Nihon NihilismPink films cover a wide spectrum of fetishes and, especially considering Japan’s love affair with rope-play, it’s not surprising to find a bottomless pit of BDSM themed entries. Normally, I would steer clear of films of this ilk – not because of any moral qualms, it’s just that sadomasochism leaves me a little queasy. Intrigued by its title which references Ryu Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence (1992), with some trepidation, I thought I’d give New Tokyo Decadence: The Slave a whirl. Instead of being dragged into the dark recesses of sadomasochism, I found myself watching a rather down to earth and almost gentle film.


original title: 奴隷 (Dorei)
Japan, 2007, Osamu Satô

New Tokyo Decadence: The Slave

Rina (Rinako Hirasawa) starts a job at a small recruitment office under the watchful eyes of her new boss (Kikujiro Honda). It’s not long before her intense employer works out that his new staff member is a masochist – a fetish Rina discovers some years earlier with the help of her high school maths teacher – and he asks her to become his slave. New Tokyo Decadence features a phenomenal lead performance from Rinako Hirasawa, unsurprising considering the film is based on her own personal experiences. Hirasawa is entirely believable in the role, whether she is struggling with her masochistic identity or embracing it. Thankfully, Hirasawa has the perfect counterpart in Kikujiro Honda, who is equally impressive as her sadistic partner in BDSM.

In her closing narration, Rina thanks the audience for listening to her “boring story”. While the film is in no way boring, the choice of words are appropriate in a sense. Rather than glamourise or demonise the film’s central relationship, it is presented simply as it is: a troublesome yet rewarding relationship. Rina questions whether she loves her partner and whether he loves her, but New Tokyo Decadence is not focused on romance. It is a film about sexuality and the acceptance of one’s sexuality; topics that could potentially be presented in a moralistic and obnoxious manner. Luckily for us, writer Akira Fukuhara steers clear from this sort of dull preaching. And director Osamu Satô ensures that New Tokyo Decadence is stylistic restrained in fitting with its story. That’s not to say the film doesn’t look and sound great. In fact, New Tokyo Decadence has some truly beautiful cinematography, excellent music choices and creative editing (Hirasawa’s honeymoon montage is fantastic). It’s among the best put together pinku eiga I’ve seen, reminding me (a little bit) of, oddly enough, the collaborations between Wong Kar-wai and Christopher Doyle.

There are rough scenes of BDSM in New Tokyo Decadence; things get particularly nasty during a threesome where Rina’s master pushes his slave relationship too far. We are shown a handful of cum-drenched facials, a skinny bespectacled teacher roping up a student and mounting her, and plenty of shots of spread legs and wet panties. But really, if you have an interest in pink cinema, New Tokyo Decadence will not come close to shocking you. Even with my limited experience with BDSM material, I’ve seen far rougher stuff in mainstream Japanese films. This film isn’t trying to offend its audience. Rather it is a well made character piece that manages to remain engaging from start to finish, ending on a wonderfully open and entirely satisfying note. I’m not sure how it would play with the BDSM crowd, but I imagine its humble approach would be very appealing.


New Tokyo Decadence: The Slave is available from Pink Eiga Inc. both in DVD format or as streaming/downloadable VOD. The DVD is non-anamorphic, but the print used is clean and the film looks great (and as good as it ever will). I highly recommend ordering directly from Pink Eiga Inc. – not just because it helps them but they throw in some great goodies too!