I’ve got to say when I say when I saw this title in Madman’s Christmas release catalog, my eyes rolled into the back of my head. Japan’s obsession with panties has been so well documented as to render it banal. And it’s not as if it is a cultural phenomenon that stands up to extended analysis. At the end of the day, it’s the adolescent male snigger that comes from discovering a woman in a short skirt has inadvertently failed to cross her legs.
Having said that, my curiosity about Colorful was piqued by the involvement of director, Ryutaro (Serial Experiments Lain & Kino’s Journey) Nakamura. Having explored the internet,identity and men in black conspiracies in Lain and created a beautiful, allegorical melacholy in Kino, the question had to be asked, What the hell is he doing?
With Colorful, Nakamura is certainly well aware of that he’s riding a one trick pony and that the best way to present that trick is on fully automatic. The show is a rapid-fire succession of voyeuristic vignettes that come at you in sixty second bursts. This means, that even though the subject matter is repetitious, the set-ups and pay-offs flash by so quickly that they never outstay their welcome.
Nakamura makes sure Colorful oozes visual style. The credits use the chunky pixel font from early video games like Galaga and Pacman. The male characters have a shaky, hand-drawn quality that reminds you of a high schooler’s notebook doodlings – which is certainly appropriate given their behaviour. Bodies mutate and transform according to their perceptions and emotions. A glimpse of female underwear results in an over-the-top caricature that works to accentuate the humour. Females are lovingly over-idealized or down-to-earth, revealing just how many planes of reality the men are removed from the women they lust after.
Having watched about three of these seven minute segments, a funny thing happened. I laughed. Out loud. Yep there it is. I found guys perving on women, funny. It is the comedy of extremes. The energy expenditure these guys dedicate to perving is vastly disproprtionate to the return they are getting. And in that context, their pathetic, exaggerated joy is genuinely funny. If this is not enough, for their voyeuristic transgressions, our misfits are then socially humiliated and/or physically punished. Nakamura, somewhat remarkably, makes us feel some empathy for the characters by making sure his charges have such limited screen time that they never anything more than endearing, harmless losers trapped in singular moments of weakness.
If you’re a fan of the type of humour that props up films like American Pie, you may very well find yourself liking Colorful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for everyone and the statement, ‘may offend some viewers’ is pretty accurate. Me, I found that what Colorful lacks in substance, it makes up for in exuberant style. You never know, you might find yourself crassly surprised.