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Kino on Video presents
Moonlight Whispers (Gekko no sasayaki) (1999)

Takuya: But I like it when you strike me on the head. Gives my dull life a shake. I like the jolt to my head!
Satsuki: In that case, you're a pervert.

- Kenji Mizuhashi, Tsugumi

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: October 08, 2003

Stars: Kenji Mizuhashi, Tsugumi
Other Stars: Kouta Kusano, Harumi Inoue
Director: Akihiko Shiota

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sado-masochistic and fetish themes, language, sex scenes)
Run Time: 01h:40:11s
Release Date: September 30, 2003
UPC: 738329031121
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BD+B+ B-

DVD Review

First time director Akihiko Shiota's Moonlight Whispers tells the story of a budding teen romance, with all of its unspoken desires, hesitations, and confusion. But this time, the story has a twist.

The two pals Tadashi (Kouta Kusano) and Takuya (Kenji Mizuhashi) are both interested in the seemingly-unobtainable Satsuki (Tsugumi), and in fact Takuya has joined the school's kendo club just to be near her. She's disappointed when Takuya delivers a love note from Tadashi, revealing to him that she prefers him to Tadashi. Elated, Takuya burns all of the snapshots of Satsuki that he has secretly taken, among them many fetishistic closeups of her legs, to become "the new me."

But the new Takuya is apparently as kinky as the old one, and after their aborted attempts at lovemaking, he surreptitiously records the sounds of Satsuki in the bathroom, then listens to the tape while pleasuring himself. It's not long before Satsuki discovers Takuya's hidden cache of pictures, one of her socks, and the tape, and recoils in horror, calling him a pervert. Revolted, she begins seeing Tadashi, but Takuya's persistence eventually wins her over, and when he declares of himself "I'm your dog," she begins to assume the role of master.

The most interesting and skilled aspect of Shiota's film is its depiction of the very individual arcs of each of the characters. From the beginning, Takuya is seen to be fairly kinky (opening Satsuki's locker and sniffing her panties) and fetishistic (keeping her sock), but as the film progresses, he becomes increasingly subservient and willing to submit to Satsuki's ever-more-humiliating demands, to the point of endangering his own life. Tadashi is at first reviled by Takuya and Satsuki's relationship, but hints are given that he will come to accept it. And the most interesting character arc is Satsuki's. Initially reviled by his actions, she soon begins to revel in the role of Takuya's dominant partner, and increasingly willing to test his limits, to hurt him more and more for her own pleasure. At the same time, she's deeply disturbed by the relationship, reaching out desperately to Tadashi in an attempt at "normalcy."

But the ultimate question of what the director is trying to say remains unanswered. Is he condemning the sado-masochistic relationship, as one would guess from Satsuki's desperation at her seeming inability to extricate herself from it? Or is he approving of it, as the latter portions of the film would imply? And what is he saying about human nature—that a seemingly "normal" person will inevitable become corrupted when presented with the chance to do so? Or was the corruption there all along, just needing the proper catalyst in order to be expressed? In the end, no answers are given to these and many other questions, so the film remains unsatisfying.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a disappointing, nonanamorphic transfer, obviously from a video or laserdisc source. Colors are muddied and often inaccurate, and don't quite seem to be capable of staying in the portions of the image where they should be. There is little depth to the image, especially in the darker portions. Two of every five still frames are blurry, and every time a vertical line moves, it is broken up into tiny horizontal lines, which is incredibly distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes

Audio Transfer Review: Given the weakness of the image, this is a surprisingly good audio transfer. The sound is full and lush, with reasonable amounts of bass, although there is some hiss evident at loud volumes. The quality of the audio transfer allows Shinsuke Honda's lyrical score to shine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Welcome Back Mr. McDonald, Chaos, Dead or Alive, Shark Skin Man & Peach Hip Girl, The Most Terrible Time of My Life, Tokyo Eyes, Junk Food
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Director Akihito Shioka
Extras Review: The nonanamorphic trailer has worse color, but exhibits none of the horizontal jaggies that are so annoying in the feature. The seven additional trailers, all of them original theatrical trailers for other DVDs that Kino has released or is planning to release, are of varying quality.

Although the feature is nonanamorphic, the optional English subtitles are always placed on the image and not in the black bars, which means the Zoom mode on 16:9 televisions can be used to view the image in its proper aspect mode, without the subtitles being cut off.

The main bonus here is a 15m:51s interview with director Ahihiko Shiota, where he discusses the original manga on which the movie was based, his identification with the character of Takuya, his admiration for fellow director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and how he expects the movie to be received in the U.S. ("no idea!").

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Director Akihiko Shiota's first film, Moonlight Whispers is an interesting tale of a sado-masochistic relationship between two teenagers, but in the end, it's rather unsatisfying, and the disappointing transfer doesn't help one's enjoyment of the film.


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