Featured Film Reviews
Sayaka: The Cute & Careless Girl
Original title: 天然華汁さやか | Tennen kaju Sayaka | Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl
Director: Daigo Udagawa
Running time: 79 Min.
Cast: Yui Iwata | Naofumi Kaneko | Mika Kasahara | Kanae Kibe | Rui Kiriyama | Nezumi Sempai | Taro Suwa
Written by: Miguel Douglas
Sayaka: The Cute & Careless Girl – Review
by Miguel Douglas on October 10, 2011
Sayaka Tsuzumi is a pure and dainty girl with a big H-cup bust. Being a virgin but curious about sex, she’s so into daydreaming that she even moans over a hotdog. She adores Yuki Ito, the handsome athlete and school idol, but she’s almost given up on him thinking he’s totally out of her league. But one day he comes to her and says, “Would you tutor math for me before the exam?” Is he asking for a date or what? If she does it, then what? Sayaka can’t stop her imagination. Meanwhile, she makes friends with three girls– Sora Aoki, Rin Ayakawa, and Shinobu Sakai– all in the same year with her and yearning to have sex. The four establish a group, the Virgins, but what would their activities be in an age of lust? Finally, Sayaka is invited to Yuki’s house. She’s so excited, but what will she do?
Director Daigo Udagawa has found quite a niche. Given his directorial background—which includes titles such as the erotic Sundome franchise and equally sensual Yo-Yo Sexy Girl Cop (2006)—he once again returns to a familiar formula albeit less lewd this time around with Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl. Stemming from the popular comic series by author Sano Kunikazu, the film to some extent subverts the common narrative that is usually applied to the male-centered sexual comedies seen so often in other films. The big difference seen here is the decision to focus on a young high school girl who wants to lose her virginity—a concept not too often explored let alone the focal topic of a film. On the surface, Sayaka’s personality could easily be replaced with that of a male character—from sexual innuendoes constantly finding their way into her life, daydream fantasies, and even the advent of peer pressure to quickly lose her virginity—these are all topics that have been explored within other films, but Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl tries something just a little different in its approach by remaining focused on showing the anxiety of a female concerning such events.
In many ways, Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl subverts many of those preconceptions—or in many cases, stereotypical teenage angst—by allowing its title character to exhibit many traits that are usually reserved for youthful male characters. The film doesn’t direct its focus on the youthful male yearning for a first sexual experience, instead showcasing that youthful females experience the same sexual notions albeit in a much different manner. As this is territory that Udagawa has dealt with in the past, he seems to be much more constrained here in not having the film turn into simply another raunchy display of fanservice, as much of his previous films were. This is not to exclude the fact that Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl does include risqué moments, but it doesn’t seem like these are forcefully done to accomplish a sense of need to appease certain male viewers. The film is seemingly focused on humorously addressing the action of losing one’s virginity, but does it a manner that doesn’t rely solely on the sexual episodes themselves—in fact, for the most part the film refutes them. This is definitely surprising given the main character of the film, Sayaka, who is played here by buxom gravure model Rui Kiriyama. While given a surprisingly subdued lead role considering her career status, the film easily navigates around exploiting her physicality—a route that would have drastically undercut the effectiveness of the film if it decided to do so. Those expecting to see the film as simply another reason to capitalize on gravure models are in for a surprise as Udagawa deftly avoids—for the most part—falling into such pitfalls.
And while Udagawa may be playing it safe here by not totally sexualizing the experience as in his previous films—i.e. Superdome—he is willing to showcase the rather absurd measures that one goes through in order to lose their virginity, or even having the possibility of doing so. While the film does present an alternative to the male-centered sexual comedies that seemingly dominate this particular youth genre, Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl is subsequently pushed back due to technical and thespian qualities. From a technical standpoint, the editing of the film is simply awkward, with scenes held too long and dramatic effect overly exaggerated to the point where it becomes a noticeable distraction when viewing. This aspect of the film translates over to the acting as well, which isn’t as diverse as one would hope and is actually quite rigid. Given that most of the actor/actresses within the film are either relatively new to the acting field and/or gravure models, not much should be expected in this area, but it would’ve been nice to see the acting on par with the seriousness of material at moments throughout the film. The acting also seems very contrived at times, particularly when the timid Sayaka is confronted with her sexual impulses. While humorous in many instances because of these inclinations, the film just isn’t too keen on elaborating on them too long.
In many ways, Sayaka The Cute & Careless Girl is a film that presents some very interesting themes, but it’s not technically sound enough to be memorable as film that adequately dealt with female sexuality. While this doesn’t totally dilute the quality of the film, it does distract from many of the elements that would’ve given the film considerable strength towards its story. It’s compelling to see a narrative that focuses on a female-oriented desire to lose their virginity, and if better crafted would’ve made for an engaging look into contemporary youth within Japan. I personally found this a unique attribute, giving better emphasis on the role of women pertaining to discovering their own sexuality and the dynamics of such. While not too overly simplistic or off-color in its premise, Udagawa has created a film that could easily be considered his most mature film to date, showing his ability as a director to introduce a variety of social issues within a film, all the while still remaining truthful to his risqué-filmmaking roots while avoiding some of the detrimental elements of the genre.