Shihono Ryo and Moecco 35

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I’ve had Shihono Ryo’s Moecco 35 on my iPad since I got the machine; I find it comforting and perhaps totemistic to keep a DVD of her always nearby. Volume 35 is the one subtitled My Graduation and making note that she turns 18 on the cover – so that makes it at least a year and a half old by now. As much as I treasure and even fetishize it, this is a mixed bag as far as gravure DVDs goes. I’ve watched enough of Ryo’s DVDs that I can manage to remain enchanted with her and bored with a particlar video scenario.

To start with, I often find the music on gravure DVDs execrable, and this one is no exception – schmaltzy pop intended to give you a softoff after prolonged exposure. I’m not sure if it’s meant to evoke a sense of sentmentality that is associated with romanticism, but it’s a rare IV that doesn’t fail on that count.

As for the star of the show, the curves of her lanky body have always been given long, slow screen time, and for me a little of that can go a long, long way. When the scenarios are more inventive, the peekaboo reveals and stripdown to bikini/underwear is more engaging, if only because the context changes enough to make it stick in your head. Shihono does both po-faced awkwardness and flirty giddiness convincingly – not all idols can – but I generally prefer more of the fun happy Ryo than the more mournful Ryo.

The first scene is a brief one where Ryo is in a winter school outfit – seifuku with sweater and scarf – and quickly proceeds to strip down to her underwear, standing next to a piano. A good start, if unmaginative, and the winter accoutrements add a bit of novelty.

The next scenario has Ryo in a cute pink bikini, taking a shower then a bath. It’s a mostly serious scene with some voyeurcam angles thrown into the mix, but Ryo does have flashes of playfulness, of seeming to actually enjoy her bath, which leads well into the third scene.

The third scenario has Ryo in full-on childish flirt mode. She’s dressed up in a kind of trashy roadside Lolita outfit and is lying on a bed, luxuriously working on a huge lollipop. She strips down, blows some bubbles, and I’m in idol heaven throughout. This is my favorite scene on the DVD, mostly because I like to watch Ryo suck and blow but also because it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

The fourth scenario finds Ryo in a purple swimsuit in a city apartment, and it’s just a way to pass the time. She remains in playful mode for this scene, but the actual setup doesn’t offer much for her to work off of – no stripping, no lollies, no particular sense of mischief or motivation. By the end of the scene she is taking a shower in her swimsuit, but even that adds nothing, especially given the shower two scenes previous.

The fifth scenario is more in line with the third, though this time she’s wearing a maid’s crown and apron to accompany her halter top and miniskirt. The cross between maid cosplay and naughty loli doesn’t quite work, though there’s a good amount of time where she’s rolling around on a bed where I really didn’t care anyways. It tries to be fun and only half-succeeds.

The sixth scenario is the one where she’s most grown up, I guess, as she’s alone at a bar, wearing a sexified cheongsam. She hops on the bar, does a lot of posing on all fours, proceeds to take off her skirt, poses with the shelves of liquor behind her… This requires serious Ryo, of course, and it’s all a bit tiresome and even embarassing, until she starts to suck on a chunk of ice. At that point, my mind turned off and I just enjoyed it for what it is. Still, what exactly does this scenario invite us to imagine? That we can get a blowjob if we get her drunk enough? Is that really an ideal fantasy even by gravure standards?

There is an epilogue where Ryo is back in her winter schoolgirl outfit, tromping through a train station. She stops at a small building, gets inside to… make a paper airplane with a page from one of her school workbooks. And then she leaves. The credits roll with the paper airplane and an inset that shows scenes from Ryo’s career from the start to present, which is the only real indication of what a graduation should be – a look at the milestones that brought Ryo to the success she’s achieved now.

The main portion of the DVD is supplemened by some behind-the-scenes footage, which I love because it’s a good reminder of how hard idols work to create their specific fantasies for the audience. There is also a talk with the viewer where Ryo is accompanied by a woman that my wife says is Ryo’s opening act when she does live appearances. It looked interesting, but not enough to trg to translate.

As far as being a DVD to commemorate Ryo turning eighteen, this isn’t very successful. It’s simply more of the same-old, same-old – which in gravure is not a bad thing, and for fans of Ryo is actually a very good thing. It’s not like I expected Moecco to damage their reputation and deviate too far from their house style with some of the more fetishy aspects from her Adulteen mook. And if anything, the most “adult” scenario in this DVD was also the least successful just for trying too hard to force a point.

If anything, a better work to commemorate her passage to adulthood was made several years back, with the Record photobook. There the whole point was to look back on her life and celebrate Ryo for being who she is.

I do like this DVD a great deal, despite my less than stellar assessment of most of the scenes and its inabioity to fully deliver on its stated theme. After all, this is Shihono Ryo, and at its heart gravure is critic-proof: you either like the DVD or you don’t. Or as is more often the case, you either like the idol herself or you don’t. As much as I want to bring a stronger critical perspective to gravure idols with Dolorous Haze, I should at least be self-aware enough to know that criticism has its limits here. The greatest technical and narrative feats will not save a boring idol, and a series of technical and narrative blunders will not completely obscure a talented idol’s gifts.

That said, I think it’s time to get this DVD off the iPad and maybe some new gravure on it instead. I just recently got a copy of one of Ryo’s recent Emmys DVDs – you know it’s recent because her hair is short on the cover – so maybe it’s time I let go of the past (or at least this particular past) and started looking forward. Because as much as teenage Ryo fascinated and entertained me, I thnk adult Ryo will have a great deal to offer the idol world as well.