Deep in the heart of Akihabara wander an otaku and his depressed friend. In an attempt to cheer up his good friend over his failure to pass the judicial exam yet, Shirou Komura (Taketora Morita) takes Hideki Kawaguchi (Takatsuki Jun; Kamen Rider Ryuki) to a maid cafe called Maid in Japan. A gaijin in the land of anime fetishes, Hideki quickly learns what happens in a real Maid-themed cafe when the pair are greeted by a cute maid referring to them as “master.” While the scenery is nice inside, it’s the angelic face of Akihabara’s most popular maid, Misaki, that catches Hideki’s attention. It’s love-at-first-sight, but how is he going to get her attention? Asia Pulp Cinema brings the final volume in the Akihabara Trilogy with Pretty Maid Cafe.
Audio: Japanese 2.0 DD
Extras: Original Japanese Akihabara Trilogy Trailers, APC Trailers, 2007 APC Catalog (DVD-ROM)
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product.
Shirou doesn’t take the news of Hideki liking Misaki Shiraishi (J Idol turned AV star Kotono Higashi) very well. After all, she is the most popular maid in Akihabara and his idol to worship. After Hideki beats Shirou in a game of “Odds & Evens,” he gets to have a personal massage performed by Misaki in a private room. Nervous as can be, Hideki messes up talking with Misaki while they’re alone. Walking home afterwards, Hideki confesses to his friend that he’s in love with Misaki. Shioru isn’t thrilled with this news, but decides to help his friend in hooking up with what most otaku would consider unobtainable.
The dynamic duo hop onto the vast sea of the web to ask for suggestions on some BBS websites, only to be flamed quickly for the mere thought. It looks like Hideki is going to need a bigger boat. The poor lad returns to the cafe and happens to be greeted by Misaki by name. She remembers him? Of course, it was only because his name was funny. The possible pair talk for a while about Hideki’s life, his work on the judicial exam, and other chitchat topics. Just as he’s building his confidence to be more relaxed around Misaki, she gets pulled away to give a massage to a regular customer who seems to be a bit… creepy.
Back at home, Shirou has started a blog about Hideki’s problem in the hopes to field better answers. One person suggests finding a common interest from her hobbies. So Hideki returns to the cafe for another massage and strikes up a conversation about what Misaki likes to do for fun. She’s a bit embarassed to confess that her deep desire is… fishing. Bingo! Naturally, Hideki lies like a dog about how good of a fisherman he is. The bait works hook, line, and sinker to get Misaki to ask Hideki to take her out finishing sometime. Now Hideki just needs to learn to fish… Hideki studies up on fishing while people encourage his progress with trying to date Misaki. Happy to see some support, he mentions that they’ll be fishing that weekend. Of course, not every eye watching for his progress updates has the best of intentions, as a creepy person is watching, too.
Misaki and Hideki spend the day together fishing and catching very little. While most would pick up on Hideki’s complete lack of skill, Misaki seems to chalk it up to being a bad day to fish. The pair wander into a bar that evening to eat and drink since they didn’t catch anything themselves. Drunk and happy, they trade stories about their past with Misaki really opening up for the first time about her real passions in life. Drumming on a glass, Hideki learns that Misaki used to play the drums but quit. It’s why she enjoys being with Hideki: unlike her, he hasn’t given up on his dream. The two walk back to Misaki’s place, but the inept lover misses his chance to go inside. The next day, the budding couple trade text messages on the phone when someone visits Misaki’s place. Hideki gets one last, strange message that says she doesn’t want to see him anymore. Something isn’t right, and the creepy customer Akira Iwahashi (Taichi Hirabayashi; Six Bullets: Ep.1) is connected with it.
Pretty Maid Cafe plays heavily on the idea that Hideki is completely oblivious to many subjects like the “otaku” the film trilogy is aimed towards. However, this particular film just doesn’t present as solid of a subject as the previous two Akihabara titles. The “boy falls in love but doesn’t know how to get the girl” storyline isn’t new and the plot relies almost entirely on this one factor. It may work in anime and other films, but they add in more than just this one story arc. There is a subplot about exploring Misaki-chan’s desire to find the rhythm of life as a drummer, but I think it got lost in the six minute drum/wear-less-and-less-clothing sequence. Casting is a mixed bag with Takatsuki Jun and Taichi Hirabayashi being a bit off for quite a few scenes. Add to this Taketora Morita’s otaku character just being damn annoying and all your left with is Kotono Higashi trying to carry the film on her own most of the time. And while I usually enjoy any excuse to get an idol in less clothing, new AV star Kotono Higashi just isn’t as fit here as she was in her old idol days or new adult roles. Also, unlike the former two films, Pretty Maid Cafe doesn’t contain any nudity or simulation-sex scenes. It’s still “recommended for mature audiences,” but don’t expect anything more than some pasties on Kotono’s breasts during part of her drum solo.
Pretty Maid Cafe is a bit of a hard sell. As a completist and fan of maids, I must have it. Yet, the storyline isn’t as well done as the previous two films, which makes me suggest getting this title last and probably also on sale. Central Park Media continues to strive with a strong subtitle track and clean video transfer, so not all is lost. The extras from the previous two volumes are also duplicated here with the original Japanese trailers for each of the Akihabara trilogy films. The Akihabara series can be watched in any order, although the release order is a good suggestion to go through the series. While Pretty Maid Cafe doesn’t stand up as well as the storytelling in the first two, I am glad to see a film series like the Akihabara Trilogy brought over for American fans to enjoy.