Eunice does The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief

“In my mind, I’m not buying boys, I’m buying time.”

The Scoop: 2006 NR, directed by Jake Clynell

Tagline: Meet Osaka’s number one selling Host.

Summary Capsule: Documentary about a Japanese host club.

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Eunice’s Rating: “The love we give away is the only love we keep.”

Eunice’s Review: In order to understand anything about what this movie is about, you’ll need to know what a “host club” is. A host club is a bar or restaurant in Japan where women pay men to spend time with them and make them feel special. Some cater to specific clienteles like housewives or business women, but the real moneymakers are places like Rakkyo Café.

Rakkyo Café is one of the top ten host clubs in Osaka. About 20 guys are employed each fitting certain roles -like the pretty ones, the funny ones, the tough looking guys- who women choose from a menu. Rakkyo’s target is young party animal types.

I’m not the greatest authority on documentaries, they’re just not a genre I’ve delved into that much. But way back when I had just gotten into an anime called Ouran High School Host Club (which is so good) I saw this mentioned as a “more realistic representation of host clubs,” so I decided to check it out. That was about five years ago and I’ve seen The Great Happiness Space at least three or four times since then, and it still manages to make an impact on me.

In my experience, documentaries tend to lean more to either facts and figures or people and personalities. TGHS is definitely about the people that surround Rakkyo.

The main focus is Issei, the 22 year old owner and top host who makes $50,000 a month. While there isn’t really a storyline it kinda flows in three parts, with Issei tying it all together.

The first part is about the hosts themselves, starting off with how they see themselves and what they do. The object is to please their customers and make them feel happy and give them a place to relieve stress. Most come in with the idea of making money, and few last more than a year. They change their looks so much that they look like Final Fantasy characters and put on personas like actors. They may hate or be verbally abused by a client and they still keep the mask in place. And boy do they need to be able to drink.

But then the subject turns towards the financial aspect of the job, painting the hosts in a semi-predatory light. Pick-up men walk the streets trying to get the girls to come to the club saying it’s only $12 an hour. But that’s the starting rate, some hosts are more expensive, special seating is $50, the real money however is in alcohol. And they really, really push the alcohol. All the time interviews with the clients have them proclaiming their love for the hosts, while they can end up blowing anywhere from $1,000-10,000 in A SINGLE NIGHT.

Just when I was ready to hate the hosts, the documentary goes into part two, and focuses on the clients. I’m not sure how much I want to reveal about this part of the movie, because it seems to be the point where it becomes involving for a lot of people and I wouldn’t want to ruin it. But it really is interesting, to learn about why they do what they do and what they get out of the relationship.

By the third part both hosts and clients are emotionally burned out.

A word used a lot is “heal” the hosts try to heal their clients the clients talk about healing their clients and they all want to find people who will heal them. Coming to the city to try to make it big, emotions become replaced with the need to make and spend money until they no longer know how to feel love or trust.

At just over an hour, TGHS doesn’t get too detailed into any of the interviewees like a new host who questions the morality of what he’s doing, the emotional 23 year old general manager, or Issei’s obsessed client (I thought she was kinda scary), or even really Issei’s background or how he got into the host business. And again this isn’t a facts and figures approach, so you won’t get the history of host clubs or statistics of Yakuza involvement.

I wouldn’t suggest The Great Happiness Space as a pick me up, it’ll leave you with a bleak feeling. But it will stick with you. Whenever I watch it I feel like going to the people who are important to me and saying, “I love you. Even if you don’t pay me, I love you.”

Tell me this guy doesn't look like Cloud.

Intermission!

  • Japanese audio only, so subtitles warning
  • Issei was one of the producers, and one of the stipulations for the participation of the hosts and financing was that the movie can never be shown in Japan.
  • Some of the street pick-up lines are pretty funny

Groovy Quotes:

Host: When we look at girls, we can tell which girls have money. They carry brand name stuff. We can tell which girls are party animals.

Client: I come here to dream.

Issei: We have to keep them dreaming so when we have to lie, we lie.

Client: In my mind, I’m not buying boys, I’m buying time.

Issei: It’s how much the girls want to financially worship me.

Host: I will not be defeated by rain. I will not be defeated by wind… I will not be defeated by girls who ignore me or yell at me.

Kanata: They have a lot of money, but so few are content with their lives.

Kanata: They want to fall in love, they want to feel needed, and they all come to this space. Everyone is searching for their own space.

Client: It’s not material. It’s not about money either. He listens to me. He entertains me. That’s enough to make me really happy.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Young @ Heart
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