Former Daikaiju Actress Now Top Adult Film Star
REIGO Star Switches from Giant Monsters to Horny Salarymen
Author: Keith Aiken
Official Site: harasaori.com
In November of 2005, an independently produced Japanese monster called DEEP SEA MONSTER- REIGO (Shinkaiju Reigo) had its first screenings at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, CA. Originally intended for release in Japan in 2006, the film suffered numerous delays before finally making it to cinemas in 2008 as REIGO: THE DEEP-SEA MONSTER VS THE BATTLESHIP YAMATO.
While the male leads in REIGO were played by familiar genre stars Takayasu “Taiyo” Sugiura (ULTRAMAN COSMOS), Yukijiro Hotaru (the Heisei Gamera trilogy), and Susumu Kurobe (ULTRAMAN), the film’s top-billed female performer was a relatively unknown young actress and gravure (bikini) model who went by the stage name Mai Nanami. Born Mai Kato on January 1, 1988 in Hiroshima Prefecture, Nanami had previously appeared in bit parts in the movies LOVELY FIELDS (Haru-Urara, 2005) and THE DREAM OF DELINQUENT BOYS (Furyo Shonen no Yume, 2005) and sang “Spicy Days”, the theme song for TV Osaka’s animated show THE MARSHMALLOW TIMES (Marshmallow Tsushin, 2004). Following the standard formula for up-and-coming J-Idols, she had also released a hardcover collection of cheesecake bikini photos, Mai Nanami First Photobook, and a modeling DVD entitled MAI NANAMI: SHIN YAMAGISHI DIGITAL MOVIE MUSEUM (2005). But, following this brief flurry of activity, Nanami suddenly dropped out the public eye.
Just as REIGO was making its long-delayed Japanese debut in mid-2008, Mai Namami also resurfaced with the new stage name Saori Hara. As Hara, she starred in a new gravure DVD entitled CLEAR WATER that was released in August of that year. The following month she posed nude for Shogakukan Publishing’s long-running men’s magazine Sabra and also signed with the label Soft On Demand (SOD), a conglomerate of several adult video companies. For her initial assignment with SOD, Hara was the poster girl for a nationwide health campaign on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
Saori Hara’s first adult movie, CELEBRITY SAORI HARA’S MIRACLE AV DEBUT (Geinojin Hara Saori Kiseki no AV Debut) was released on DVD in January 2009. She followed this with a book collection of nude photos by famed photographer Kishin Shinoyama, No Nude by Kishin 1 20XX Tokyo (2009), published by Asahi Press. Fans rejoiced but authorities were less than pleased that Hara had posed naked and in suggestive positions at locations around the city. The actress and her photographer were cited for public indecency.
Hara quickly became one of the top performers at Soft On Demand, starring in nearly two dozen films with titles like KILL ME BY ORGASM (2009), INSPIRE SPECIAL: WATER POLE (2009), 22 YEARS: THE AWAKENING OF SEXUAL DESIRE (2010), PRIVATE SOAP (2010), and CELEBRITY SEX EVOLUTION (2010). In December 2009— just shy of Hara’s 22nd birthday— Shueisha published her autobiography My Real Name is Mai Kato: Why I Became an AV Girl which detailed her transition from teen model to adult film star.
On March 24, 2010, Saori Hara was named Best Actress 2010 at the Sky PerfecTV Adult Award, an annual AV industry event presented by Japan’s largest satellite TV service.
In addition to her adult film work, Hara has continued to act in a number of more mainstream productions. She appeared in the television series URAMIYA HONPO REBOOT (2009) and JYOUOU VIRGIN (Jyouou Virgin ~Roppongi Night GP Part II~, 2009) for TV Tokyo, and the TV Asahi movie MISSION SECTION CHIEF HITOSHI TADANO: SEASON 4 SPECIAL (Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi Season 4 SP, 2009), a feature length tie-in to a show based on the popular manga franchise created by Kimio Yanagisawa.
Her movie roles have included a mix of theatrical and video releases such as Nikkatsu’s surreal sex comedy LALA PIPO: A LOT OF PEOPLE (Lalapipo, 2009) from popular director Tetsuya Nakashima (MEMORIES OF MATSUKO, KAMIKAZE GIRLS), FEMALE NINJA SPY (2009), RINKO EIGHTEEN (18 Rin Aidoru wo Sagase!, 2009), and BACTERIA INFECTION (Saikin Retto, 2009), a parody of Toho’s hit disaster film PANDEMIC (Kansen Retto, 2009) for which Hara also sang the theme song. Hara has a key supporting role in the comedy YURIKO’S AROMA (Yuriko no Aroma, 2010) by award-winning director Kota Yoshida. YURIKO’S AROMA had its world premiere at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in February. She has also completed THE CITIZEN POLICE 69 (Shimin Police 69), another adaptation of a manga by Kimio Yanagisawa. Directed by Ryuichi Honda (CUTIE HONEY THE LIVE), the film is scheduled for release in Japan in early 2011.
The weekly magazine Shukan Post recently reported that Saori Hara and fellow AV actress Maria Ozawa are the two most downloaded adult stars in China. Perhaps capitalizing on that demand, Hong Kong film producer Stephen Siu has cast Hara as one of two female leads (the other being adult star Yukiko Suo) in 3-D SEX AND ZEN: EXTREME ECSTASY. The original SEX AND ZEN (Yu Putuan Zhi Touqíng Baojian, 1991) was produced by Siu’s father and went on to become the highest grossing Category III (China’s version of the NC-17 rating) film in history. Billed as “the world’s first 3-D erotic movie”, this latest entry in the series is budgeted at HK $30 million. 3-D SEX AND ZEN: EXTREME ECSTASY is currently filming for a tentative May 2011 release across Asia, with plans for distribution in US and Europe tba.