The incredibly strange movies and even stranger musical recordings of Japan’s original Bad Girl.
Reiko Ike was one of the leading stars of Japan’s Pinky Violence films in the 1970s – and arguably the most controversial, from her career start in 1971’s Hot Springs Mimizu Geisha when she claimed – falsely – to have been just sixteen when the film was made. The claim was a publicity-seeking lie – she was actually eighteen – but the scandal did no harm either to the film or to Ike (must we point out that times were very different back then), who quickly became one of the leading stars of Japan’s burgeoning pink cinema – the country’s unique variation on the softcore movie. Within a couple of years, she would abandon the shamelessly erotic for the more BDSM-flavoured delinquent schoolgirl genre that was big at the time and blurred with the women-in-prison movie to mix sex, violence and action in films like Sex and Fury and the Terror Female High School series. Her career lasted until the end of the decade when a series of scandals – arrests for drugs and illegal gambling, which seems a very Japanese sort of disgrace – helped end her career. The shifting tastes of audiences didn’t help either – in truth, her Seventies film career was not much less reduced than that of fellow icons like Meiko Kaji, but there would be no revival for her even as international awareness of her films increased in the 21st century. She made her last film in 1979 and effectively vanished.
At the height of her fame as a sex icon, Ike released an LP of ‘showa kayo’ easy listening pop, entitled 恍惚の世界, which has been issued with various English language titles, most notably You, Baby and World of Ecstasy. A collection of warbling ditties that have been spiced up with ‘erotic’ gasping that sounds more like odd grunting than sexual pleasure, it is very much an acquired taste – Ike’s voice is not entirely awful but equally, she was never going to win any awards for her vocal prowess, and the songs – which more or less translate to titles like It Stops the Rain, Dawn Scat, Rainy Day Blues and Love Slave – are a tad anonymous. We’re big fans of J-pop – especially old-school J-pop – but that is definitely second-division stuff. Nevertheless, the album was a big seller, and has been re-released several times (officially and otherwise, with the latest version coming out on pink vinyl in November 2023) with the original pressing selling for ludicrous amounts of money – the current Discogs prices start at $668. What makes it such a hot ticket collectable? Well, perhaps the cover, featuring Ike topless on front and back and with stills from Gendai Porno-den: Senten-sei Inpu on the gatefold featuring Ike in passionate lesbian love scenes with French actor Sandra Julien, or the nude poster of Ike that came with the LP helps. The fact that copies without the poster sell for considerably less than the ones with it says something.
Let’s be honest: most collectable LPs are not valuable because of the music and Ike’s album has all the elements that make something irresistible – not just the cover and the poster, but the novelty value, the cult movie connection and the fascinating life and career of Ike outside of the music makes it the sort of thing that we would all (and I include myself in that ‘we’) want to own. The new edition from Teichiku Records is still eyewateringly expensive – at $57, it’s far beyond what we’d pay for something that only has novelty value – but perhaps you will think differently.
As for Reiko, she remains in the relative obscurity that she has been in since her last films at the end of the 1970s – presumably by her own choice. At the age of 70, she has probably long since moved on from the wild days of her youth and maybe she is not interested in reliving them. A pity really, as there is now more international awareness of her movies than at any other time… and her follies of youth now seem pretty small potatoes. Much of her work is still surprisingly difficult to see outside Japan – her entries in the Girl Boss series have yet to see the same restoration and attention as Kaji’s Stray Cat Rock films – but it is worth seeking out.
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