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The Asian ApertureLove and Pop (1998)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, February 5, 2012    Share

How far are you willing to go to buy something that you think is going to make you happy? That is the question in Love and Pop, the first live action movie from legendary anime director, Hideaki Anno, who previously gave the world Neon Genesis Evangelion. Based on a novel by Ryu Murakami, Love and Pop tells the story of four high school girls who really just want to enjoy each other’s company and have good times until they graduate. In one scene, bored after studying for finals, like students everywhere, they decide to go to the beach for one last summer before school ends and everyone goes off in separate directions. That bitter sweet time when being young gives way to becoming an adult and facing difficult and mundane responsibilities. However being young with so much burning energy has its drawbacks, mainly no money to go out to have a good time with. That is why the girls turn to Enjo Kousai, compensated dating. Now Enjo Kousai can be simply going out to dinner with an older man or spending time at karaoke or it can also turn into something more serious like sexual favors. Some Japanese high school girls will do anything to keep up with the latest fashion and trends to look cool and that means acquiring money to do so by any means necessary. These are not poor teenagers from working class families but middle class girls living in Suburbia. They really do have anything they need but not all that they want.

Love and Pop begins with a strange dream by Hiromi and then follows her everyday routine of eating a French toast breakfast with her family. Her sister is soon moving out and her father is obsessed with playing with his electric train set. Leaving the house, Hiromi soon meets up with her three friends, Chisa, Nao, and Chieko. As the girls are walking around the shopping area of Shibuya, different men promise money in exchange for their time. Some of these middle aged men want youthful energy that has sadly left them while others have a fetish for cute school uniforms. Hiromi and Chieko meet an older man who won’t settle for no for answer as he offers each girl $70 just to have dinner with him that he will cook. Chieko is on an extreme diet. She reluctantly agrees because Hiromi wants to. They sit around a table while this stranger cooks spaghetti that does look good. Chieko refuses to eat while Hiromi chows down. Finally she gives in and gouges herself on noodles. Nothing strange happens and they both have spending money. Next, the girls are out shopping for swimsuit to look good for that big trip to the beach that is quickly approaching. Hiromi tries on a Topaz ring and then the soft music starts and she falls in love with it. They meet a middle aged man who is willing to pay a few hundred yen to go to karaoke with him. He does have one small request that he demands must wait. So inside the karaoke room there is singing and laughter and the general good time mood that being with friends creates. However, things start to sour for Hiromi. The older man opens up a briefcase that contains small containers filled with grapes. He puts on surgical gloves and using tweezers, he picks up a grape and hands it to one of the girls. He tells them to chew for a few seconds, try not to damage the round shape, and to spit it out when finished. He removes the grapes with spit with tweezers and put them all back into the small containers. The man also tells the girls to make up fake names and fake high schools. This is when Hiromi learns that there are people in the world willing to spend money on girl school spit. She is disturbed by this but the desire for the ring becomes greater and greater.

Later on, the girls give Hiromi a phone so she can listen to message from men who are looking for a date. She meets one guy who wants to go to a market. When meeting him, Hiromi see that he doesn’t take regular baths and has a disgusting spitting habit. He has been kicked out of stores for spitting inside. He tells her that she must go with him to a video store, all the while leading Hiromi on with little lies until something bad happens inside one of the video aisles, forcing her to run out of the store. This should have stopped her from continuing but the desire for the ring is burning and she only needs a few more yen to get it. She meets a stylish young man, played by the always talented Tadanobu Asano, who carries around a stuffed animal that he has named F**ball. He talks to his toy as if it is a real person. That should have disturbed anyone and brought up the red alert. Still, Hiromi thinks that her time with this guy will be short and she will be happy afterwards. She agrees to go to a love hotel with him and everything seems fine at first until he gets weird. While Hiromi is taking a shower, he barges in and begins shouting at her. He tells her that he was going to zap her with a Taser and then rape her unconscious body and run off with her money. Hiromi can do nothing but curl up in the fetal position. Finally he leaves, and she is left alone and naked. She returns the phone to a middle aged man waiting inside a restaurant at a department store. Previously he gave the phone to one of the girls to hang onto for him. Hiromi tells of her shocking experience inside the love hotel. The man tells her that was the man’s way of saying that she had value and that she has a family that loves her. For all his strangeness, this guy was actually helping her by exposing her to the darkside of compensation dating.

Hiromi returns her to her mundane family, which she is now glad to do, and she is sadder and wiser. The ring no longer matters. Things that you buy are only temporary and true happiness has to come from inside. She goes to bed early while musing that “being an adult is difficult” and she doesn’t feel up to it. She also reflects on being jealous of what her friends have like a new computer that Chieko has just bought and Nao’s dancing ability and that is what caused her to descend so far down that she was willing to do anything for a ring. She has a complete change of heart and perspective that is all for the better.

Love and Pop is a visually stunning movie because it was shot entirely with digital cameras and miniature digital cameras. Lots of shots are point of view shots that was created by placing a miniature camera onto a hat and having the actors wear it and walk around. A camera was even placed on the toy train for an interesting shot. The editing was fantastic with several different shots blending together to create a blurry effect. Sometimes when you are out walking everything comes at you from neon signs to stores and it just all blurs up after a while, especially if you are thinking about something. Also when you are a teenage it is common to be confused and the random street scenes blurred really showed off confusion.

Director Hideaki Anno wanted to make a movie that warned about the dangers of compensated dating and he succeeded in Love and Pop. Some of the scenes are disturbing but without shock value, Hiromi would have never matured. The other girls would have just treated compensated dating as some game to play. The dangers would have been ignored. Love and Pop is an interesting slice of life story that is sure to please everyone from art house fans, cult movie fans, to people who just like to watch entertaining movies.

Highly Recommended

5 out of 5 Stars

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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