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Year: 2006
The 7 "ducks" from Waters.
Director: Ryo Nishimura

Shunpei Okada, Takurou Fukuda


Shun Oguri, Toshinobu Matsuo, Takamasa Suga, Shingo Katsurayama, Yusuke Kirishima, Hiroyuki Hirayama, Ryoji Morimoto, Hitomi Manaka, Riko Narumi, Yoshio Harada

  The Skinny: Waters is a tame comedy about Japanese male hosts that tries too hard to be more than just a comedy and ends up losing its credibility. Still, the cast of seven has good chemistry, and the film is occasionally amusing enough to be enjoyable.
Kevin Ma:

     Those unfamiliar with contemporary Japanese culture may find the international titles for Ryo Nishimura's Waters misleading. In Singapore, the film's English title is "Gigolo Wannabe"; in Hong Kong, the Chinese title means "Suddenly Seven Ducks", with "duck" being a Cantonese term for male prostitutes. In actuality, Waters (a title that I don't particularly understand in the first place) is not about the Japanese sex trade, but rather about male hosts. These hosts, somewhat similar to their female counterparts, simply entertain and drink with clients of the opposite sex without ending up in bed with them. Anything else that happens is done under the table.
     Naturally, as in all occupations, there is a dark side to being a male host, but I can assure you that Waters is not that kind of movie. Instead, it opens with seven men with their own past failures trying for quick cash by becoming hosts at a rundown bar by the sea. During their interviews, the manager tells them that they all need to pay a sizable deposit to discourage them from leaving. However, when the seven men show up to work on their first day, the owner (Toshio Harada) shows up and tells them that the manager has run away with the money. With an innocent young granddaughter Chika (Riko Narumi) in tow, the old man takes out some money and tells the seven to open the club themselves. With no real experience, the aspiring hosts realize that pretty hair and a colorful suit don't make successful hosts, especially against rich arrogant women. Despite the initial failure, the men are reunited by the camaraderie they have built. In true Asian melodrama fashion, they even find their true goal when the owner reveals that Chika has a weak heart and needs money for a heart transplant.
     Illness is only one of the many traditional screenplay devices used by screenwriter Shunpei Okada. Waters is an earnest attempt at being more than just another "unlikely characters do something unlikely" comedy, but ironically utilizes every trick in the book to make the film meaningful. It tries to build a parallel between central characters Ryuhei (Shun Orguri) and Minako (Hitomi Manaka) with their respective groups of partners-in-crime; then the relationship between the seven men and the innocent Chika is supposed to be represented by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and, it even features little nuggets of wisdoms such as "your money represents your tears" and "fireworks are meant to last forever". Apparently every scene means something in Waters, but the dialogue has so many supposed hidden meanings that it forgets to tell a convincing story in the process.
     However, the film does occasionally amuse with the usual display of incompetence by the seven hosts (watch out for the dance they dedicate to the champagne tower). Don't watch Waters with the assumption that it will be a dark look at Japanese night life; it's really just a lighthearted examination of friendship and camaraderie using the occupation as a background. But before you can say "group hug," it also runs into a "surprise" ending that even the screenwriter doesn't know how to write himself out of. While the ending is effective in making up for some of the unrealistic naiveté in the story, the "c'est la vie" attitude of both the film and its characters following the twist makes the ending illogical. While the director might have used the ending to bring things full circle in both tone and storytelling, the lack of consequences is flat-out lazy. Believe it or not, Waters suffers from both overwriting and underwriting.
     Nevertheless, the cast is charming thanks to their chemistry. Okada does successfully build the seven men's individual backgrounds enough to craft characters worth rooting for. However, the men's respective troubled pasts are so different that their transition from total amateurs to charming ladykillers fails to be believable. There are simply too many character changes to convince that they can all turn into the competent hosts they become literally overnight. Then again, Waters is probably the most enjoyable film about male hosts ever made, despite also being the tamest. Even with a mean-spirited surprise ending, the film manages to entertain. It goes to show that a little innocence goes a long way in making an enjoyable film. Just don't try to say so many things next time. (Kevin Ma 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language track
Dolby Stereo 2.0
Removable Chinese and English subtitles

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