Plentiful sex and a free lunch in return for a steady relationship. Some guys might find this a good deal, but as Shinji Imaoka's Lunch Box shows, they just might end up with a clinging girlfriend from hell. Stephen Tan reviews.


There would be many guys who would find petite Aiko the ideal sex partner/girlfriend. For a start, it doesn't seem to take very much persuasion to get her to give you a blow job. While some would consider her an easy lay, she is a damn fine cook and, this may be important for some guys, she knows how to keep her mouth shut (she is practically mute throughout the show).

The only time one sees any determination on Aiko's face is when she is bowling but with her fresh and somewhat child-like looks, Aiko's come on (seducing could hardly be what she's up to) is to simply offer herself to the men - usually by way of giving them blow jobs first. The stall-keeper at the bowling alley which Aiko frequents only has to compliment her and she's down on her knees in no time.

The way the movie shows it, sex for Aiko (the late Yumika Hayashi, who died in 2005) is both a joy and a pain. While she certainly experiences some pleasure in the sex, she also looks as if she's in real pain too. But her interest in men, especially postal worker Yoshio, is more than physical sex. There is a schoolgirlish crush involved - besides offering her body, she gives him a lunch box everyday.

Aiko's idea of a secure relationship is to offer sex and food - which is basically what her maternal instincts tell her - and, hopefully, the other person will be contented to stay. But for Yoshio (Mutsuo Yoshioka), Aiko is turning into the clinging girlfriend from hell.

For a while, Yoshio is having the time of his life. After work, there is Aiko with her sex and food. In the office, there is his co-worker Ikumi (Lemon Hanazawa) who not only has designs on him, but willing to give him sex as well. But soon, Yoshio grows tired of the insistent Aiko and her lunch boxes and decides to break off their relationship.

At the same time, Yoshio is trapped into an imminent marriage with Ikumi. After a drunken night out with the boys before his marriage, Yoshi turns up for a final fling with Aiko. The meeting takes on a surreal turn when Aiko is egged on by a talking bowling ball which keeps repeating the phrase, "Strike, go for it."

Besides its more sensationalistic-looking DVD cover, Lunch Box is a bitter-sweet story made more memorable by the aching performance of Yumika Hayashi as Aiko (who recalls singer-actress Faye Wong at some angles). Still, one cannot mistake it for anything else but a Pinku Eiga (pink film). While there is a lot of sex, there aren't that many full frontal shots and all the oral sex is judiciously shot - there is nothing explicit though viewers know exactly what's going on. Interestingly, the sex scenes were real - for that Hayashi is often seen as a key Pinku Eiga actress because of the chances she took - and the film was shot sync-sound (no post-dubbing).

Shinji Imaoka's Lunch Box could well be an oblique comment on the loneliness of young women living on their own in the cities but the ending of Aiko and Ikumi contemplating (sort of) the fate of their beloved in a sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves finish is hard to stomach since not only do the two not meet throughout the film, it's also hard to imagine they really have anything of substance to say to each other. But as one internet reviewer says, "Lunch Box is still light years ahead of any soft porn fluffy nonsense being made in the West, and definitely well worth a look."

Note: The Lunch Box DVD (Salvation Films) is banned in $ingapore.

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June 19, 2007

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