Explainers

Netflix’s The Naked Director, Explained

August 8, 2019
12 min read

‘The Naked Director’ is one of Netflix‘s many forays into documenting Japanese culture, and the streaming platform has chosen a unique topic to do so, that is, pornography. The eight-episode series attempts to track the culture of pornography in Japan through the 80s while showing how the culture of excess colored people’s perception towards what was acceptable or unacceptable within the porn industry.

Truth be told, the pornographic industry is a nebulous area for most of us, and though the end products are easily available and accessible, not much is known about what goes on behind the scenes. This is further compounded by Japan’s conservative culture, where pornography is heavily censored by the government. ‘The Naked Director‘ does not hesitate to shine a light on this, while tracing the astronomical rise of the porn director, Toru Muranishi, who not just revolutionized Japan’s porn industry, but one could say, revolutionized society as well, changing the thoughts about how adult videos should be viewed.

Here we take a closer look at what ‘The Naked Director’ tries to portray while trying to unpack how much of the story is true, and how much of it is the stuff of legends. Needless to say that the following section will contain SPOILERS, as we attempt to explain the ending of ‘The Naked Director’ and the possibility of a sequel.

Summary of the Plot

‘The Naked Director’ is just about the porn industry in Japan; it is much more than that. The first thing that we come to realize is that our protagonist, Toru Muranishi, is a salesman. His job might be to sell encyclopedias, but any salesman worth their salt has to learn quickly that it is not a product they are selling, but a dream. Muranishi is a quick study and swiftly rises through the ranks of his company when he unlocks the key to appealing to people’s desires and selling them their dreams. However, all this comes crashing down when it is implied that his jealous mentor frames him in an office robbery, and to top things off, he finds out that his wife is having an affair with another man since she does not feel pleasured by him.

When he is at his lowest, he meets a man named Toshi, who operates on the fringes of Japan’s porn industry, recording and selling tapes of people having sex. I believe ‘The Naked Director’ keeps making the point that Muranishi is a salesman above all else. He immediately recognizes this as an opportunity to sell an irresistible dream to the people by tapping into one of humanity’s strongest desires- the sexual desire. Although he starts off with tapes, he soon expands to include censored porno magazines (bini-bon) in his business. For those unaware, the ‘bini-bon’ magazines were a rage at that time since an alluring magazine would be wrapped in plastic, making one curious to find out what was inside. It was a marketing stroke of genius and Muranishi realized this.

Coming back to the show, Muranishi soon becomes a top player in the ‘bini-bon’ magazine business, which is when he comes across Ikezawa, who calls himself the ‘king of porn’. His company, Poseidon, is the top player in Japan’s porn industry, and this man establishes himself as someone who likes to play by the rules while pushing the boundaries. In fact, there is a wonderful allusion to the rules of jazz music and how Ikezawa likes to operate. However, Muranishi is a disruptive force and is someone who likes breaking the rules, not just pushing boundaries. After one meeting with Ikezawa, where the man offers to buy him out, Muranishi decides to step up his game. He acquires a printing press and begins publishing uncensored porno magazines. Things seem to be going perfectly for some time until a cop from Tokyo shows up to enforce the law, and Muranishi has his first brush with the authorities.

Muranishi is imprisoned in 1982, and around the same time, there is a new kind of pornography that starts circulating, that is, porn videos. By the time he gets out of jail, we see how the porn industry has moved on from magazines to videos almost completely, and Muranishi is quick to jump onto the bandwagon. In 1984, he moves to Tokyo with the intent to make more erotic porn videos than his primary competitor. However, by then, Ikezawa has established himself as an even more formidable foe. Muranishi keeps pushing boundaries even in his videos, and we see how being a salesman helps him be a better porn director. He is focused on the stories behind the pornos, and is all about erotica, that is, knowing which buttons to push to provoke desire in people. However, this does not get him too far as Ikezawa gets other adult content producers on board to establish a censoring organization which basically answers to him. He tries to use this to run Muranishi out of business.

As luck would have it, an angel comes to Muranishi’s rescue. The name of this angel is Megumi, a conservative but sweet girl who wants to explore her hidden desires, and is shown to have strong latent sexual urges. If you are familiar with the adult film industry, you might recognize the stage name she takes – Kaoru Kuroki. Kuroki shoots a raunchy S&M-like (sadism and masochism) video with Muranishi stepping in front of the lens. Although Ikezawa once again manages to prevent the sale of the tapes, something good comes out of the shoot as Kuroki falls for the director.

However, things don’t look too good for Muranishi who has to come up with a mega idea or go out of business. Complicating things is the knowledge that the Yakuza contact he is working with, also happens to distribute uncensored porn tapes for Ikezawa via underground channels. Muranishi is always shown to be a man of big ambitions and does not back down due to this misfortune. He decides to go to Hawaii and shoot a porn film with renowned American porn actress Allison Mandy.

Although Muranishi is pleased with the shoot, it turns out that due to remnant tensions after Pearl Harbor, the FBI decides to make an example of him, and puts him in prison for life. His colleagues at Sapphire (Muranishi’s company) manage to scrape together money somehow to post bail. This process ends up revolutionizing the porn industry too. While Toshi breaks a line and steals a master tape to sell uncensored porn, Kuroki makes a bold move and becomes the first actress to actively advertise her porn movie. By the time Muranishi is out of jail and back in Japan, Kuroki is a star amongst media channels. The director rides this wave of popularity and draws media attention to himself within the porn industry. At the same time, Ikezawa realizes that Muranishi has irrevocably changed the rules of the game, and he must make uncensored videos as well.

This comes at a time when Japan loses one Emperor and a new reign is about to begin. In 1989, the Heisei era is ushered in. Due to this change of era, law enforcement agencies go hard on illicit businesses including the porn industry. Ikezawa, the known king of porn in Japan, gets busted and hangs himself in prison. Muranishi is unofficially hailed as the new emperor of porn as he ascends to his metaphorical throne at the same time that Japan enters a new reign. ‘The Naked Director’ ends with Muranishi showing no signs of slowing down as he begins another shoot with Kuroki.

Is The Naked Director Based on a True Story?

‘The Naked Director’ weaves a pretty fantastic tale. One man rises from the ranks of an average salesman to become the emperor of porn, while a college student studying art becomes one of Japan’s and the world’s most renowned pornstars. You must be asking yourself how much of it is true. Well, the answer is that ‘The Naked Director’ tells a true story but takes some liberties with certain facts.

Toru Muranishi is a real person and is obviously referred to as the emperor of porn in Japan. He has also been called ‘the dirtiest of the industry’s dirty old men’. However, he has had several brushes with law enforcement, and seven convictions to be exact. ‘The Naked Director’ only shows us two. More importantly, the part in Hawaii is where real life becomes larger than ‘The Naked Director’.

While the Netflix series shows Muranishi going to the island to make a mega porno with an American star, the truth is even more grandiose. The director went on a legendary streak and directed thirty films in thirty days while flying actresses in from Japan for the shoots. The show also takes some liberties in not clarifying the cause of his arrest, when in reality, Muranishi was arrested due to passport violations and indicted under the Mann Act. We also see Crystal as a company that the director starts, when in truth he joined the newly formed company, and his own company was called Diamond Visual. That being said, ‘The Naked Director’ gets the larger than life attitude completely right, while also showing how the director kept returning from setbacks stronger than ever.

Kaoru Kuroki is also a real person, and she is as radical and outspoken in life as she has been portrayed to be. Kuroki always had artistic inclinations and though she went on to act in porn she has shown an affinity for directors like Nagisa Oshima, Ingmar Bergman, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Naturally, since ‘The Naked Director’ is more Muranishi’s story than her’s, these details are not explored. Nonetheless, we must credit the Netflix show for getting the conservative middle-class background absolutely right, while also showing accurately how the woman was always drawn to matters of sex and human sexuality.

Some of the trends in the porn industry are also portrayed with a degree of liberty. For example, we see Kuroki blow a whistle to signify an orgasm. However, in real life, Muranishi began the trend where actresses would blow into a conch shell to signify reaching a climax.

You have to remember that ‘The Naked Director’ is not a documentary. It is based on a novel, ‘Zenra Kantoku Muranishi Toru Den’ by Nobuhiro Motohashi. While the show tries to portray an accurate story and get to the bottom of the emotions involved, it is best to take the facts with a pinch of salt.

The Naked Director Ending, Explained

Different films and television shows often explore various aspects of society through a certain lens. For example, Martin Scorsese views a lot of American society and culture through the lens of crime in his films. In ‘The Naked Director’ we get an exploration of the Japanese society and culture through the lens of pornography. Thus towards the end, the series shows a shift in society that is reflected in a shift within the porn industry as well. A lot of things happen at the same time towards the end so if you could not keep up, don’t worry. We have got you covered.

Towards the end, we begin to see law enforcement agencies making a decision to come down hard on illicit porn businesses. At the same time, we see Ikezawa expand his illicit porn business. Thus, it is no surprise that the old king of porn gets taken down by the same cop he had on his payroll. At the same time, the Yakuza contact’s business is also raided. Toshi, who begins working for this contact, after Muranishi fires him for stealing a porn’s master tape, takes the fall for the Yakuza man.

With Japan getting a new emperor, it seems a new age has dawned for everyone. There is an allusion to people standing the test of time, and those who survived the change, come out stronger. The Yakuza member and the dirty cop make a deal with each other. Toshi finds a new home with the Yakuza. Ikezawa, a man adamantly against change also dies with the old world order of Japan.

As Japan is shown to prosper, while entering a new era, it is reflected by Muranishi’s success, as he seems to be expanding his business. Similarly, it is implied that Japanese society as a whole is more willing to talk about sex openly, as Muranishi’s crew is shown filming a condom ad. Sexuality is more openly dealt with, especially a woman’s sexuality, for which one must be grateful to Kuroki. Overall, ‘The Naked Director’ ends on a note of change, and an anticipation of what a new era will bring.

Will There be The Naked Director Sequel?

There is a high chance that ‘The Naked Director’ might get a sequel. Netflix usually bases these decisions on viewership ratings. With the kind of steamy content in ‘The Naked Director’ along with a fantastic story peppered with occasional humor, there is no reason this series will not go on to become a hit. Think of it as ‘Narcos‘ but with porn instead of cocaine.

As for what the sequel might be, is anybody’s guess. Japan has a long history of pornography that has existed in films and magazines. One aspect that we thought might be explored, was pink films. So if ‘The Naked Director’ gets a sequel, we could see how this softcore subgenre of movies exists within Japanese culture. There is also a chance that ‘The Naked Director’ Season 2 will continue the story of Toru Muranishi. With an acclaimed actor like Takayuki Yamada, of ‘Isle of Dogs‘ fame, playing the part, Netflix might count on his star power to bring in more audiences. Obviously, there is plenty of Muranishi’s life left to be explored as well, including the many books and blogs he has written and the shows and documentaries that he has been a part of. It remains to be seen what the sequel to ‘The Naked Director’ will be about. You can check out our preview on ‘The Naked Director’ Season 2, here.

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