Yuriko’s Aroma – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Yuriko is a 30-something aromatherapy masseuse. Her specialty is healing tired souls with her exquisite choice of aromas and her sensitive touch, but she has a dark secret—it’s a 17-year-old high school boy named Tetsuya. Drawn to his special aroma, Yuriko and Tetsuya begin to form an awkward relationship. As Yuriko struggles with her dilemma over Tetsuya, their secret relationship is steadily becoming unraveled.

Yuriko’s Aroma is one film that is hard to define. Allowing for an exploration into the realm of fetishism, the film is equally as engaging as an erotic exposition as it is your standardize romance story—perhaps even more so concerning the former. While many viewers will certainly find the material shown in the film as rather abnormal, it also reminds us of the diverse nature of both individuals and their particular sexual infatuations. While not afraid to explore such a subject, director Kota Yoshida delivers a very intriguing tale regarding two individuals and their handling of such psychological adherences. Although quite awkwardly aware of these elements, the film’s focus on the specific details regarding such fetishisms is where the film primarily succeeds. From its usage of focused shots concerning Yuriko’s significant ability of smell, to the most bizarrely intimate moments shared between Yuriko and Tetsuya, the film weaves its way in and out of showcasing their mutual relationship as well as the destructiveness of their habits.

Building upon a notion of shared secrecy, Yuriko’s Aroma focuses on how an individual’s deepest desire, once exposed, can ultimately free them. In an interested take on intimacy concerning such desires—in this case, that of the sexual—the film explores the interchangeable relationship shared between two people and their confinement within one another. While this presents many humorous moments throughout the film, it’s also a realistic examination into the mindset of people who deal with overwhelming fetishes and the ramifications of giving into such. It should come at no surprise then that what happens to these characters won’t necessarily be perceived as reasonable within the realm of society, but the film is great at showing that moderation is an important aspect in dealing with such behaviors. As with anything regarding fetishes, it’s a difficult subject to address let alone revolve a film around, but Yoshida does an adequate job at giving the audience a look into a world somewhat unfamiliar to most of us, but then presents a story that can make us understand these characters and their actions—regardless if we approve of their behavior or not.

More promptly noticeable, Yuriko’s Aroma remains careful not to become entirely focused on showing the sexual aspect of participating in such outlandish fetishisms. For a film built on the premise of the satisfaction one receives from participating in such indulgences, it remains almost entirely absent of visually showcasing any form of sexual action. This is certainly surprising to say the least, presenting a film that leverages its story above that of simply showing nudity and/or sex to dictate its narrative. While the habitual nature of their fetishes is increasingly shown, the film distances itself from being labeled solely a film about sexual fetishes or fantasy; it seemingly wants its characters to fulfill a calling far from the archetypical cutouts as seen in numerous other films. While one doesn’t learn how or why these conditions originated within these characters—likely resembling realistic behaviors—the considerable direction by Yoshida ultimately transforms film from being a rather immodest look into personal fetishes to that of realizing and accepting one’s own tastes, no matter how strangely allocated they are. This delicate handling of the material is great, mainly because the voyeuristic nature of the film is highly imagined rather than outright shown—which in a bizarre sense makes the film feel even more eroticized than it visually is.

It certainly helps that the film has an exceptional cast to accompany its narrative. Noriko Eguchi and Shota Sometani are wonderful at conveying their respective parts, as well as producing a believable relationship within the film. Considering the age differences of their characters in the film, the relationship is equally as strange as their fetishes—the initials reasons for them coming together is certainly grounded in a need for self-gratification, highlighted through the awkwardness of their rather intimate encounters. Perhaps within the hormonal fueled desires of the film’s characters does Yoshida bring about suggesting that such a thing can bring people together regardless of age or sex. An interesting notion for sure, but Yoshida certainly promotes such an ideal throughout the film—and isn’t afraid of showing the extremities of it either. Save for one rather insignificant scene, the film doesn’t offer yet another jaded attempt at considering such material, and with a running time that’s not terribly long, it remains tightly focused on its characters and their difficult relationship.

Overall, Yuriko’s Aroma remains a strangely befitting film for what it delivers. Considering the rather difficult subject matter, the film is most definitely not for everyone, but it does bring forth a topic that is not highly explored within the realm of general cinema. With subject material often times only showcased within the confinement of Pinku cinema—a genre most associated with sexual fetishism—Yuriko’s Aroma wholly celebrates such a topic with a significant touch of realism. Yoshida has a lot to show with this film, and he creatively showcased through his direction—including that of having a great cast as well. Interspersed between moments of humor and sincerity, the film is a greatly appreciated as an exploration of two individuals most personal desires—all the while still showing how such excesses can lead down a road of rejection, shame, but ultimately redemption. Besides the subjective take on such material, the film is more personally realized than one might think, cultivating in a more appropriate conclusion unlikely envisioned in many other films—and most certainly not as genuine.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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