Judge Geoffrey Miller didn't like the mannequins that star in this bizarre Japanese comedy, but at least they're more expressive actors than Keanu Reeves.
This show is Fuccon awful!
In all likelihood, you've never seen anything like The Fuccons before. This Japanese comedy follows the adventures of an American family that moves to the land of the rising sun. It isn't your ordinary sitcom, though: The Fuccon family, and everyone around them, are mannequins. That's no metaphor; they are actual, plastic, mannequins. They don't move—or at least we never see them move on screen—and they have creepy, lifeless smiles frozen on their faces.
The Fuccons began life on a Japanese variety show called Vermilion Pleasure Night. Vermilion Pleasure Night (which, going by the previews on this disc, is also being prepped for DVD release by ADV) is popular with the hip, younger crowd and features edgy, experimental comedy sketches and music videos. The Fuccons became an improbable breakout hit, eventually earning its own dedicated time slot. ADV Films has collected 17 episodes (each is around 2-3 minutes long) on this first volume, subtitled Oh Mikey! (also the original Japanese name for the show).
The star of the show is Mikey, the Fuccon family's only son. Somewhere in the age range of eight to ten, he's your typical wholesome, all-American, "gee golly shucks" boy. His mother, Barbara, is an average housewife prone to hysterics, and his father, James, is a generic "businessman" who can be a bit of a jerk, especially to Mikey. Essentially, they're a warped parody of 1950s American families.
A variety of other characters join the Fuccons along the way. A couple of episodes in, Mikey's cousin Laura moves in with the family. She loves to torture Mikey, even though he's always going out of his way to be nice to her. Mikey also has a crush on Emily, a girl from school; Laura usually tries to interfere in his attempts to woo her. His strange teacher, Bob, who goes everywhere with his mother—the shy Bob can only communicate through whispering into his mother's ear—shows up a few times. Towards the end of this volume, James's forgetful, midget-sized parents make an appearance.
The Fuccons is an extremely low budget production. It's simply comprised of still shots of the posed mannequins, with only a few scenes containing some negligible movement (Mikey on a swing, an invisible hand opening and closing a door). Except for a brief orchestral flourish opening each episode, there's no music. There's nothing wrong with a show done on the cheap to make some cost-cutting choices and pass them off as stylistic eccentricities, but the minimalism of The Fuccons borders on laziness. The vacant, expressionless mannequins quickly wear out their welcome.
But the real problem with The Fuccons is that it lacks…whatchamacallit…jokes! The show's idea of comedy is to string together a few unfunny, nonsensical gags interspersed with occasional fits of manic laughter. It's like a filler sketch for the last half-hour of Saturday Night Live crossed with the worst of Adult Swim's indulgently experimental side. In other words, it's trying to get by on being weird for the sake of weird and hoping no one notices there's no substance underneath. It's rare for even a bad comedy to not provide me with a couple laughs, but The Fuccons could barely get a smile out of me. It's just that bad, full of repetitive dialogue and pointless plots that can't even support the three-minute skits.
There isn't anything in the way of extras on the disc, except for some preview clips (including one for volume 2 of The Fuccons). As with ADV's anime releases, there's an English dub in addition to the original Japanese language track (with subtitles). Both feature the same melodramatic overacting and irritating laughter. I give a slight edge to the dub in this case; it fits better considering that the characters are supposed to be American. The 17 episodes only add up to roughly 45 minutes of material (the official running time, 52 minutes, counts previews): short considering that ADV usually offers five 22 minute episodes on anime discs.
ADV Films took a chance on The Fuccons; it's certainly something we've haven't seen before on American shores. But whatever it is that has made The Fuccons so popular in Japan, it doesn't translate here. I'm a big fan of a lot of Japanese humor, and I appreciate off-beat comedy immensely. The Fuccons does absolutely nothing for me; it's grating, monotonous, and amateurish. Even taken as a satire of American culture and values, it's painfully shallow and lacking in wit. If you're still curious, go ahead and check it out, but don't say I didn't warn you.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• ADV Films
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