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Kino on Video presents
Vibrator (2003)

"There are three benefits to gorging and puking. You eat and it tastes good, then puke and stay slim, and sleep well. So puking became a sort of hobby."
- Rei Hayakawa (Shinobu Terajima)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: February 05, 2007

Stars: Shinobu Terashima, Nao Omori
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:34m:09s
Release Date: February 06, 2007
UPC: 698452204338
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Vibrator is one of those foreign films that you hear about through film festival coverage, but can never seem to track down until years later. Released in 2003, this is another notch in the belt for director Ryuichi Hiroki, who has crafted a series of memorable tales involving an aimless generation in post-industrial Japan. Using many themes from his other films (Tokyo Trash Baby, I Am an S&M Writer), Hiroki has molded his most touching, moving, and even mature piece yet.

Rei Hayakawa (Shinobu Terajima) is a freelance writer whose only pleasure in life is the vibration of her cell phone. While picking up a few things at a gas station one night, she meets truck driver Okabe (Nao Omori), and is instantly in love. Rei wastes no time in approaching him, winding up riding along in his truck for the night. She is a seemingly unstable woman, both emotionally and mentally, but this full-time traveling man just might be the key to her heart and her fragile mind.

Hiroki's films have always been challenging for those unfamiliar with the changing landscape of Japanese culture, but he eschews that potential problem by making them as compelling as possible for all audiences. Much of this is accomplished through frank sexual content, and this particular effort is no different. The sex scenes are far from exploitative though, serving this intense character study in the best possible way. Rei's sexual attraction to Okabe is the driving force behind the start of their relationship. However, with much of the graphic sex out of the way during the first hour, Hiroki is able to seamlessly transfer the focus of this pairing beyond physical attraction. This is a story of love and salvation, and working sex into the proceedings, without overdoing it, turns out to make things even more powerful than expected.

As the title suggests, this is a sexually-charged picture that asks quite a bit of its actors. Both Terajima and Omori (he played the title character in Ichi the Killer) are more than up to the challenge, with the former giving a star-making performance. A mentally unstable woman is nothing new in film, but Terajima somehow manages to avoid all of the clichés surrounding such a character and makes Rei an unforgettable soul. It's obvious by her actions early-on that she is extremely lonely. Through later discussions with Okabe and her eventual decision at the end, her deeper issues come to the surface. Terajima's mannerisms and tone of voice make the finale surprisingly uplifting, despite Rei's choice, as it's evident that she has, indeed found some form of salvation through Okabe. Omori is far more subtle in his actions, but he still manages to make Okabe a believable, dynamic man, in that we can never truly tell how he feels about Rei at first. Even after some intense talks with her, it's never entirely clear how he feels, but such ambiguity makes discussing the film that much more appealing.

Ryuichi Hiroki has made films since this masterpiece, but until now it's been nearly impossible to find them on domestic DVD. Now, thanks to Kino's Kimstim Collection, this little-known (at least stateside) director has a chance at being discovered by American audiences. His latest film, Love on Sunday has yet to see the light of day stateside, but if Kino's new releases are a sign of their dedication to Hiroki, we'll be able to pick it up at a store sometime in the near future. Until then, this masterwork from an amazing filmmaker is a heck of a start.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is a good one, featuring sharp, detailed images throughout. There are many moments of graininess, but this is clearly intentional, while at other times, the colors practically burst off of the screen with vibrancy. Aside from the intentional grain, there isn't any dirt or edge enhancement, nor any other problems with the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno

Audio Transfer Review: The audio mix is Dolby Digital 2.0, and it is impressive without being spectacular. This isn't a very dynamic track for much of the film, but there are lengthy, music-heavy sequences that allow the surrounds to breathe a bit. The film is mostly dialogue-driven, and, fortunately, the actors' speech is always clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extras are a biography and filmography for director Ryuichi Hiroki.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Ryuichi Hiroki's Vibrator is a wonderful study of the impurities of love, and the lengths that one will go to achieve the feeling. Driven by stellar performances, this Japanese-language picture deserves a place alongside the best to ever come out of Asia. Kino's disc is sadly lacking in extras, but the audio and video presentations are tops.


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