Sato Amane might not be a director that is well-known but certain works in his oeuvre did manage to earn some prices. His first short The Pervert (2011), for instance, won the Grand Prix and the Audience Award at the Student Splatter Film Festival. And his 2019 film Shiorinoinmu won the Grand Prix at the Hidden Treasures of Horror festival. Can Amane corroborate his skill and talent with Ayako Tachibana Wants To Go Viral?
Ayako Tachibana (Aika Yamagishi) and Keisuke (Kohei Higashiyama) are a popular VVVideo couple due to their cute and often comical videos. Yet, despite Ayako doing most of the work, Keisuke runs away with most of the credit. As if that wasn’t enough, Keisuke also utilizes his popularity to cheat on Ayako with Yuuka Uchida (Ena Koume) and Saori Hayaka (Yuria Yoshine). Yet, Ayako will get her credit, and her revenge.
Ayako Tachibana Wants To Go Viral can be classified as an erotic horror film. The horror flavour of Amane’s narrative is not only function of horror elements (e.g. sudden sounds, appearances, … etc.), but also due to beautifully constructed narrative structure. While this structure might confuse certain spectator at first, this initial confusion is calculated and heightens the investment of the spectator in the narrative. The tension generated by this confusion as well as the nicely integrated horror elements ensure that the denouement of Ayako’s trajectory is deeply satisfying.
It is, furthermore, via the mixture of horror and eroticism that Amane can deliver his critique of male opportunism and the singular investment of male subjects into their phallic fantasy in an effective and powerful manner (Narra-note 1). Where it not for the horror elements, Ayako Tachibana Wants To Go Viral would fall in the trap of celebrating what it aims to put into question.
Amane puts the male desire to indulge in one’s phallic fantasy – I have what the other desire – radically into question by exploring the problematic nature of Keisuke’s position. Despite Ayako doing all the hard work (filming, editing, … etc.), Keisuke appropriates all the credit to feed his own popularity and phallic desirability. He is, in short, drunk on his phallic fantasy, and need the other, be it female or male, to support his enjoyment of this fantasy.
It is therefore not surprising that Keisuke also searches sexual ways to satisfy this phallic fantasy temporally. He exploits his public phallic desirability or his popularity, a popularity that cannot exists without Ayako’s hard work, to please and indulge in his own phallic fantasy. The fact that pleasing his own fantasy is the main purpose of his sexual escapades is underlined by his attempt to get all the women at his company in his bed but also by the fact that that he, during the sexual act, often watches himself (and Ayako) on VVVideo. Yet, sexual intercourse is not only a masturbatory act with women-in pleasure, but allows some of these women to feel desired by physically tasting his public desirability.
The composition of Ayako Tachibana Wants To Go Viral stands out due to its dynamism, a dynamism that is not only function of the subtle tremble that marks the framing, but also of Amane’s reliance on POV shots. Yet the POV shots are not merely decorative, as they put the spectator in myriad of different position, like Ayako Tachibana’s and Keisuke’s subjective position. In some cases, the spectator is even put in the position of Keisuke’s lovers, forcing him to experience Keisuke’s infidelity from the position of the woman-in-pleasure. This POV-shots are, furthermore, instrumental in heightening the tension or the eroticism of certain sequences.
Amane’s dynamism is, moreover, instrumental in giving his narrative a pleasing and engaging flow. The visual flow is, in some cases, enhanced by rhythmical musical pieces – pieces that subtle dictate the composition. The visual pleasure of the composition, for that matter, depends mainly on the pleasing colour and lighting design. The colour and lighting design heightens the tension of the more horror-like sequences, while eroticizing the sexual moments of the narrative.
Ayako Tachibana Wants To Go Viral might not reach the heights of the classics of the pink genre, but Amane proofs with his narrative that the erotic genre is far from dead. Amane does not only blend horror and eroticism fluidly together, but does so to deliver a satisfying critique of how social media eventually becomes a tool for male subjects to chase their phallic fantasy.
Narra-note 1: The finale beautiful implies that the singular focus on the phallic fantasy is not only destructive but quite deadly.