published in Empire No.77, Sydney
Colorful is a savagely sardonic comedy skit series based on depicting the Japanese male in the most degraded form – a salivating panic-stricken letch without enough guts to make the first move. At times, it’s a wearing watch – especially as a single DVD containing all the short episodes originally aired weekly. And at times it’s depressing in its reduction of sexual stereotypes. But it’s also very funny – and the best humour can be the most uncomfortable.
Respectable Nippophiles would shudder watching Colorful and its moronic gag-driven bluntness, but it remains a decidedly Japanese cultural artefact. The set-up, timing and delivery of the gags mock everything from haiku poetry to noh theatre to kaiju monster movies to maudlin enka ballads beloved by hardened yakuza. The machine-gun fire of the cross-hatched skits and their transmitted intercutting feels like you’re flipping channels on Japanese cable TV – and believe me, that’s a trippy thing to do. My favourite recurring character in the series is Steve – a Japanese nerd wannabe-westerner who is an aspiring indie filmmaker intent on capturing the exotic essence of Japan. Maybe Colorful was thinking ahead of anime like Highlander and Afro Samurai. Or those American ‘comedians’ who dub anime.