The OVA is based on incidents in the novel Koshoku Ichidai Otoko (The Life of an Amorous Man) by Saikaku Ihara (1642-1693).
The libertine Yonosuke has spent his life in quest of sexual pleasure. Disowned by his father when he is 18, 16 years full of changes and errantry begin for him. At the age of 34 he inherits great wealth after his father dies and forgives his son.
When Yunosuke is 57, one of his tailors named Juzo comes to see him before setting out for Edo. Juzo has unwisely made a bet with a rich merchant that he will sleep with Komurasaki, the most renowned courtesan in Edo, at the first meeting. If he succeeds he will win a villa, but if he loses he will lose his manhood. Yunosuke is astounded as he knows how hard the high rank courtesans are to get. The best courtesans, tayu, as well as being beautiful, were highly cultured, being educated in poetry, calligraphy, painting, tea ceremony and other arts. They would sleep with a client only on the third night, the other two nights being taken up with greetings and other social niceties. Humble men, to whom they were 'untouchable' looked up to them with adoration and respect.
Indignant, Yunosuke takes Juzo to Edo and enables him to meet Komurasaki. Juzo is a laughing-stock at the tea-house because of his nervousness, and soon becomes drunk. He clumsily spills wine over the courtesan's kimono. Unperturbed, she goes out and returns wearing a fresh, identical garment.
This was a very interesting little film. Based off of a novel from the Edo period, it does well at capturing the atmosphere of the time. The art style was far and beyond almost anything I've seen before. It took a traditional, almost Ukiyo-e style of Japanese art and animated it into a consistently beautiful thing to look at. However, art style alone can not support a film. While the story certainly had nothing wrong with, it truly wasn't anything special. While somewhat suspenseful, occasionally amusing and amounting to an interestingly bizarre ending, the plot never really immerses the viewer as much as its art
initially takes the viewer into the setting.
I recommend it, even if only for the art style. It does have a relatively interesting story, just don’t expect anything too gripping.
“He slept with every famous courtesan, attaining the very zenith of sensuality.” — Narrator
“Damn! Those Chinese herbs must be powerful as hell to prevent all those STD’s.” — Krunchyman
In the days where internet porn did not exist (let alone a nudie mag), amorous old men peeked through tiny slits of doors while their soft-headed friend(s) slipped their trouser snake into a prestigious courtesan’s delicate — albeit used — flower. It’s not the most decent way to get your clam sauce out, but not everyone can sling dick with 3742 women and 725 men (like Yunosuke).
The Sensualist (Koushoku Ichidai Otoko) is not so
much a story, as it is an artistic representation of Yunosuke’s — various — sexual encounters. Symbolic imagery is a vital component to understanding the words that are never spoken. The crane, for example, could be a reference to a hand-job or doggy-styled position in which the man grabs the women’s arms and pulls them back. Numerous fish are shown during the acts of lust, which is known as a “pesce” in Italian (slang for Italian penis). In addition, Fish are natural swimmers, meaning that the imagery could have been a reference to Yunosuke’s swimmer’s (i.e. sperm); or, perhaps, it was an acknowledgment of the “fishy” smell some women have in their vaginal region (but that seems rather crude for a visual metaphor).
Intense shades of red are used to enhance the passion-filled scenes and exemplify the predilection of most men towards women dressed in red — hence the name, red-light districts. And, of course, the abundance of flowers represents all the women (i.e. vagina’s) Yunosuke has been with over the years/decades. If you don’t believe me, just look at a Georgia O’Keeffe paintings.
While the artwork and associated symbolism were certainly impressive, the lack of a compelling story prevented The Sensualist from being a title worth remembering. Essentially, the central message is that sex-starved individuals, who are subservient to the female form, should look for an island of sexy ladies when their youthful looks wither away to father time.