Friday, December 21, 2012

Naomi Morinaga vs. Yuriko Hishimi

Since Yuriko Hishimi has come up twice this month, this seems like as good a time as any for me to ask a question which has bothered me for some time. As you might have gathered from my provocative title, it also involves Naomi Morinaga. Now, these two ladies have never fought, and I don't think they have ever appeared in anything together. Heck, they may not have even met, though such an occurrence would not be out of the question. No, this is more about how the two of them have oddly parallel careers, and the different reaction they have generated as a result.

Understand, both Naomi and Yuriko garnered their greatest fame with roles in superhero shows - Yuriko in ULTRASEVEN in 1967, Naomi in SHAIDER in 1984. Both were 19-20 while shooting those series, and both played characters with coincidentally similar names ("Anne" for Yuriko, "Annie" for Naomi). Both later had other prominent tokusatsu parts (for example, Yuriko was GODZILLA VS. GIGAN and Naomi a regular on SPIELBAN), but nothing that eclipsed the characters that initially earned their recognition. And most tellingly for the question I am asking, both would later do racy photoshoots and appear in films that run counter to the image of the superhero shows.

My question is, why is there such a difference in perception between what these two ladies did in their careers when they did essentially the exact same thing? Both are revered as cult figures, but Western fans seem to give Yuriko Hishimi a pass for her nude photos and movies like "Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight" (aka "Porno Jidaigeki"), whereas Naomi Morinaga is lamented as having "done porno" for her nude pictures and movies like "Toriko."

To clarify, neither woman did what we would term "pornography" in this day and age. It was softcore, not hardcore, and their photo books and movies are sold through dealers that would not carry explicit material. It's not any different in terms of exposure than those erotic thrillers that were so popular at one time in this country. It's just that Western fans don't seem to care so much about Yuriko Hishimi's colorful resume, while there is always some sort of hand-wringing and sorrow over Naomi's choices. I don't get it.

Both women were adults - in fact, Naomi was older when she did her first film nude scene (in a Toei production, no less). Neither was exploited in any way I can determine - their photos are all beautiful and tasteful, and while many of their films are not my cup of tea, they certainly don't cross any line. Both women made choices that they felt were best for their careers, and more power to them. I just sometimes feel like there is some sort of double-standard at work, as if Naomi is put on a higher pedestal for some odd reason.

I am a big fan of both Yuriko Hishimi and Naomi Morinaga. I am in no way judging either one of them. Heck, I applaud them for carving out long careers for themselves in a culture where that is not always encouraged for women. I just wish some tokusatsu fans could move past their small-minded attitudes and stop acting as if they have been done a disservice just because their childhood idol took her clothes off in front of a camera. Get over yourself.

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