“SUFFERING OF NINKO” (“Ninkō no hunan”)— An Irresistible Priest


“SUFFERING OF NINKO” (“Ninkō no junan”)

An Irresistible Priest

Amos Lassen

Ninko (Masato Tsujioka) is a Buddhist priest who is cursed to be sexually irresistible to all around him. He is a novice Buddhist monk living during the Edo period, based at Enmei-ji, a temple in the mountains. He is, in fact, an ideal monk, adhering to asceticism to learn his religion, dutifully cooking, cleaning, and praying every day. Despite his diligence he has a problem – Ninko attracts females and his popularity is truly astounding. When he travels to the local villages asking for alms a cry goes out, “Ninko’s come!” and he is mobbed by many fawning female fans forcing their way past the other monks so they can get their hands on him.

We see him swamped by a wave of beauties bounding in from the bathhouses and back alleys of the town and from the mountain’s forests and it looks great for anyone interested in the fairer sex. For a Buddhist monk, however, sex with women is a sin so it’s not so great for Ninko.

But it isn’t just the ladies who have taken a liking to Ninko. Two monks have their sights set on bedding Ninko and this vexes him just as much. He blames himself for the lust and suffering he causes in others. He feels he needs more training and that he is not virtuous enough. The head of his temple notes that Ninko has dark desires of his own which he must face and conquer if he wants to put others at ease. These dark desires attract a faceless demon that sets from a series of horrific visions that force Ninko to act.

This demonic meeting leads to a journey that takes the film from ribald comedy to dark horror as Ninko meets Kanzo, the manslayer who takes him on a demon-hunting quest. Their mission is to kill Yama-onna, a sexy lady in red rags who lures men with her physical form into having sex during which she sucks their vitality out. The narrative brings Ninko face-to-face with this creature.

The film goes from live-action to animation and draws upon traditional Japanese arts and crafts. Shoji screens, ukiyo-e, and Buddhist illustrations are some of the techniques used to deliver the story and atmosphere and it is done with ease because Norihiro Niwatsukino, a director, writer, producer, special effects supervisor, and animator has used many mediums from film to animation. He brings visual elegance here so that while the cinematography seen on screen might not be mind blowing, the film remains visually engaging. Ninko may not travel to too many different places but the landscape illustrations that depict Ninko’s travels are vividly drawn. Animation is used quite often and it’s exciting at times such as a surreal sequences of slow motion chases led by women in a village that is alternated with interpretive dance that moves back and forth from live-action to animation. The faces of actors are filled with lust before they are transformed into figures that look like they could have come straight from a steamy sex education manual. The use of animation, song and dance, and drama highlight the film’s genre breaking form that makes it so enjoyable. You will want to know whether Ninko conquers his inner-demons and overcomes the lust of others and all I can say is that the ending will take the audience by surprise.

Norihiro Niwatsukino plunges the viewers into the world of Edo-era Japan making them the witnesses of a weird, surreal clash between celibacy (read: repressed sexuality) and libidinous desires (posing as a dark side of sorts).

This is a fairy tale that takes a comedic turn, borrows a road-movie trope or two, flirts with folklore-inspired horror and ends on an ecstatic note, all the while defying genre classification and filled with potential to become a cult film. The film

blends softcore erotica with a sensual dance performance, bringing ancient manuscripts to life through short animated vignettes that are both naughty and beautiful. They also reflect the unrestrained creativity of their author who is credited as producer, director, writer, editor, animator and VFX supervisor.

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