Sex in avant-garde erotic anime, Kanashimi no Belladonna
January 18, 2009
Click here to view more artwork. Scroll down the page to view the screenshot gallery.
Kanashimi no Belladonna (Sadness of Belladonna) is a personal favourite of mine when it comes to experimental animation. Despite being produced in 1973, it is timelessly affectionate, and still continues to influence contemporary animators like Ikuhara (Utena) and Yuasa (Kaiba, Kemonozume) today. One of the most interesting thing about this movie is that, as an erotic animation, sex scenes are 1. more sensory than representative, 2. essential tools used to develop the character of Belladonna.
Watching the first animated rape scene may be too excruciating to watch, literally recoiling at seeing the red colossal blob tearing poor Belladonna apart. What’s important here is not ‘realistic’ representation of sex that you might see in hentai series. It’s about free forms, lines and colours, drawing that raw ecstasy and exhilirating sensations from us as we watch Belladonna lose herself in despair, madness, and bliss. It certainly is a different approach to portraying sex compared to more gratuitous and tasteless manner expected from hentais. This also seems to have inspired Yuasa‘s works, including Mind Game, Kemonozume and episode two of Kaiba. Below is a comparison as an illustration, although one really needs to watch them animated. Ikuhara also claimed to have been influenced by Kanashimi no Belladonna, and one might notice it in more sexual moments in Utena.
In a way, Belladonna is about sex. Yet it’s also about one woman’s kanashimi (sadness). Sadness of her continuous and inevitable defeats and lamentations at the face of male dominance, no matter how noble and passionate. But in that sadness we find desire. Desire in what context? Power. Desiring for power to destroy pre-conceived womanly self, liberating from male dominance. And sex becomes its expression, and extension of herself. Watch her transform from being a poor sex-slaved woman, to a free-willing goddess, embracing the power to liberate herself. Kanashimi no Belladonna is a tragedy, and a seductively beautiful one at that. This woeful ballad to Joan of Arc’s unfaltering spirit, although a little flawed, certainly doesn’t deserve to be this obscured by anime fans. Whenever you tire of current trends and feel like something different, seek this. And be entranced.
“[…]blending his actual illustrations of the characters with incredibly imaginative animation which seems to ooze from the images themselves. […]choosing what to use as a still illustration, when to switch to full animation, and how to make it seem natural. The director Eiichi Yamamoto in turn handles the human tragedy played out by this visual phantasmagoria with his usual good dramatic sense. The quirky folk-rock soundtrack also contributes to the film’s rather medieval and otherworldly yet stylishly modern atmosphere. Overall this is truly unique film with artistic vision and an adult sensibility[…]with all their Tezuka-esque bathos and childish comedy. It is, however, curiously neglected[…]” – Ben at Anipages Daily
*Recommended fansub: [MW]Kanashimi no Belladonna