[In Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, hands] are torn from the face of a clock. Time and customs are wishfully brought to a standstill while the revolutionary spirit of the world is concentrated into one uptight predicament in modern Japan…. The trouble with [the main characters] is that neither of them has much luck in the matter of obtaining orgasm, especially not together, and their conscientious and troubled search for a solution to this problem is intended by the film's director, Nagisa Oshima, to symbolise the need for a Japan to explode its social inhibitions and become a free new world. It is as well to be informed of this, because one could so easily run away with the thought that the film is all about sex and that political comment is peripheral. As a matter of fact, it seems to me to turn out like that anyway, however intensely one tries to see it in allegorical terms. It's as erotic as can be. They talk about sex, and they enact what they talk about, and anybody who can keep his mind on a political plane while all this is happening ought to stand for parliament at the next election or go and see a psychiatrist. (pp. 51, 55)
The style of the film is erratic; and technically there are signs of what I take to be economic stress, as for example in a crowded little room where a number of men talk about their sexual experiences, sometimes in shots of reasonable clarity, but often in an inconsistent haze…. It's a mélange of a film, and it doesn't work in my opinion; but one could never call it uninteresting. (p. 55)
Gordon Gow, "Reviews: 'Diary of a Shinjuku Thief'" (© copyright Gordon Gow 1970; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 17, No. 2, November, 1970, pp. 51, 55.