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AV stars out to play despite hard times

by Brett Bull

Special To The Japan Times

Since her steamy debut in late 2008, adult-video (AV) actress Kokomi Naruse has starred in hundreds of features, many of which find her playing a young girl desired by older men.

But after taking the Best Actress title at this year’s Sky PerfecTV! Adult Broadcasting Awards, this girl’s all grown up. At the ceremony, held inside a hotel ballroom near Tokyo’s Shinagawa JR station on Valentine’s Day, the 22-year-old, representing channel Perfect Choice, said the achievement would not have been possible without fellow porn actress Rio, who won the same award in 2008.

“I made my debut three years ago on account of her,” said Naruse, attired in an aqua-blue dress and her face in tears while holding the wedge-shaped statue. “I remember seeing her on the stage. She was my inspiration. I am so very happy. I really want to thank my fans who supported me.”

The annual event, in its eighth year, is a mishmash of awards and short performances to showcase the top stars appearing on the approximately 10,000 programs broadcast last year on the more than 20 adult channels on the Sky PerfecTV! satellite network. Winners are determined by online votes from fans.

Maki Hojo, winner of the Best Mature Actress award, thanked the audience for the many messages of encouragement she had received. “As an actress, if I can make people feel good mentally, I will continue to strive to make the best films I can,” said the 33-year-old, who typically takes housewife roles.

Kana Yume, 19, was easily the most emotional recipient. After taking the Best New Actress prize, she said she had been determined not to cry, a vow that ended in failure very quickly. A member of the 800-strong crowd then offered encouragement: “Ganbare!”

“I made my debut in November and was nominated three months later,” she said. “Over that time I worked so hard, and now that I’ve received this award I want to express my thanks to my fans.”

Shiori Kamisaki took the Best Film award for her role in a feature within the ongoing “Goddess” collection by label Million. The 21-year-old became the first actress in over two years to make her porn debut in the elite series.

“I had no knowledge of the AV world before the shooting started. I didn’t receive the script. I was told to just do it,” said Kamisaki, who followed through with aplomb — multiple times in fact, according to the cover of the DVD.

Though these proceedings may sound like fun and games, the business itself may be at a something of a crossroads. According to information from market research firm Teikoku Databank, former industry leader CA (also known as Outvision) has seen annual sales drop from ¥32.4 billion to less than half that figure for the fiscal years ending between 2008 and 2010, with rival company Soft on Demand taking the top spot in spite of experiencing flat sales of around ¥15 billion over that same period.

Kenichiro Suzuki, international sales manager at broadcaster Paradise TV, indicated after the ceremony that competition from the Internet is hurting sales. Increased focus on the international market might be an option to boost revenue, he said, but Japanese laws requiring that genitalia be censored make productions more difficult to sell overseas. “We also need to adapt to the cultural sensitivities of the various countries around the world,” he said. “It’s not a simple situation.”

Another possibility is to replicate the strategy of label Alice Japan, which signed popular stripper and pinup bombshell Minako Komukai. Her debut AV feature last year shipped 200,000 units — an astounding figure given that industry insiders consider sales of around 10,000 copies to represent hit status. The Feb. 21 edition of evening tabloid Yukan Fuji said that the business is being influenced by the “Minako Komukai effect,” in which labels are seeking big-name talent from other areas of entertainment to make AV appearances. The paper used a rumored offer of ¥100 million sent to regular film actress Saki Takaoka, as first reported on page one of the tabloid Tokyo Sports (Feb. 7), to support its claim.

Paradise TV for its part is experimenting with promoting the group Marshmallow 3D, an erotic pop combo that released its second single, “Marshmallow Fight,” in January. As a part of the ceremony’s conclusion, the trio, which collectively missed out in the Best New Actress balloting, hit the stage for a short musical performance.

But the real star of the night was Naruse, who also walked away with a media award sponsored by tabloid Nikkan Gendai. The actress posted a photo of both trophies resting on her thighs later that night on her popular Twitter account.

“I want all actresses to hold onto their dreams,” she wrote the next day. “Dreams come true, and I’m glad to have the proof!”

So do the fans. The actresses tossed rolled-up panties to the audience to close the festivities.

Highlights will be replayed from today through Feb. 29 at midnight on Perfect Choice HD 138.