Review: The Sekkan (The Beginning)
In 1985 a company called U-Production put out a series of videos titled The Sekkan (ザ折檻). Sekkan can be translated as torture or chastisement.
As in English, there are several words with similar meanings to torture in Japanese, with the same subtle differences. Goumon and seme, for example: torture and torment.
It is fitting that the first in this series featured "the king of sm" himself, Shima Shikou. Although it was quite early, this wasn't the first video Shima appeared in and he is still active today. Shima Shikou has been around for a very long time.
The videos were distributed by film studio Nikkatsu as part of their SM Best Collection series.
The first Sekkan movie was directed by the illusive Ijuin Go, which means we don't really know who directed it. As you can see by following the link, the name was used by several directors associated with Nakamura Genji's U-Production, sometimes simultaneously.
The next two Sekkan videos were directed by severe mistress Aoi Mary, a pioneer in the field of hard SM play. She sort of strikes me as the female Shima Shikou.
Aoi once had a famous SM club in Tokyo called Aoyama Blue Chateau. In 1981, famed bakushi Osada Eikichi put on a show there with Matsukawa Nami who worked as an m-jo at the club at the time and then went on to act in some Nikkatsu movies.
This series of videos will not be mistaken for feature films such as the ones in Nikkatsu's Roman Porno line. They have no plot or story to follow. In fact, they are a bit of a hodgepodge, having more the look of a documentary than a polished film.
Of course, they were shot on videotape, not film. Porn had already begun it's long decline into the slimy bowels of video junk by this time. The weird thing, for a film purist like me, is that in one of these videos you can see someone wielding a 35mm movie camera. On Nikkatsu's site it mentions that the "Kineko" system was used.
I believe this is the Japanese rendition of the Kinemascope (Telerecording in the UK) system. Back in the days before videotape, television was sent out live over the air but there was no way to save/archive the footage. So a film camera (35mm or 16mm) was pointed at a video monitor and the footage was subsequently stored on film.
Now, we know that The Sekkan movies were shown in sticky adult theaters in Japan but, since they were shot on video, there has been some speculation as to exactly how they were shown in theaters. Some have expressed doubt that there were video projectors in these theaters. Most likely they were only equipped with film projectors.
If a film camera was pointed at a video monitor in Kinemascope fashion, then these videos could be shown in theaters on film. This may have been the cheapest way to transfer the video to film.
One of my sources was able to contact a veteran Nikkatsu director. He did not work on The Sekkan series so does not have first-hand knowledge of how it was done but he does confirm that video was converted to film, it's just not clear what the exact process was.
"In those films," he says, "we took pictures with video cameras and then we changed them into films. It cost a lot but we wanted the 'live taste', so we used video cameras."
He is exactly right about the "live taste" of video. Many refer to it as the soap opera or nightly news look. It is what I hate about video and love about film. Film doesn't look real like video. It has a dreamy quality. The SM porn aesthetic has degenerated in tandem with the changeover to video cameras.
There is no film-originated footage in any of The Sekkan movies as far as I can tell.
The two stars of the first Sekkan are Shima Shikou and Suetsugu Fujiko. Ms. Suetsugu even says her name, "Fujiko", when she goes over to Shima's pad accompanied by another m-jo. In this part of the video, Shima already has an attractive lady nude and bound to a chair so this scene eventually turns into a three m-jo feast for the eyes. And this is another thing that separates this kind of production from a real film; no one has a different name other than the one they go by in their SM world. Suetsugu refers to Shima as Shima-san, and so on.
The video starts out with a montage of upcoming scenes. However, there is one part featuring the video's co-star, Saotome Hiromi, which we, unfortunately, do not see any more of later. Shima has Saotome crawling on all fours along an old wooden bridge out in the sticks. He holds her rope leash in one hand and has a rod in the other. He prods her to raise one of her shapely legs onto the rail of the bridge. The scene then cuts to Saotome hanging precariously from the bridge, topless, arms bound behind, dangling.
When I first saw this scene years ago, it really gave me the chills. You can't see how far she is off the ground (or maybe there's a river below), but it does create an acute sense of danger. This scene is a prelude to a later video in this series in which a girl is hung upside down from a different bridge.
Sadly, this scene with Saotome is not re-visited in greater detail later in the video although there is a fourth video in this series that came out in 1986 known as the Extra Edition which has another fascinating outdoor scene with Shima and Saotome.
After the montage, we see Suetsugu in Tokyo attired in a beautiful and expensive kimono celebrating Seijin No Hi (Coming of Age Day) with her friends. The age of majority is 20 in Japan so it would seem this is the age of our heroine at this time.
After this we cut to a scene no one could possibly predict or be prepared for. Suetsugu is sitting in a crowded train car. She produces a length of red rope and ties it around one of her ankles. She then runs the rope over a handrail up above and pulls her right leg into the air. In order to do this she must loosen and part her restrictive kimono. Of course, since she is wearing a kimono, she is not wearing any underwear. We can be fairly certain of this because the heavy-handed mosaic pattern makes an appearance here.
Remember, this was 1985. I'm not even sure how they did the censoring in those days. Now, with powerful computers and sophisticated software, this sort of thing can be done much more precisely. Not so in 1985.
At one point, Suetsugu even puts her left leg on the lap of a male passenger seated next to her. After a few seconds, he gets up and changes seats to one across the aisle. I would say he was just trying to get a better view but he had his head down like he was sleeping the entire time.
Do not for a moment think that a hidden camera was used here or the producers filled this train carriage with extras. I will bet you all the yen in my pocket such was not the case. This was guerilla film making at its most primal -- and shocking.
This is not the only time such mind boggling scenes are on display in this series of videos. There is much more to come in parts two and three.
In the next scene we see Suetsugu at home on her bed. Her upper body is ornately bound in rope and she ties herself again like on the train and pleasures herself in a scene that could have been cut by half -- if only to give more time to much better action further down the line.
Next we switch to a mistress and her m-jo which takes place in an ordinary apartment. I'm not quite sure what the purpose of this scene is but, like I said, this video is a hodgepodge of SM shenanigans, more like a documentary minus the burden of having to actually think about the message.
In one touching scene, the two ladies bid each other adieu outside the Hard Rock Cafe; the one in Roppongi, I presume. I'll be. The Hard Rock Cafe does go back a long way in Tokyo.
We are now about halfway through the video and we have some new characters: a guy and his young lady partner exhibiting a variety of SM methods in a relatively spacious apartment. They have a lot of equipment at their disposal. At one point the girl is bound hand and foot with leather straps and hoisted into the air in a modified tanuki position, i.e., she is hanging by her wrists and ankles face up. She then receives a nice candle waxing.
By the 37 minute mark we finally get to the good stuff: Suetsugu and Shima and Saotome in a ryokan. Suetsugu is bound and stretched face up across a large wooden wheel, mouth gagged with rope, and subjected to a pussy shaving and nipple clips.
Saotome is bound by her wrists with one ankle tied to her thigh and raised into the air. Her nipples are also clipped and she is treated to a large vibrator as well as candle wax. A tear trickles down her cheek causing me to want to go back in time 25 years and rescue her.
Cut to the bathroom scene. This isn't an ordinary home variety bathroom. It's quite large and the location of a very bizarre activity indeed.
Shima has a large bowl filled with small eels, all very actively flopping around. Both Suetsugu and Saotome are naked and bound. He first tries his hand with Saotome but it is clear she is not into eels. To his credit, Shima switches to Suetsugo who could not care less about eels although she tries her best in the acting department. The eels eventually get poured all over her.
If you want to test yourself and judge the difference between real fear and play acting, this scene will do it for you.
But this is nothing. Suetsugu is then bound on the floor with her legs spread and pulled over her upper body exposing that area that must be censored per Japanese law. We then see another bowl with a single, much larger eel. Shima grabs the slippery sucker using a towel and then does something with it that I'm simply going to leave to your imagination.
Back to the ryokan. Suetsugu and Saotome are hanging naked from the ceiling, upside down and butt to butt. Now, as anyone who has read anything I've written about Saotome in the past would know, she is my all-time favorite. But I think Shima is a tit man and Suetsugu, who is very well endowed, bears the brunt of most of the tortures in this scene which includes candles, plastic clips, a vibrator and a whip.
Cut and we see Suetsugu back on the wooden wheel and Shima throwing small needles into her exposed flesh. This is probably one of the earliest public needle scenes involving Shima. He later moved up to more sophisticated piercings.
The one hour video ends with a voiceover from Suetsugu as she walks down the middle of a quiet street of small shops and a few passersby. She is once again in her kimono. She stops, hikes up the bottom of the kimono, squats in the middle of the road and...
The first video in The Sekkan series is available here.
This wraps up the first video in The Sekkan series. The next two are pure mistress mayhem and feature completely different characters. Then, as mentioned, an extra edition was put out in 1986 which I will also delve into.
As always, stay tuned.