Japanese perverts and rapists have a strange obsession with the subway. Most folks even outside of Japan will have heard tales of girls being molested on crowded trains in Tokyo as they cry for help and receive none from the passengers. The subway in Tokyo is the perfect place for a creep to conduct his (or her – but mostly his) business. The peak hour in Tokyo is so overwhelmingly busy that slimy hands can easily find their way on to behinds and breasts without the risk of being caught. Yep, horrible stuff.

Having been on the subway in Tokyo, I can say that, even without being molested, it’s a strange experience. It is generally utterly silent – no matter how busy it is – and if a drunken gaijin happens to be making a lot of noise, it is politely – almost inhumanly – ignored. Take the Petit Exposure porno series as an example. In the original – the only one I’ve seen – the filmmakers follow Sonan, an eighteen year old Japanese schoolgirl, as she conducts sexual acts in public. It climaxes on the subway. Sonan and some guy have sex while the commuters pretend to read their papers paying them no attention. It’s surreal.

The Japanese subway seems to have developed beyond an opportunistic playground for molesters to a genuine fetish. Recently, I was read a book called Tokyo Vice, written by Jake Adelstein (it’s a great book, Adelstein is an American who worked in Japan as a journalist before being chased out by the yakuza), in one chapter Adelstein describes some of the absurd sex clubs in Kabukichō – one is subway themed. Men can sit on a fake subway and be molested by a girl. Or, if they want the complete experience, they can pay the extra yen and organise for it to take place on an actual subway – hot! The role-reversal is apparently what made this experience a hit with sweaty salary men.

Anyway, I’m getting carried away. The film I’m looking at today is the luridly titled Subway Serial Rape – a film that, despite its exploitative intentions, explores some of the aforementioned territory relating to crime on the subway.


original title: Chikatetsu renzoku reipu (地下鉄連続レイプ)
1985, Shûji Kataoka

Subway Serial Rape begins with our leading man Nozawa, a sour yakuza, having drinks at a hostess club. He is served by Rinko, a hostess who claims she never forgets a face. After mildly insulting Rinko, Nozawa leaves. He steals a car, then proceeds to violently rob a group of men of a suitcase full of drugs – he kills all but one, who only gets a brief look at him. These drugs are the property of his boss. Nozawa escapes to the subway, which Rinko – the softly spoken hostess – happens to be on. Three rowdy young men storm onto the subway and attack Rinko. They viciously rape her. The passengers do nothing to help. Rinko sees Nozawa and begs him to help, but he doesn’t, afraid of becoming involved and exposing his traitorous theft to his gang. The three rapists escape and only then does a passenger move to help Rinko. Rinko takes her story to the police. The media catches on and the search for witnesses begin. Nozawa, scared of being discovered by the media, kidnaps Rinko and uses the drugs he has stolen to place her in an opium haze.

The leads meet before Rinko’s rape

Subway Serial Rape is the first of four subway rape themed films (wow, there’s something I never thought I’d type), and, it’s actually quite a watchable little film rather than being the nihilistic nightmare that its title suggests. An interesting mix of (reasonably graphic) softcore pinku and crime, Subway Serial Rape is short and snappy. The story is straightforward and, ignoring a few leaps of logic, is somewhat absorbing. The film’s final act is particularly impressive as Rinko attempts to escape the clutches of the paranoid Nozawa. The rape scenes are grim, as expected, but thankfully they are not overly drawn out to the point that the film becomes unbearable. Make no mistake, Subway Serial Rape is a nasty film, but it is nowhere near the level of misanthropy of some of the other titles I’ve reviewed for Nihon Nihilism. By far, the most shocking scene in Subway Serial Rape is the subway rape itself. And it is not so much the physical act of rape that makes it so disturbing, but the reactions – or lack there of – of the passengers. Simple as it may seem, it is a damning acknowledgement of a disturbing issue.

Passengers ignore Rinko’s pleas

Subway Serial Rape is tightly directed by Shûji Kataoka. He keeps a fast pace and only slows down for a few obligatory pornographic moments. I really dug the gloomy 1980s aesthetics. It probably helped that the copy I watched was ripped from a VHS, but the film has a sleazy atmosphere that only a film from this period could produce. Subway Serial Rape was clearly shot cheaply using real locations and limited lighting sources, other than a few intense floodlights used to a nice effect. The cheap visuals only add to the experience, creating a dirty and dense mood that penetrates through every scene – even the softcore lesbian sex scene. I also loved Subway Serial Rape‘s rad soundtrack. Check out the title track:

An uncharacteristically stylised moment

Subway Serial Rape isn’t disturbing enough to keep you awake at night, nor is it nihilistic enough to make you want to blow your brains out. It’s not even grimy enough to leave you wanting a shower. At most, you’ll want to splash a handful of soapy water on your face. It is, however, a nice way to fill an hour (yes, it’s that short). If you dig yakuza flicks and like your pinku cinema gritty, then I’d say there’s a damn good chance you’ll enjoy Subway Serial Rape.

Doom and gloom on the chikatetsu