5.0 out of 5 stars Onizuka will stop at nothing!
“Maiko Haaaan!!!” delivers on two levels. Not only is it a highly entertaining screwball love comedy, but it is also one of the most authentic geisha-themed films I have ever seen. People wanting to know more about the Flower and Willow world would do far better watching this than Hollywood fantasies like Memoirs of a Geisha or My Geisha.
Pure over-the-top comedy delivered as only the Japanese can, the story follows four people, Onizuka Kimihiko (Abe Sado), Naito Kiichiro (Tsutsumi Shinichi), Osawa Fujiko (Shibasaki Kou) and Komoko (Koide Saori). Two guys and two girls. As Shakespeare said “the course of true love never did run smooth.” An understatement at best.
Tokyo-born Onizuka is obsessed with geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha), and has been ever since he first saw them on a school trip to Kyoto. The only reason he is together with his current girlfriend, Fujiko, is because he believes that she was born in Kyoto. Onizuka also runs a geisha/maiko website, where he is in a constant flame-war with someone who knows the geisha world better than Onizuka ever could. Eventually, Onizuka is transferred to the Kyoto offices of his company (a dream come true!) where he finds that money is not enough to open the closed doors of the geisha. His maniacal quest to gain an introduction begins, as well as his quest to win the love of Komoko, one of the newest maiko to debut. Naito, his rival, one-ups him at every chance.
But this little synopsis doesn’t cover even a small portion of the story. Things fly at break-neck speed, as Fujiko comes to Kyoto in order to apprentice as a geisha and win back Onizuka, and meanwhile Onizuka and Naito race each other through challenge after challenge, from professional baseball to blockbuster movies to K-1 Fighting even to being the mayor of Kyoto in an attempt to prove who is the better man and win the top spot in the geisha’s world. Everything moves so fast it is hard to keep up, but then there are punctuating moments of calm and silence that puts meaning into the chaotic frenzy.
Abe Sado (Uzumaki, The Great Yokai War) puts all of his energy into Onizuka, and you are either going to love or hate the character. He does nothing but to the extreme, and will crawl over everyone to reach his goals. Shibasaki Kou (Battle Royale, One Missed Call) is really far too lovely to be the rejected girlfriend Fujiko, but that’s the way it works in this kind of film. Tsutsumi Shinichi (also of “One Missed Call”) is understated and stern, and a perfect foil for Onizuka’s antics. The subplot with Naito and Komoko lends a really nice serious undertone for the film
I absolutely loved “Maiko Haaaan!!!” It had great balance as a film, winning performances from all the actors, and of course lots and lots of nice geisha eye-candy.
The DVD has a few bonus features like “The Making of Maiko Haaaan!!!” and Director & Cast Profiles. Some of the subtitles are a little funky, and I felt the translator tried a little bit too hard in spots to transfer the Japanese into “hip English,” and it comes off as forced and doesn’t carry the same meaning.
Note to the title: “Maiko” is the name for apprentice geisha, and “-han” is the honorific given in the Kyoto dialect, much like “-san” would be for a regular person. Normally, it would be “Maiko-han” but Onizuka never does anything like a regular person.