Simply put, the job of a host is to sell dreams.The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief is a 2006 documentary directed and produced by Jake Clennell, depicting the lives of individuals associated with, what is known in Japan as, host clubs. What exactly is a host club? This documentary will provide understanding through first hand encounters with the clubs as well as the people who frequent there. A tag line for the documentary: a cold-eyed study of love for sale.
Title: The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief
Director: Jake Clennell
Cast: Comprised of a number of staff and customers
Running Time: 1hrs 15mins
First off this won a number of best documentary awards namely Edinburgh international film festival and Raindance film festival (…well those are only some of which I can remember). I’ve heard of Hostess Clubs, but what actually attracted me to this was the fact that it was a Host Club. I wasn’t aware that host clubs were just as plentiful as their counterpart. To me, just knowing that such a thing exists seems weird, not the actual physical existence, but the realization that women in general go for this, because frankly speaking, guys are notorious for “hunting women” so to speak. I’m sure if you watch this you will have mixed feelings on the subject (of course after taking into account many factors which will be presented in the documentary). As a note, there is no indecency/nudity/language in this documentary (unless downing bottles of champagne is considered obscene), though I think it should be for a mature enough audience to understand such relationships (i.e. ages 15ish upwards).
(At the moment I can’t find the trailer (possibly a copyright issue), it seems the trailer at the official website is also down. I will post/link the trailer as soon as I find one.)
I think the best way to sum up The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief is through an excerpt from the documentary’s website:
“The lives of the hosts and their customers at first seemed to be extreme and unfathomably foreign from a western perspective. Although many people in Japan see hosts as despicable I see hosts involved in something that is close to all of our hearts, which is the struggle between making a buck and doing the right thing. There is real fascination in looking at this strange form of emotional pseudo prostitution that caters to some women’s desires so successfully that they will got to almost any lengths, and pay thousands of dollars to consume it.”
The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief shows us a glimpse of the nightlife, how partying is done. You get to see how challenging it is for a host to do their job; from the way they try and get customers, to the way they interact with them, to how their money (and it is a significant amount) is spent. It is quite a sight to see people with relatively small bodies hold an incredible amount of alcohol; they are like fish in water, seriously, its surprising that they can actually get up in the morning.
Taking the documentary by face value, at first I thought that it would be monotonous (guys chasing girls for money), or a knockoff of the more popular hostess clubs albeit less successful, because, compared to men, it is not expected of women to be pursuing such “pastimes”. Though it seems that host clubs are as abundant as hostess clubs. However, in my opinion, regardless of whether it was a host club or hostess club, the point of the documentary was to give an insight into the lives of those that frequent such establishments.
The documentary’s main focus is the male host club based in Osaka called Rakkyo Café with the staff of twenty-something selectively picked guys. Host and hostess clubs are part of Japan’s nighttime entertainment business known as Mizu Shobai (水商売 – or water trade), which is a traditional euphemism in Japan.
The movie opens up with an early morning shot of Osaka, Japan, as we watch hosts get up early and prepare themselves, as they do every day, for the day ahead. It is quite unexpected to see the amount of effort they put into their appearance (from the clothes, to hair, to accessories, etc), but as things unfold you realize that their line of business demands this from; one must know how to talk, act, and dress correctly in order to be successful.
Following this you find out that it is also essential for the hosts to lie to their customers in order to be successful as a business. But what I found even more shocking was not about the hosts themselves (or the tricks they used to squeeze money out of their customers, or how quick they can change their personalities like at the touch of a button, etc) but about the customers. At the end of it all, the only question to be asked by both parties is “was it really worth it?”
All I can say is that if you do watch this, be prepared. Not only will you feel confused on a number of levels, you will witness the people in the documentary go through the same thing.
I’m sure that I am not alone on this way of thinking, nothing against the individuals that partake in it, but more against the concept of a host club (not just a host club, but the whole idea of prostitution) with regards to morals and such. I’m sure Mr. Jake Clennell (the director) must have also acknowledged it on some level, though he also said on the documentary website that though most of Japan may despise them “I see hosts involved in something that is close to all of our hearts”, a concept that the viewer will witness. He also mentioned (though not in so many words) that it is not in one’s place to be judgmental of others, which is also generally echoed throughout many different sources of teachings (i.e. from society in general, parents, schools, religion, philosophy, etc). Though it is fair to say that this documentary doesn’t pass any kind of judgment whatsoever on any of the people involved, by the end of it, it is up to the viewer to form their own conclusion. After watching this you may (or may not) agree with me to some extent that this is an act that is morally incorrect/unaccepted (as everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion…and who is to say there is a wrong or right view…as long as there is justification in some form or another).
In a way The Great Happiness Space is quite disturbing as you are given insight into the lives of people whose professions aren’t widely publicized or known much about due to it’s nature. More specific about the people involved, you learn that it is very hard for them to trust each other with regards to customer-host, host-customer relations. You learn about their relationships (or lack there of), as well as, to some extent, their outlook on life.
I understood what a host club was, but when watching The Great Happiness Space, I guess the realization hits quite hard. It is a business at the end of the day; their goal is to get as much money as they can from their customers with the techniques and skills that they have flawlessly learnt. There is also a lot of competition, not only between other clubs, but also between the staff, to ensure that they keep their customer (usually when a customer picks a host it is as if they are forming a relationship and will the staff’s regular client). While watching it, I was surprised with what the hosts would and would not do in order to achieve this, as well as the lengths the customers would go to in order to get what they want.
I suppose you may have some sympathy for the people you learn about, whether it is because they seem to express themselves freely, or because the situation that they are/were in left them with little choice, or any of the other reasons that you will learn of through out the documentary. However, logically speaking one’s view on an act is independent of the individuals involved in the act, does learning about those involved make the act less wrong (if it really is wrong, or a taboo, or disliked by society/religion, etc)? Does it mean that it is ok for the person to be involved just because of the situation they are/were/will be in? …Who knows, no views whatsoever are imposed on the viewers.
Personally, I disagree with such acts of selling one’s body for money, no matter how you try to cover/hide it, at the end of the day many people will see through it for what it really is (which is a shame because people should not be driven to such a level in order to support themselves and/or their family.) But in the context of this documentary, a little bit of grey has been introduced into the black and white picture, in the case of this particular host club (or at least what we have been exposed to by the director) you come to find out that its not as much about selling sex as it is about entertaining others and giving them company. Issei, the owner of club Rakkyo describes his job as selling dreams, akin to the dream world that Peter Pan took people to. I guess this is where his personality, appearance, etc, is structured based on his customers, which you learn are diverse. I cannot judge the people involved because it is not in my place to do so, also because I have not met them, nor do I know them, and what has been portrayed in the documentary may not have even been the whole truth to the matter. Whether I sympathize with them or not is beside the point, however I feel that the insight into such practices can be taken as food for thought, an exposure to an existing reality that many may try to ignore/deny/overlook, however being portrayed from a neutral position is something that can enrich one’s knowledge and perspective.
Although the whole Host club concept is in Japan, I’m sure there are similar concepts throughout the world, it may not be the same, or as explicitly and/or abruptly done (prostitution, brothels, “massage parlors”, etc), but the physical act is performed almost everywhere. There is a lot more to this, putting the idea of selling one’s self aside, Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, through a series of interviews with both the customers and staff, gives us some understanding of the complex choices and emotions that are presented to them as well as their thoughts, feelings, and reasoning. There are a number of unexpected twists and turns that you have to give Jake Clennell props for his directing skills, of course I don’t want to spoil all the fun for you so I haven’t revealed everything.
As you can see from all that I have written, this is quite a thought provoking documentary and I do highly recommend this to any one with an open mind. It may not change your world perspective, but it will open your eyes to how people think as well as to the situation that many are faced with regardless of where they are from, their background, culture, etc. In the end it’s not really about the sex, but more about the search for a relationship that individuals seek and yearn for, a concept that we are all, not only familiar with, but also striving for.
I give this a 9/10.
You can buy The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief