Love & Pop – Review
With his first foray into live-action cinema, director Hideaki Anno delivers an exposé on the Japanese practice of compensated dating and the culture that surrounds it. Based on the novel Topaz II by author Ryu Muramaki, Love & Pop presents an intimate vision concerning a subject that is ripe with social controversy within Japan.
Love & Pop is film that addresses an issue that many view as a societal problem that exists within Japan; the practice of compensated dating or enjo kosai in Japanese. While the radicalization of this practice can be taken to its most extreme form, which is essentially selling sex in exchange for money, the milder forms of it still promote an ideology of acceptance and complacency put forth by the very young teenagers who participate within it. The story of Love & Pop follows such a teenager by the name of Hiromi Yoshii (Asuma Miwa) and a group of her friends. Stemming from boredom, graduation from high school, and an uncertain future, the girls decide to delve into the world of enjo kosai amidst the bustling streets of downtown Tokyo. Facing a string of bizarre clients, the girls admittedly stick together and believe that they can overcome the obstacles that stand in their way towards gaining easy money. This feeling of mutual security and companionship is all but lost when greed overcomes Hiromi though. Lusting after an expensive ring she views in a store, Hiromi willingly separates from her group of friends and ventures in pursuit of visiting clients on her own. What transpires is a frightening journey in which Hiromi encounters the pitfalls of practicing enjo kosai.
With Love & Pop, director Hideaki Anno wishes to showcase the true essence of compensated dating within the context of young females. This practice is promoted by a sense of “materialism” in which a society, in this case Japan, has increasingly become encompassed by. The carefree attitudes of the teenagers showcased in the film are totally oblivious to the outside trappings that exists within the realm of compensated dating, and rightly so. They are so infatuated by materialistic endeavors that they blindly forgo any sense of reason and just view clients as a way to acquire money to purchase things, totally unaware of the potentially dangerous consequences. Similarly, the clients in which they encounter are doing the same; in a sense that they do not view the girls as individuals, but rather as a means to an end and a fulfillment of self-satisfaction.
The documentary approach viewed in the film allows the viewer to follow rather intimately Hiromi and her friends as they engage in their daily adventures with compensated dating. This approach finds us witnessing various incidents that are downright awkward, even more so because we feel like we are there with them as they go through it. The escalating bizarreness with each client showcases that they are lacking something in the same way the girls are. This cycle of mutual gain by both parties is acknowledged throughout the course of the film and underneath all the superficiality of it all lurks some very disturbing behavior. The last act epitomizes the entire film in this respect, and its message is a very powerful one to consider.
Alongside the subject matter, Love & Pop is also shot in a very experimental way. I would even suggest Anno wanted to present a documentary-style presentation to further implicate that these events do transpire on a daily basis within Japan. Some of the shots are extremely creative, but this all lends itself to an acquired taste more than anything. I believe this unconventional approach works for what its attempting to do, giving the viewer a close and intimate look into the lives and situations that these characters finds themselves in. If you’re familiar with Anno’s style in his previous work Neon Genesis Evangelion, you can expect to similar filming techniques utilized here.
Overall, Love & Pop is a challenging film to say the least. While given the circumstances regarding the subject matter, it seems that one can view the film as a dire warning towards those on both the practicing and receiving end of enjo kosai. Such issues as self value, respect and friendship are brought up numerous times within the film, and it’s through these attributes that the film delivers a hauntingly poignant statement concerning a societal problem that exists within modern day Japan. It’s a problem that can’t easily be fixed, but films like Love & Pop courageously attempt to address it and more importantly provide an outlet in which to discuss it.
Author: Miguel Douglas
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