Sayonara Kabukicho

An ensemble drama featuring ex-AKB48 Atsuko Maeda

Celebrated auteur Ryuichi Hiroki has had success with films about sex, relationships and ennui. The most prominent example of this is Vibrator, which won numerous awards worldwide in 2004. While that work showcased actress Shinobu Terashima, the present film is an ensemble piece that features the currently hot actor Shota Sometani, ex-AKB48 leader Atsuko Maeda and longtime star Kaho Minami, among others.

The action over 24 hours mainly takes place at a love hotel in Kabukicho that is managed by the youthful Toru (Sometani). He must deal with a variety of twisted and dangerous patrons not to mention people he’s close to, particularly his girlfriend (Maeda), who keep turning up for illicit action. The film moves between couples, a pair of police detectives, a Korean hooker and her boyfriend, a pimp trying to ensnare a high school girl, and Toru’s own sister, sketching their relationships with economy and emotional punch.

While some of the themes are heavy-handed (cleaning lady Minami is a criminal on the run), overall the piece is successful in contrasting those searching for tenderness and those using sex for control and profit. English title: Kabukicho Love Hotel. (135 min)