Or everything you always wanted to know about Japanese erotic bondage when you suddenly realized that you didn't speak Japanese
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The 10 Best Kinbaku Films and Videos Ever Produced
(imho) - Part 2
by Master "K"
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Director Hiroki cut his teeth in the pinku eiga (adult film) world and he brings that insider’s knowledge to what is basically a bittersweet romantic comedy chronicling the trials and tribulations of an SM novelist.
What Hiroki and his talented cast get exactly right is that the key point of the SM power play, as is so often forgotten, is that both partners consent to acting out their fantasies -- the "victim" in those scenes is a paid model who laughs as she helps tie up her own knots and addresses the writer as "sensei" (teacher/master) while it’s the SM writer who truly suffers.
Please join me next time as we continue our exploration into the fascinating subject of "Kinbaku and Art!"
5. Nawa-etsu (Rope Joy) series - Art Video - 2004-2008 (VHS and DVD, no subtitles)
And yet, the production is so well done and the subject so historically important for so many reasons that I finally realized it would be impossible NOT to include this title; and at number 3 at that!
The marvelous Osugi Ren plays the eponymous narrator of the piece, a successful SM author who recounts the details of why his wife left him some 20 years before due to his preoccupation with the more intellectual side of the sexual act as opposed to the physical. Immersed in his own fantasies, he feverishly documents staged SM scenarios (featuring Kinbaku by the great Yukimura Haruki) acted out in his living room by his young assistant and "rope expert."
Eventually, bored with the lack of emotional depth in the relationship with the American and now fascinated by SM, the wife moves on to the assistant in a last ditch attempt to provoke some degree of interest from her husband, a man who is more prone to SM ideas than the more carnal reality behind them.
What’s marvelous about the film is that, in much the same manner as the excellent US indie film "Secretary" from the same year, the SM material, despite some strong scenes, hardly exists for the sake of exploitation in its own right but rather as a light-hearted comic drama set against this backdrop; a post-modern pinku if you will. The bondage scenes are well done but not staged solely for the sake of titillation and for the most part the film concentrates on the emotional trajectories of Osugi’s and his wife's characters.
For number two on this list I've chosen what I consider to be the best fiction film yet produced that features Kinbaku. My judgement is based on the intelligence of the script, the high quality of the production, the excellence of the acting and direction and, of course, the skillful use of Kinbaku.
I feel a great sense of peace watching these lovely programs and I come away marveling at Takumi's skill and, of course, that of his legendary teacher. However, one fair warning. As clear and easy to follow as this "how to" is, several of the ties are very difficult to duplicate. Such is the challenge of simple perfection. A must see.
This is because the subject and "star" of this documentary is the legendary Minomura Kou (real name Toshiyuki Suma) who, as I describe him in his lengthy biography in "The Beauty of Kinbaku," was "quite simply one of the most multi-talented and accomplished persons ever to work in the SM field in Japan. Famous as one of the first editors of the legendary Kitan Club magazine and then as the creator of Uramado magazine in the first "golden age" of SM publishing in the 1950s, he was also a novelist, short-story writer, film critic, essayist, columnist, bakushi, photographer, painter, book jacket illustrator, magazine illustrator, "adviser" to SM Kitan (formally Abu Hunter), SM Select and SM Collector magazines in the "second wave" of SM publications in the 1970s and a member of Itoh Seiu’s artistic inner circle in post war Japan." In short, a genius.
Like his illustrious predecessor, Naka has also been fortunate in that he has been able to practice his art in various commercial venues over the years. For instance, while the DVD and magazine BDSM business was still thriving in Japan, Naka was able to work for several production companies specializing in AV (adult video) films and videos. Beginning in the late 1990's he did many projects for the Cinemagic company and even more for the Art Video company. Many of these would qualify as low grade pornography but, on one occasion at least, something remarkable happened.
However, what sets this series apart and makes it truly special is the elegance of its production. The settings, lighting, camera work and editing are all first rate and would do credit to a big budget feature film. Perhaps this is due to the director; a man who went by the name Zou and with whom Naka is no longer associated but who was obviously a major visual talent.
In truth, it's hard to know how to classify the series. They're not narrative/storyline pieces, neither are they documentaries nor "how to's." Each 50 minute video consists entirely and only of Naka skillfully tying a lovely model in a typical Japanese setting (tatami room, bath house, cellar, etc.) while the camera simply observes and records.
Bondage Skills Form Treasury (in 4 volumes) - Bakutomo - kai - 2005-2006
It is surprisingly difficult to make an effective, artistic Kinbaku documentary, fiction or "how to" film or video. And, in many ways, the simpler the presentation, the more difficult it is to achieve excellence. I had this brought home to me quite forcefully and to my cost recently when a well intentioned Kinbaku video involving top name people that I had made a modest investment in a few years ago was finally released. It featured straight forward rope sessions with various artists and models and seemed to have all the ingredients for success. Unfortunately, upon viewing it I realized to my disappointment that it had been compromised by "arty" editing, poor music, a camera that never seemed to be in the right place at the right time for clarity and (imho) a general air of misogyny.
My friend Osada Steve once remarked that Takumi was, "one of the least known major Japanese rope talents in the West." I tend to agree. Born in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, he first worked in the Kinbaku/BDSM field as an editor for several SM publications in the 1980's and 90's. However, it was in 1996 that Takumi really began to be noticed when he helped establish the Bakutomo-kai organization with the great Akechi Denki to promote the dissemination of sophisticated bondage techniques. One of the notable results of that collaboration is this superb set of programs.
A wise, very intelligent and funny film. And for those interested in reading the source material, I'm happy to report that the novella the film was based upon is available in an excellent English translation (along with three other BDSM oriented stories by Oniroku Dan) from Vertical Press under the title, "Season of Infidelity." Enjoy!
Nawa-etsu (Rope Joy) series - Art Video - 2004-2008
Just a few years ago the name Naka Akira wouldn't have meant much to Western rope lovers. However, now that he has traveled to Europe, Russia and North America showing his remarkable brand of Kinbaku, this very skilled and still young(ish) bakushi has become admired the world over.
As the only named deshi (student) to the great Nureki Chimuo, Naka carries with him a great legacy of Kinbaku tradition. His style of shibari is based directly on that of his famous mentor and one can easily see many of Nureki sensei's classic and signature rope stylings in his student's work.
This was his beautifully executed Nawa-etsu ("Rope Joy") series from Art Video which ran (approximately) from 2004 to 2008 and resulted in over a dozen titles. What's especially unusual about the series is that it was produced by Art Video, a company known more for its hard core pornography than art with a capital "A." Unlike the company's more typical product, the "Rope Joy" series was devoted completely to rope bondage without the "distractions" of SM play and hard core sex.
3. Jouen (The World of Minomura Kou) - Cinemagic - 1989 (VHS and DVD, no subtitles)
Of all the notable productions I considered for this list, this is the one I debated the longest about. The reasons for my hesitancy are obvious. Since the video was made in 1989, it's fairly hard (but not impossible) to find. On top of that, for years it was only on VHS and there are no subtitles. And if that weren't bad enough it's a documentary with many segments of "talking heads" which will be unintelligible to the non Japanese speaker!
The video features an astonishing array of Kinbaku luminaries of the time and some of the highlights include:
Jouen was produced in 1989 (just three years before Minomura's death) for Cinemagic by Syoichi Yoshimura and directed by the great rope master Yukimura Haruki. It is clearly a labor of love and a tribute to the great artist and, as such, is probably one of the best things ever done by the well known AV company.
Minomura himself talking about his life and career and how he originally wanted to be an artist, attending an art school in Kyoto. He shows letters he received from Itoh Seiu (the "father" of modern Kinbaku), whom he said accepted him as a deshi (student/disciple). Minomura also tells on camera for the first time his oft quoted (and some would say apocryphal) formative story about seeing his mother tied up in a storehouse, as well as recalling his experiences during the war and how they contributed to his interest in shibari and seme.
The great SM novelist Dan Oniroku ("Flower and Snake") describing how he met Minomura and their work together.
Sakuragi Tetsuro (former editor of SM Select) talking about working with Minomura when he was employed as a consultant to the magazine and artist under his legendary Kita Reiko name.
Directed by the very talented and award winning Hiroki Ryuichi and based on the novella "Season of Infidelity" by legendary author Dan Oniroku, this film is simply one of the most thoughtful cinematic efforts on the subject of BDSM I've ever seen. And it's a comedy!
To choose the best Kinbaku film or series of all time is obviously fraught with difficulties and subject to withering criticism. However, given that many of my readers are interested in learning how to do Kinbaku and given the historical nature of the above title, I'm confident a solid argument can be made for this set of vids coming in at or close to the top of anyone's list.
For those interested there is much more information on all of the people and videos mentioned in this article in "The Beauty of Kinbaku."
The production in these DVD's is simplicity itself. A modest, nicely lit tatami room set, elegant music, two camera angles that gracefully cut back and forth for variety and clarity and a master bakushi doing fabulous, safe and intricate rope work (in the style of Akechi Denki) on a succession of lovely models. We watch each tie from beginning to end with no cuts. The models never intrude or distract by "performing" but instead naturally and subtly react to each tie. The camera is always in the right place at the right time to show the viewer (or student) exactly how each tie is done.
In any case, the only appropriate description for the "Rope Joy" video series would be rope art studies and, at their elegant, visual best, they are truly fine examples of kinbaku-bi, "the beauty of traditional shibari art."
Because of their unusual approach and remarkable quality and because of Naka's skills as a rope artist, this series definitely merits a place on this list.
4. Bondage Skills Form Treasury (in 4 volumes) - Bakutomo - kai - 2005-2006 (DVD, no subtitles)
As I say, simplicity itself and if these programs were only a record of Takumi's formidable skills they would be worth watching by any Kinbaku lover. However, what sets this series apart and requires that I include it on this list is that it is possibly the last appearance on screen of Akechi Denki himself, who passed away in 2005.
Akechi Denki sensei appears in the first two DVDs of the series. Alternating with Takumi, he shows his classic, signature hishi (diamond) gote as well as a beautiful kikkou shibari and an unusual version of an agura shibari. For his part, in the first two DVDs, Takumi offers a beautiful water caltrop style of shibari and the more unusual tawara (straw bag) shibari. (Please note, for complete descriptions of all these ties please see the Glossary in "The Beauty of Kinbaku.")
Miura Takumi is alone in the last two DVD's in the set but the spirit of the great Akechi Denki is never far away. With quite marvelous skill he offers such classics as the ushirode gassho (reverse prayer) shibari, kata-ashi zuri and tengu (demon) tie, among others, each intricately done in the baroque, complex style that Akechi Denki made famous.
Happy Holidays from Master "K" - A Virtual Toast to You the Reader in Gratitude
Twine: Master "K", "Model": Entwine Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California
Last time we counted down numbers 10 - 6 of the "Top 10 Kinbaku Films/Videos of all Time." Here are the rest; the best of the best!
Jouen (The World of Minomura Kou) - Cinemagic - 1989
Arisue Go tying on screen and commenting most revealingly that he does "Minomura-style rope." "And what is that," Yukimura asks off camera? "Minomura’s way of tying didn't leave marks. It looks tight but it’s actually quite loose." A useful technique for tying for magazines, films or securing particularly sensitive newbies!
Now, as I've said, if all this video had to offer was talking head commentaries it would be hopeless for the non Japanese speaker. However, fortunately, there's much more.
Most notably, Minomura's great friend and protege Nureki Chimuo is often on hand to do some wonderful and artistic rope. In one scene Nureki does a suspension and Minomura Kou comments amusingly that Seiu told him he ought to do suspensions but that he, "didn't care for them." In another, Nureki does an intricate arm tie on a model, using just one rope (ippon nawa).
And if seeing the great Minomura, various legendary Kinbaku figures and the Kinbaku wasn't enough, there are also numerous looks at some of Minomura's (Kita Reiko's) fabulous art, including his most famous piece, a wonderful kata-ashi zuri (a one leg up tie), which Nureki tries to recreate on a living model.
As I said, how could I not include it?
2. I Am an SM Writer - Gold View Co./Asian Crush - 2000 (DVD, English subtitles)
I Am an SM Writer - Gold View Co./Asian Crush - 2000
Oblivious to his attractive wife's own burgeoning sexuality, he fails to notice her increasing interest in her tennis partner, a brash young American hunk, until the obvious is pointed out to him by the assistant. His reaction? After the initial rage he scribbles down the details of their imagined liaison for use in his work.
1. Chimuo Nureki's Rope World series 1-8 - Cinemagic - 1989 (VHS, no subtitles)
Cover Vol. 1: Chimuo Nureki's Rope World series 1-8 - Cinemagic - 1989
Nureki Chimuo was arguably the busiest bakushi in Japan and at the height of his powers when this series was made by Cinemagic in 1989. Without question in those years he was the go to guy when it came to tying for magazines and videos. As explained to me long ago, this was simply because he was fast, creative and safe. In short, the best in the business.
Because of this dominance, his Kinbaku served as a model for many of the rope practitioners that came after him; many of whom expanded upon Nureki's techniques and even departed from them as they explored their own areas of interest, such as SM stage performance, one of the few venues Nureki never had any interest in. In short, this nicely and simply produced series of video "how to's" gives the viewer the perfect tutorial on his techniques; a Nureki 101 course if you will. As such, it's a wonderful starting off point for any serious student of the Japanese tying arts.
Each video includes approximately four ties presented straightforwardly with a variety of attractive models. Though Nureki chats throughout the programs the presentations are so clear that even the non Japanese speaker can easily follow them. All of the classic ties (gote, ebi, kata-ashi, etc.) are included and it's fascinating to compare the polished presentations here with Nureki's first foray into on screen Kinbaku education in 1982 (please see number 9 of this list in the previous post).
And speaking of Nureki's other video work, one word of warning. This famous bakushi did a number of "how to" series over the years, including another set for Cinemagic when this first foray proved successful! Although all of his instructionals are worth viewing, for someone interested in learning the fundamentals of how to tie like a Japanese master, it's this series of eight titles that began in 1989 where I feel everything came together most successfully for the viewer and/or student.
And there you have it. The ten best Kinbaku films and videos of all time (imho). Could others have been included or some of these left out? Of course! That's the fun in making lists!!
In fact, if I had decided to do a "baker's dozen" of films I could have easily included Akechi Denki's wonderful "Secrets of Shibari" "how to" from 1997 or, perhaps, one or two of the many "Flower and Snake" titles; say the first one from Nikkatsu Studios in 1974 (with Kinbaku by the wonderful Urado Hiroshi) or the ultra slick "Flower and Snake 2 - Paris" from 2005 (with Kinbaku by Arisue Go). However, the Akechi Denki title is almost impossible to find and, for me, the other fiction films I've included in this list are just that much more successful in terms of intelligence, execution and entertainment value. But that's what makes horse races!
Such is definitely NOT the case with the wonderful series of elegant Kinbaku "how-to's" made by Takumi Miura in 2005-2006 and done with the simplest of means which deservedly takes its place at number four on this "best of" list.