focuses on the gradual breakthroughs in ethical restrictions and censorship, enumerating various key events and people, from the ban on showing pubic hair to the Tokyo Hot-type unrated films. The book also calls for the complete legalization of AV and the rescindment of restrictions, as implied by its original title in Japanese: A History of the Adult Video Revolution.
Regrettably, the book is serious and dry to a fault, and probably belongs on a shelf next to Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, rather than on a featured display of cultural bestsellers. The title page is beautiful, but beyond that there is not a single picture or illustration in the entire book (the Chinese censorship system is not to blame; the Japanese edition is no different). Moreover, even the paragraphs describing specific scenes lack any storytelling finesse. It is a dull read. A further flaw is that Chinese readers are unlikely to have seen any of the films described in the book. The films and people mentioned by the author largely date to the 1970s-90s; the most recent film he mentions is Sora Aoi’s first film after signing with S1 in 2004. For Chinese fans of the genre who did not have regular contact with Japanese AV until after 2004, familiar names are entirely absent from Fujiki’s book. In addition, the author only traces technological developments in the field to the beginning of the twenty-first century, and he makes no mention of the dramatic effect that the Internet has had on the global AV industry. At an event held by VR Japan in Tokyo a few months ago, Tenga, a manufacturer of masturbation aids, exhibited a simulated sex system developed in cooperation with Oculus Rift (a virtual reality headset display) and Novint Falcon (a haptic feedback controller). Given such rapid developments in technology, a book that concludes with DVD distribution is unlikely to shed much light on the modern state of affairs.
At present, Adult Video Kakumeishi is the only Chinese text of its kind, but that does not make it the best option available. The only readers likely to find this text satisfying are students preparing bibliographies for college papers. Those not merely seeking quotable passages ought to find a copy of A Dictionary of AV from Hong Kong’s Up Publications, which provides a general taxonomy of Japanese AV, including pronunciations and explanations of common terms and proper names. It is quite useful for understanding titles and locating films. As for those well-intentioned readers hoping to learn more about the societal implications of J-porn: you are likely to find another recent book from Up Publications, The Phenomenology of Sora Aoi: New Media and the Sale of Image, a much more stimulating read.