domingo, 12 de septiembre de 2021

How @muranishi_tenga's manga My Student is Porn Actress and I'm Her Director evolved into an even deeper work of art

By Victor Hernandez

When I first reviewed Tenga Muranishi's manga My Student is a Porn Actress and I'm Her Director, I said it is true thinking man's manga. Its true-to-life depiction of the porn industry in Japan, and its mixture of philosophical concepts to develop the stories of the main characters certainly makes Muranishi's work smart. But then something happened. The manga evolved and it became an even deeper work of art.

If the third volume was wacky and funny, volume four, publishing on September 16 in Japan (September 15 America's time) starts to dig into the psychology of the main characters as they explored the idea of shooting professional porn.

For example, Akari Kuhara, the female lead, faces her own selfishness as she gets ready to do a sex scene with  Yuji Saiji, Akari's former teacher and her love interest, who, in turn, faces his own guilt and starts realizing his relationship with Akari is no longer that of a teacher and a student.

Bernini's Ecatasy of Saint Teresa

At one point Tenga Muranishi depicts Akari and Saiji as the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the famous Peita sculpture by Bernini. Art students will remember Bernini's other famous sculpture is the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, in which Saint Teresa is officially said to be depicted as having a mystic experience, while in reality Bernini depicted her having an orgasm.

That visual play found in Bernini's work, in which Christian imagery is used to express deep feelings of desire, is present several times in the manga. If George Lucas described The Force as being "religion's greatest hits," the way Tenga Muranishi uses religious imagery to express feelings of sexual desire is the distillation of the underlying psychology of religion in its purest form.

This psychological exploration develops even further in subsequent chapters of the manga, exploring issues of bullying and the effect of social media on society from the perspective of the porn industry. Mr. Muranishi not just analyzed his characters, but society. And he did it while showing the world there's nothing wrong with wanting to be an adult performer.

And that's only the begining.

In later chapters, which I really do hope become Volume 5 and 6 in the future, Tenga Muranishi presents the viewer with something truly remarkable: the desire to be in porn as an act of happiness.

At some point in the story, which would take place in Volume 6 or 7 if the individual chapters of the manga are published as book collections in the future, Akari decides to become what the title of the manga describes: An adult video actress.

But what's remarkable about that is the explanation given by Akari for wanting to be a porn actress. Not because she needs money. Not because she's psychologically scarred. Not because she has a disfunctional life. No. Her reason for wanting to be in porn is, plain and simple, because that makes her happy.

Porn became for Akari something to experience in order to find joy. Something that happened in Volume 4 triggered her desire to find joy in porn. She realized being seen by others made her happy and made the decision that was good for her. That's agency. That's third wave feminism. And that's a breath of fresh air.

Typically in popular media porn is something to be avoided. Something people do against their will; because they have debt, or because they are unemployed. And that was in fact the case for Yuji Saiji, the male lead in the story. But for Akari it wasn't about money. It wasn't about doing something against her will. It was a desire that was already there. Her exposure to the porn industry only made her realize she had that desire all along.

"Bullshit! Nobody does that because they want to!" some will say. And they will be wrong. There are many cases of people all over the world that have discovered the camera transformed their lives in a positive manner. That desire to find joy in wanting to do something that's unique to onself, deeply rooted into the human psyche, is what Tenga Muranish has brought to the front with his manga.

Not only that. As the psychology of the story become deeper, the artwork became stronger, more developed and visually outstanding. One such case happens in chapter 30, in which Akari and Saiji are drawn almost as a single individual with half the face of each character. That image made me pause. The angst, the pain, and the emotion it shows with a few elegant lines its truly extraordinary. 

Akari Kuhara and Yuji Saiji in Chapter 30 of Tenga Muranishi's My Student is a Porn Actress and I'm Her Director. "The point is, why didn't you consult?" says Saiji (according to Google Translate) after he decides he will help Akari to become happy doing porn. The angst, the pain, the desire and the surrealism in the image feel as though Roy Lichtenstein got fused with Salvador Dalí.

It isn't an exaggeration when I say this; Tenga Muranishi's My Student is a Porn Actress and I'm Her Director has evolved into an even deeper work of art. Muranishi-sensei isn't just quoting philosophers, economists and psychologists. He's also quoting art masters and the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century in order to construct a work of pop art that's slowly but surely becoming something much more transcendental than a tittillating story about the adult industry.

Even more remarkable is the fact that as the story becomes increasingly about how Akari becomes a porn actress, and Saiji becomes her director, the visual and narrative sophistication of the manga has also increased. As Akari and Saiji continue their journey into the pursuit of happiness through being watched having sexual pleasure, so do Tenga Muranish and his readers continue their journey into the the enjoyment of a work of art that brings joy precisely through watching Akari and Saiji.

It could not be a more fitting relationship between artist and audience. One in wich the line separating author, fictional character, fictional audience, and real audience, become increasingly blurred.

Twice in film history that has happened. In Behind the Green Door, the classic pornographic film, in which the movie audience that watched the film in the 1970s became part of the sex art performance depicted in the film, and recently in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, in which Tom Hanks, acting as Mr. Rogers, directs the audience to become children again and think about the people who "loved us into being." At some point, Mr. Rogers looks straight at the camera, letting the audience know they have been participating in an act of catharsis.

That scene feels a lot like Tenga Muranishi's manga. And I honestly hope he continues to publish it for as long as we wants. One day, somebody walking on the street will tell his publishers: "Thank you. Because by publishing Muranishi-sensei's manga my life was better."

Volumes 1 to 3 of Tenga Muranishi´s My Student is a Porn Actress and I'm Her Director can be purchased in digital format from BookWalker:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4 can be pre-ordered from BookWalker:

Volume 4

The individual chapters of the manga can also be purchased from BookWalker:

Individual chapters

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