Maiko Haaaan! : 3 of 5

I always enjoy Viz Video's DVDs of recent Japanese movies, so it was great to see Maiko Haaaan, which was apparently a big hit in Japan in 2007. This is a truly bizarre, almost slap-stick comedy, and I think you really need a little background in crazy Japanese-style humor to get past the thought that this movie is just insane! The plot is about Kimihiko, a completely nerdy otaku who is obsessed with geisha (especially maiko, or apprentice geisha) and Kyoto culture in general. His only dream in life is to play "strip baseball" with a maiko, so he's excited when he gets transferred to Kyoto (even though it's really a demotion), and easily dumps his girlfriend Fujiko. However, due to the "no first-timers allowed" rule, he has to succeed at work so his boss will give him an introduction to the geisha house (all explained in a wacky, out-of-nowhere full musical dancing number!), which eventually gets the real story going, the rivalry between Kimihiko and a famous pro baseball star who also frequents the geisha house. While they compete at various careers, poor Fujiko actually goes through all the training to become a maiko! In the middle of the movie a few serious moments happen, but in general the story is pretty silly, but lots of fun. I'm starting to recognize Japanese actors all the time now (though I never learn their names) - the head teacher from Gokusen has a nice role, and I even saw a few comedians that I've seen on some Japanese TV shows before. The DVD has a nice Making Of segment (also subbed), which was interesting since it shows how popular this movie was just last year. I'm not sure if Maiko Haaaan is something that everyone would enjoy, but I sure laughed a lot and enjoyed this simultaneous look at geisha culture and bizarre Japanese comedy!

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