Coming-out (2005) by Osamu Sato

A Japanese woman tries to deal with coming out as a lesbian, following a traumatic incident




Given the central importance of sexuality in a human’s life, it might be surprising that soft-erotic movies are quite often part of a more underground low-budget scene. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these movies are bad by definition. As sexuality is always embedded in a relational network, these movies have a chance to approach the interaction of the sexes in a more provocative way. Is “Coming-out” such kind of movie or does it fail to go beyond the lesbian sexuality as such it aims to represent?

"Coming Out" is available from Pink Eiga

Reiko (Kyoko Natsume), an engaged office lady who works for Takahashi trading company, is often a victim of unwanted touching on the train to her work. One day, Tamaki (Nancy), a more aggressive girl who often observed this harassment, takes Reiko by the hand to confront the perpetrator.

What Reiko doesn’t know, is that by giving her name card to Tamaki, she will be introduced in the world of lesbians. And then she begins to feel attracted to Tamaki ultimately forced to make a difficult decision in her love life.

“Coming-out” opens with the framing of a well-known social phenomenon in Japan: men touching women on trains. For most of the women undergoing this touching, this would be considered as unwanted intimacies, but not for Reiko. Aki, who observes the touching while it happens, feels attracted to Reiko.

While Reiko is considered dominant in work-life, she is subservient in sexual life – this is shown by the subservient acceptance of the masturbatory touching by a stranger and the subservient position she has in the act of making love with her fiancé. There is a lack of enjoyment to be observed in her intercourse with her fiancé and the first change that is observable in her encounter with Aki is the reintroduction of that particular enjoyment. Furthermore, it is the beginning of Reiko’s acceptance of her own attraction to women and the realization of her subjective position as a lesbians in a society who still lacks the openness towards this orientation. In this respect, “Coming-out” shows that only from a place of acceptance self-respect and feelings of self-worth at the level of the ego as well as the level of the subject can be found and gained.

Despite some exciting shots of  kissing and some enticing sexual action, the fact that this movie is low-budget is very obvious in the cinematography. There is, for instance, a minor shakiness that characterizes the concatenation of shots that make up the narrative. While this shakiness is not really a problem, the lack of insight in the narrative space is. Quite often the distance between characters in the narrative space is not respected, introducing a certain painful and cringe-worthy discontinuity. The acting is uneven as well. While the erotic interactions feel somewhat natural and fluid, the non-erotic interactions between characters lack the necessary naturalness that would give the narrative the believability it needs.

Despite having the right narrative elements, “Coming-out” is too straightforward and lacks the depth and nuance that would have made this narrative into a truly engaging study of being a lesbian in Japanese society. While some  kissing and sexual action might be enticing, the problems with the cinematography and the acting in the non-sexual interactions quite often create an awkwardness that movies do not want to have.

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Asian Film Vault: Coming-out (2005) by Osamu Sato
Coming-out (2005) by Osamu Sato
A Japanese woman tries to deal with coming out as a lesbian, following a traumatic incident
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