Loss is a universal theme that touches everyone in unique ways that are personal to them.
Never has this statement been truer than in the R-18+ rated Japanese BL, “Dangerous Drugs of Sex”. Two men from different walks of life who have met by coincidences find their lives violently tied together. Not in a critical sense, but in the fact that one man traps the other in a basement and rapes him insistently to teach him how to feel alive again. The film unfolds like a black lotus blooming, as bits and pieces of their lives come into focus during each of their highly sensitized sexual encounters.
Based on the manga by Yuki Mizuta, this dark romance set in pre Covid-19 era, narrates the story of Makoto Katsuragi (played by Sho Watanabe). He’s an average man with an office job and a steady girlfriend working to achieve success to make his elderly parents proud. When the film begins, he wakes up naked in a dingy room, tied to a bed wearing a homemade BDSM style of belts keeping his legs apart. Opening with the movie with this depravity indicating his captivity, him being stripped nude and powerless against his captor, was a stroke of genius. As the camera showcases the room’s misuse, it displays the precariousness of his situation. No one had been there for a while, at least before him and his captor.
Filmed fantastically in high definition, the camera work brings out the grim and disgusting environment that most of the film occurs in. The film focuses on close shots of Katsuragi’s struggling naked form that betray just how weak and defenseless he is. When his captor walks into the room the tension should break, but it doesn’t. The handsome man simply smiles and begins his attempts to arouse Katsuragi aroused and rape him again. There is no fade out, no censoring anything; rather than use music as a tool to make it romantic, the squelching sounds of the genitals and screams create the atmosphere that the Director/Screen writer Jojo Hideo wanted. A heinous scene you can not mistake for romance.
Like in horror films, the actor causing the pain must have the same power of acting as the victim. Kitadai Takashi’s portrayal of Ryoji Yoda lives up to the same energy as Watanabe’s. His cold exterior and actual moments of teasing as he manipulates Katsuragi’s body are a testament to Takashi’s acting range. No over the top dramatics, just his calm jeering expressions and words as he rapes his innocent victim with instruments and sex toys.
A large portion of the film goes to their interactions but is sectioned off by flashbacks. Most of which are of Katsuragi’s life before he winds up in the room with Yoda. Hideo uses the contrast between light and dark shades to eloquently display the background of Katsuragi’s life in brighter colors, as the lighting shifts between the past and the present. Without spoiling the twists that entail between every rape, these scenes exist to show that Katsuragi should have appreciated the life he had. Yoda’s attempts to bring Katsuragi to orgasm change as he finds the best ways to cause the man pleasure. What I enjoyed about this format was that it was never boring. Instead, every scene is needed to highlight the mood of the two men as they have each carnal engagement. But alongside sex, their level of intimacy changes.
Yoda begins to use different machines and sex toys, but while doing so, he also leaves torture devices that could be used to kill him. The juxtapose is visible in the repeated phrases he uses while inserting things into Katsuragi’s body or the way he leaves just enough food and vitamins to keep his strength up. Over time Katsuragi stops fighting what’s happening to him and Yoda’s flashbacks become the focal point on which the plot depends. Witnessing his ex-lover die and the resemblance to Katsuragi does pose the question of why Yoda is doing it? Did he want a cheap knockoff to do what he couldn’t do to the original, or is there a special meaning?
By the time the film ends, all questions are answered by an expertly written script that has so much to do. Despite the sex scenes being a good portion of the film, the dialogue and the aftereffects they have on the cast is what makes this film shine. From the dimly lit place, Katsuragi’s stashed in or the bright beaches and family homes shown in flashbacks, everything is orchestrated to craft the mood; or the almost manic soundtrack changing intone to fit the mood of each scene like a well-worn glove. “Dangerous Drugs of Sex” is at its core a love story with an unabashed honesty and is definitely one of the best Japanese BL films in my opinion.
Rating- 5 out of 5