Pornographer: Playback Summary
105 minutes + two 15-minute specials
Spicy & romantic
Yes, written by Maki Marukido
Yes, it is an explicit BL film.
Kijima is a novelist who writes adult erotica for a living. He lives in the countryside with his mother, along with his younger sister's family. His strong-willed sister Natsuki tends to butt heads with the equally stubborn Kijima. The two siblings often have personality clashes despite living together in the same house.
Kijima has a long-distance relationship with Kuzumi, his younger boyfriend, who lives in the city. Kuzumi has a job at an advertising agency, where he's doing quite well for himself in his career. Kijima and Kuzumi keep in contact by writing letter correspondence to each other. Occasionally, the two of them would meet up at a love hotel, where they have passionate sex.
During one of their meetups, Kijima discovers that Kuzumi has visited a seedy nightclub for work. Kuzumi insists that he went there with his coworkers and nothing scandalous happened. Nonetheless, Kijima is upset and exchanges some unpleasant words in the heat of the moment. He insulates that Kuzumi is young, sexually active, and has the freedom to fool around with other people. Their alteration even got a little physical, and the two of them stopped talking for a while.
At home, Kijima has an explosive argument with his sister, prompting him to move out. During his stay in a love hotel, Kijima protects a woman from a violent scuffle with her lover, but ends up injuring his arm in the process. Feeling guilty about what happened to him, Haruko offers Kijima a place to stay at her house while he recovers. Haruko runs a rowdy karaoke bar with her handsome son Shizuo, who forms an intriguing connection with Kijima.
Weeks after their argument, Kuzumi tracks down Kijima's whereabouts, finally locating him at the karaoke bar. However, he walks in on Kijima and Shizuo in a strangely compromising situation, which makes him feel betrayed. This sets off a strained confrontation between Kijima and Kuzumi, as the two of them try to figure out where they stand in their relationship.
Pornographer: Playback Trailer
Pornographer: Playback Cast
Terunosuke Takezai (竹財輝之助)
Kijima is a writer of many pornographic novels. He's a social recluse who doesn't have many friends, partially due to his moody, stubborn, and unsociable personality. Kijima lives in the countryside with his family, clashing with his sister, but getting along surprisingly well with his adorable niece. Kijima and Kuzumi have been dating for several years, but Kijima sometimes feels inferior to his younger and more successful boyfriend.
Kenta Izuka (猪塚健太)
Kuzumi is Kijima's younger boyfriend. The two of them have been in a long-distance relationship for the past few years. With a sweet and docile personality, he is always eager to please his boyfriend. Kuzumi, who is an only child, loves the warmth and hospitality of Kijima's family. Kuzumi works at an advertising agency, keeping himself occupied with work and spends most of his time with coworkers.
Wakana Matsumoto (松本若菜)
So Okuno (奥野壮)
Ryoko Kobayashi (小林涼子)
Munehiro Yoshida (吉田宗洋)
Goro Oishi (大石吾朗)
Pornographer: Playback Review
Drama Review Score: 7.3
I decided to write this review of Pornographer: Playback without taking the two specials into consideration. My review is just going to be about the movie itself. However, I do recommend that you watch both the Spring Life and Continued Spring Life specials, which are essential to the narrative, in my opinion. I wished these side stories were better integrated into the movie because they're the missing pieces that Pornographer: Playback needed.
As a movie sequel, I found Pornographer: Playback to be slightly disappointing. The first hour of the film is packed with excessive arguments and intense turmoil, but these melodramatic scenes are just thrust upon you without any build-up. In a story, you want to go through an immersive journey, where the conflict and the angst develop organically as part of the narrative. I don't get that feeling from Pornographer: Playback. This movie lacks intricacies, suffering from diminished emotional impact because the story doesn't feel fully fleshed out.
Although powerfully acted, the relationship drama between Kijima and Kuzumi feels too overwrought. Their tension keeps escalating, and by the umpteenth argument, you gotta wonder why this miserable couple still stays together. Neither of the characters comes out looking well. Kijima goes overboard in his petulant moodiness, while Kuzumi is a weepy doormat with a vapid personality. It's hard to root for them to work through their toxic relationship when they seem much better off being apart from each other.
Pornographer: Playback introduces two new characters, Haruka and Shizuo, who add an exciting spark to the monotony of the plot. Haruka is one of the movie highlights, bringing an easygoing, effervescent charm to every scene with her vibrant personality. Shizuo is also intriguing as an ambiguous love interest, bound to draw some symbolic parallels with Kuzumi. While both new characters weren't explored to their full potential, they still made positive contributions to the overall movie.
Despite its turbulent start, the tone brightens up after a certain turning point in Pornographer: Playback. The scenes during the second half feel significantly lighter, sweeter, and perkier, almost as if a storm has passed with better days ahead of us. You'll be glad to know this movie has a happy ending, concluding the trilogy on a strong yet sentimental note. Those last thirty minutes rehabilitated my perception of the film, earning back so much goodwill. As this movie wraps up, I am reminded of my enthusiasm for the characters, my optimism towards their romance, and my fond memories of this trilogy as a whole.
The story in Pornographer: Playback isn't super complicated. It's about two boyfriends who go through a rough patch after their misunderstanding over cheating allegations. They argue, they cry, and then they make up by the end of the movie. The way the story unfolds, there aren't a lot of intricacies. The plot is just hammered onto you without much in terms of style or subtlety.
The movie touches upon a few other underlying narratives, but none are explored fully during the story. We see hints to Kijima's internal struggle as a writer, as well as his inferiority about having a younger and more successful boyfriend. However, these details aren't elaborated upon that much, marking a missed opportunity to expand on Kijima's characterization.
The relationship between Kijima and Kuzumi gets a lot worse before it becomes any better. This couple goes through so much emotional turmoil with the cheating allegations, the petty remarks, the constant arguments, and the nonstop angst. Thankfully, Kijima and Kuzumi do improve their relationship afterwards. Near the end, they make up for lost time with plenty of blissful couple moments, as well as some passionate sex!
Just like The Novelist and Mood Indigo, the sex in Pornographer: Playback is visually titillating. The physical intimacy between Kijima and Kuzumi is spectacular, capturing the attraction between them in a raw, authentic way.
The melodrama in Pornographer: Playback is quite demanding, and I think the actors pull it off for the most part. Kuzumi's actor (Kenta Izuka) goes overboard and strains his emotions too much sometimes. He tries really hard to force out the anger or convey that his character is upset. I think his performance could've improved with a little more restraint. Nevertheless, he does a capable job with the bulk of the emotional scenes in the movie.
By comparison, Kijima's actor really doesn't have much room to flex his acting skills in this movie. His character is mostly sullen throughout the movie, so there isn't a big difference between him being sad at the start and being sad at the emotional climax. Out of the three instalments in the trilogy, this was his least dynamic showing.
After such an emotionally intense first hour, I had my doubts whether Pornographer: Playback would end happily. To my surprise, the movie does have a happy ending that wraps up all the drama in a satisfying way. Somehow, they turned it around in the last thirty minutes of the film with a noticeably more uplifting tone.
The relationship between Kijima and Kuzumi concludes in a good spot. They make up, they make out, and then they make love. Up until this point, there was a scarcity of happy moments between the couple, so it's refreshing to watch these sweet and tender scenes. I am filled with hope for the two of them in the future, now that they are more open and honest with their communication.
Pornographer: Playback also benefits from that nostalgia factor. After committing almost nine hours to these characters in three different series over multiple years, I have formed an attachment as this journey comes to an end. It's nice to see Kijima happier, less lonely, and more emotionally fulfilled than he was at the start of the trilogy. I'm going to miss him, all his little eccentric character quirks, and this story as a whole.
Pornographer: Playback Prequel
The Novelist 2018 series Drama review
The Novelist (also commonly known as Pornographer) is the prequel of Pornographer: Playback, taking place years before the events in this movie. It focuses on the story of how Kijima and Kuzumi first met before they became an official couple.
You should definitely watch The Novelist before starting Pornographer: Playback. The prequel gives you a much better understanding of the relationship dynamics between Kijima and Kuzumi.