Review of Love & Pop (1998)
Anno Hideaki (director).
Hiromi gets jealous of her three friends. They are all prepared to make money by performing favours for men. The men are often well behaved, pay handsomely and demand little: A meal together, perhaps a karaoke session, apparently motivated by loneliness and the thrill of pretty girls. The phenomenon is called “compensated dating”, and at least one of Hiromi’s friends has explored the deep end of it: Direct teenage prostitution. Easy money.
Theatrical live-action feature based on a 1996 novel. In Anno’s hands, an avant-garde social comment in a mode of horrified pathos.
The film succeeds in disturbing with some memorable weirdos, but it is not a naturalistic portrayal of sex work. Anno toys with the tiny digital camera at every opportunity. Certain names and the face of one plushie are incomprehensibly censored. It is interesting to see a major animation director attack the naïveté of contemporary Japanese sexual iconography, but Anno has clearly objectified schoolgirls in his earlier and later work. See for example Gunbuster: Aim for the Top! (1988) and Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009).