Based on the book of portraits by renowned photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, A New Love in Tokyo is a light-hearted look at the lives of a group of Tokyo call girls. Araki, well known for his fascination with female nudes and sexual deviation, briefly appears in the film as himself, photographing the lead characters.
In many parts of the world, A New Love in Tokyo was released as a sequel to Ryu Murakami's art house hit Tokyo Decadence. Aside from a commercial one, the reason for this might be that both films portray the lives of prostitutes. However, the approach of Takahashi's film is almost the mirror image of Murakami's. The tone throughout is one of light-heartedness, from time to time even side-stepping into comedy. The film is populated by characters who go through life with an unnatural cheeriness, as if prostitution was the most normal of career choices for a young woman, a mere job on the side.
In fact, one of the few unpleasant occurrences in the entire film, when one of the girls' clients turns out be a knife-wielding psychopath, actually ends in one of the most blatantly comedic scenes: tough guy actor Sho Aikawa parodying his on-screen image as a stereotypical cool yakuza who eats his own sunglasses to show just how tough he truly is.
Despite (or perhaps because of) Takahashi's approach, the women in the film come across as the dominant characters. The men in their lives are pathetic and sad, slaves to their own lusts and instincts. The women seem invulnerable to any obstacle the world may throw in their paths, be it a knife-wielding psycho or venereal disease. Nobuyoshi Araki's photographs of the lead characters, which appear throughout the film, project a similar strength and self-confidence.
However, one wonders if the subject matter is really suited to the portrayal of strong female characters. Especially when that subject is treated in such a breezy manner. The fact of the matter is that prostitution is far from breezy and if painting a portrait of strong women was the director's intention, then the end result borders on conceit. If his intention was merely entertainment, then the lackluster plotting and pace still make the film fall flat.