After her successful debut feature-length film, Amiko (2017), a debut that left us wanting for more, and her pleasing contribution to Yamato’s 21th Century Girl (2018), Yoko Yamanaka is finally back with a new short-narrative. Can Yamanaka reaffirm her talent with his narrative?
While meeting her old-high-school friend Kanako (Kotone Furakawa), Natsuki (Toko Miura) suddenly confesses that she avoids, as much as she can, to have sex with his boyfriend, Hiroki (Masaki Nakao). It is not because he is clumsy in bed or because he hurts her, but because the sexual act feels as an invasion. The following day, Natsuki suddenly tells Hiroki she wants to break up with him. The reason? She feels attracted to Kanako.
Yoko Yamanaka’s See You on the Other Side offers a playful exploration of Lacan’s statement that the sexual relationship does not exist – the very idea that, within the sexual act, the male and the female subject never meet each other as such – and the fact that the male subject, approaching the female body with his phallic fantasy, can be a ravage for her as subject.
Both aspects are touched upon in Natsuki’s main complaint about sex – her complaint that she sexual act is not communication or, at least, not the kind of communication that she desires. Her complaint shows that she fully understands that her boyfriend, as male subject, seeks in sex something different that what she is looking for. To articulate it in even more clearer terms, Natsuki rightly perceives that what Hiroki finds and seeks in her female body, i.e. the temporary satisfaction of his phallic fantasy, does not concern her as subject.
Natsuki’s conceptualization of the sexual act as an invasion by the male subject is a beautiful evocation of this truth. The signifier ‘invasion’ as such lays bare that, within the sexual act, the male subject invades the female body in order to satisfy (and fertilize) his fantasmatic pre-occupation with the imaginary phallus. That Hiroki is marked by such phallic pre-occupation, a pre-occupation powered by an irreducibly phallic insecurity, is subtle evoked when Natsuki states that he does not like her drinking because he worries that she might flirt with other guys.
This insecurity is also hinted at in his rather strange reaction on Natsuki’s desire to breakup. Does his defensive reaction, a reaction emphasizing, irrespective of Natsuki’s desire, that the breakup will not happen, ultimately not reveal that he does not need her for her subjectivity (Narra-note 1, Narra-note 2 (spoiler))?
The composition of See You on the Other Side is visually pleasing. However, the aesthetic pleasure of Yamanaka’s narrative is not function of any eye-catching cinematographical artistry, but function of the pleasant play with depth of field and the interaction between the use of subtle camera movement and the refined natural lighting-design.
See You on the Other Side is a splendid short from Yoko Yamanaka. Her visually pleasing composition, which reveals how much she has refined her compositional skills, unearths in a very precise and rather confronting way how, within the sexual act, the male and the female subject never meet each other and how the female body is ultimately nothing other than a playground for men to satisfy their phallic fantasy.
Narra-note 1: What makes Kanako attractive for Natsuki is, in our view, the very possibility to escape the trauma of the sexual encounter.
Narra-note 2: Natsuki’s violent dream underlines nothing other than her desire to escape the very obligation of offering her female body as a sexual object to mend her boyfriend’s phallic insecurities.