Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl (1981)
Director: Takashi Kanno
Writers: Chiho Katsura
Starring: Junko Mabuki, Hayano Kumiko, and Yoshiko Saski

The Plot: Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl takes place within the world of amateur pornography. We focus primarily on a small trio who specialize in both upskirt and urine-based pornography. The group is made up of The Master, who is the visionary of this group, his assistant, and their model. This trio travels around Japan looking for various interesting locations to shoot their particular brand of erotica. While out shooting some fetishistic material, the group notices a strange woman following them around town. When they make it back to their apartment, the strange woman eventually introduces herself. She is a lady quite unlike any other model who has worked for The Master before. She is willing to degrade herself in ways that few women would, and she seems more interested in thrills than she does money. Something is different about this woman, however, and not all of her qualities are guaranteed to be good. As she fulfills every wish that The Master has, she also fulfills some goals of her own.

The Review
Thank goodness that we movie geeks have companies that are as diverse and peculiar as Synapse, because if we didn’t then it is likely that most Western film fans would have never heard of the Zoom Up film series. Indeed, I knew very little about these movies myself before taking on this review. An extremely loose film series, the Zoom Up movies have vague ties in the fact that their plots are supposed to lightly revolve around the world of photography. Although this is the general idea, one shouldn’t expect to see a very direct lineage or tie between the movies. Ultimately, after the first movie came out (Zoom Up: Rape Site, which was directed by Kôyû Ohara, the filmmaker who gave us True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell), it seems that the catchy title convinced Nikkatsu producers that this was the perfect material to build a series around. The Beaver Book Girl, and what an amazing subtitle that is, would actually prove to be the third movie within the “series.” It is also quite the perverse little entry into the world of roman porno. Considered roman porno because of it being released by Nikkatsu, this title turns out to be so subversive that it is hard to see it as being anything remotely romantic. Focusing on both Urolagnia and rape, it seems a rather large stretch to consider Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl as an ideal “date” movie.

Keeping with the idea of rape being an important issue in the previous two Zoom Up movies, our film today of course begins with a woman being raped in a dark alley. This scene will later play an important role in the narrative, but for now it simply seems to be an excessive piece of sexual violence. As one might expect from a studio-produced sex movie, this scene is shot with an impeccable eye for the visual. Even moreso than the average movie of this kind. In terms of beautiful/disgusting opening sequences, Takashi Kanno’s movie certainly sets the bar high within these opening moments. Playing with a dazzling use of shadow, this horrific montage displays a high amount of visual flare, despite the cruelty of the content. A man chases a woman down a dark alley, where very few details are legible within the background, and he manages to catch her. He then throws her to the side where she lands on top of a bed that inexplicably lies to the side of this dilapidated set. Due to the fantastical lighting and dreamlike atmosphere, the audience doesn’t even question the fact that there is a bed in the midst of this torn down building that these two characters find themselves within. Once he pins her to the bed, it becomes even more obvious that the director intends to completely obscure the rapists’ face. His victim is slightly more visible, but we don’t actually see her face until the scene ends and she lights a cigarette. A brilliant way to begin his film, Kanno shows a great deal of promise as a filmmaker. Although his career has remained very obscure, he shows here that he was certainly interested in expressing more than just provocation.

The world of roman porno, as defined as “romantic pornography,” would seem to imply a world of innocence. However, Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl completely shatters this image. The Japanese censors would deny people the right to see pubic hair it seems, but making allusions to the fetishistic world of golden showers remains perfectly fine. As Jasper Sharp explains in the liner notes for the Synapse DVD, at this point in the lifespan of the roman porno, Nikkatsu was feeling the pinch of competition as other studios were doing more expressive and explicit works within the sex market. Delving into the deep waters of urine fetishes, The Beaver Book Girl certainly presents itself as something very different from what audiences were likely expecting from Nikkatsu. However, when you delve into such fetishes, one has to fear how limiting such a niche market can be. Thankfully, the urine used in this movie is obviously fake, which makes it much easier for audiences to absorb. However, there are still going to be viewers who walk away feeling slightly disturbed by this content.

Barely an hour long, Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl is, to make a musical reference, more of an extended play than a full album. Obviously it is feature length, but it manages to say everything that it feels is relevant in a very short amount of time. The fetishistic nature of sex, the roles of men and women within sexual dynamics, rape, and sexual expression, these are all issues that pop up during short little film. All of these issues are inevitably brought up, but few are tackled in great depth. Instead, these questions are posed within the short period that this film remains active, and audiences are allowed to decipher what they will from it. The movie is ultimately as deep as you wish to make it, but never fear, there is enough here for both the pure exploitation junkie and the arthouse crowd to walk away quite pleased. While the movie is certainly lacking in many areas, the originality is one area that keeps this one feeling fresh.

The Conclusion
The Beaver Book Girl is a title that will cause many audience members to question where they draw the line. This is a film that deals with content that obviously pushes the limits, and not all audiences will be receptive to that. However, for those of us who are open to this sort of exploitation, the movie remains ridiculously insightful and entertaining. I have found myself talking more about this movie with friends than I ever would have expected, and I suppose that shows that the filmmakers did a good job. It may be a bit high for a movie that barely lasts over the one hour mark, but I’m giving it a four out of five. If you’re looking to be shocked, check this out. If you want to see an arthouse title with plenty of shocks, check this out. If you’re into golden showers, duh, check this one out.