Travelling by bus across the countryside, lusty young Hiroshi (Mutsuo Yoshioka) contrives to meet sexy single mother, Haruka (Rinako Hirasawa) by knocking over her son's box of crickets. His gambit pays off. Haruka lures him back to her apartment for an afternoon of exuberant sex. Thereafter Hiroshi bonds with her little son, Yuichiro who along with some eccentric neighbours get him hooked on the unusual sport of cricket wrestling. As Hiroshi studies the intricacies of the sport, Haruki fends off her ex-husband Taro's efforts to get back in her life. However, Hiroshi finds himself challenged by wily cricket wrestling champion Anzai (Kazuhiro Sano) who wants Haruka for himself.
Sex films became a legitimate sub-genre in mainstream Japanese cinema around the early Seventies after the nation's oldest film studio, Nikkatsu made the radical decision to produce nothing but glossy big-budget soft-core porn features or Roman Porno. While some were the kind of tawdry exploitation films one would expect, others proved surprisingly ambitious whether taut thrillers, political satires, challenging character studies or heartwarming slice-of-life comedies. The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine falls in the latter category and proves that forty years on a creative fire still kindles the loins of the Japanese pink film genre. Proving porn does not have to be puerile, director Yuji Tajiri and screenwriter Fumio Moriya deliver all the raunchy scenes one would expect with camerawork as creative, off-kilter and energetic as the sex but throw in a disarming abundance of heart, cracked comedy and lovable characters.
Whilst the meandering narrative is admittedly structured around various kinky couplings and scenes of voyeurism, masturbation and a surprising bout of lesbian sex at a funeral (!) the story nonetheless strives to say something about loneliness and the importance of relationships. Even if it is just a quickie with your girlfriend's ex-husband's new squeeze on the edge of a pier. Just as the film uses sex as bait to lure the dirty raincoat crowd to a movie about cricket wrestling, so too does the promise of a mind-blowing shag lure Hiroshi into a meaningful relationship and new-found purpose in life. Similarly, strong-willed nymphomaniac Haruka makes no apologies for her promiscuous lifestyle but grows to realize her connection with Hiroshi could lead to something more. The slapstick soft-core set-pieces prove genuinely funny with some saucy cinematic invention: e.g. bizarre fast-motion sequences, a wrestling bout between the romantic leads and, er, creative use of a cucumber.
At only sixty-four minutes this is a well-paced romp that doesn't outstay its welcome and boasts exceptional cinematography and exuberant performances. Though it is slightly alarming how much sex happens with wee Yuichiro only a few yards away and the fact both Hiroshi and Haruka cheat on each other doesn't show either in the best light, Tajiri and Moriya succeed at making us look past their flaws and grow to love them as imperfect human beings. Both the likeably goofy Mutsuo Yoshioka and sultry Rinako Hirasawa deliver charming performances. Tonally the film is an offbeat but winning mix of low key naturalism with surrealistic slapstick leading up to a cartoon tragedy followed by a supernatural turn of events that is flat out hilarious.