FUNUKE: SHOW SOME LOVE, YOU LOSERS! | REVIEW & ANALYSIS
Updated: Oct 19
As Twisted as Japanese Family Dramas Get!
Director: Daihachi Yoshida
Cast: Eriko Satô, Aimi Satsukawa, Hiromi Nagasaku, Masatoshi Nagase
Related Films: Tokyo Sonata, Hanging Garden, Visitor Q, Blue Spring
Studio: Phantom Film/Amuse Soft Entertainment/TYO
A gentle wind blows across some rice fields on a bright summer day. Along an empty country road, a young girl walks on her way home from school. In the middle of the road, a cat cleans itself in peace when suddenly an engine hum comes out of nowhere.
The young girl’s mother hurries to the rescue, husband on her heels. She is a bit of cat-fanatic. Cut to screeching wheels and flying limbs. All that is left of the old couple are two bloodred tire tracks and some guts in the roadside ditch.
Introducing Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!
As bleak and depressive as the opening sequence of Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! is, it was still marketed as a quirky comedy. Granted, it is comical at times, but not in a cute and quirky way, like The Taste of Tea, Adrift in Tokyo, or Kamikaze Girls.
Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! is so disturbing that it makes dark Japanese dramedies, like Tokyo Sonata or Hanging Garden, feel like lighthearted sitcoms. The dysfunctionality in this family is as vile as the wickedness that brews in films such as Suicide Club (Sion Sono) or Visitor Q (Takashi Miike).
Just like the young girl couldn’t take her eyes off the car crash and her mutilated parents, it is hard to look away from Daihachi Yoshida’s pitch-black display of the human condition. Like Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under, or Todd Solondz’ Happiness, the storytelling is well-balanced between darkness and delight; a potent combo indeed.
Since it was aimed at fans of quirk, it is conceivable that it failed to reach its target audience, which is a shame. Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! is an onslaught of character acting that deserves way more attention than it got. Unfortunately, it has a history of being under-appreciated and misunderstood.
The confusion abroad is underlined by the awkward film title translation. «Funuke» means «fool», or more precisely, «coward». The direct translation of the title would therefore be something like «Show Some Heartfelt Love, You Fools!». All I could think after seeing the film was «Show Some Compassion, You Bastards!».
Family Fiends | The Plot in Funuke
After the horrid accident, we are introduced to the remaining family at the funeral reception. On the porch of the family home, the oldest son’s wife informs the young girl who witnessed the accident that her older sister is coming in from Tokyo.
The news of the returning sister makes the young girl hyperventilate. Her brother runs to help, and throws his wife around like a rag doll in the process. The sudden violence sets the tone and brings a darkness that only keeps growing thereafter.
The story doesn’t get more violent, but the imminent mental abuse is far more disturbing than the exaggerated images of some splattered old folks or a battered wife. The real horror arrives with the middle sister, a wannabe actor with serious mental issues and a knack for mind games.
As it turns out, this middle sister had threatened to kill her father if he didn’t support her acting career. She also keeps her half-brother under her thumb by maintaining a secret, incestuous love affair, all the while torturing her little sister beyond belief.
The middle sister’s insecurity was crafted by her own actions when she jumped her father with a knife and ended up mutilating her brother instead. The youngest girl tackled the trauma by making a manga of the whole scene, which got printed in a magazine that was read by the whole village.
As a result of this, the middle sister ended up detesting her youngest sibling, and so did her parents. A piece of the dysfunctional puzzle certainly falls into place when we realize that the parents didn’t so much mind living with madness in-house. The shame that came with the revealing of their wicked ways, however, was unbearable.
At this point, the dysfunctionality of the family becomes a little too on the nose. We are spoon-fed the story of a father on his second wife, whose son of his first wife was pressured into marriage by family and friends.
He found his wife via a dating service. She turned out to be an orphaned factory worker who suddenly had passed the marriage expiration date in Japan. Hence, she married the first doofus to come along.
To be fair, exaggeration is a common tool in the belt of any comedy film maker, but there is a fine line between amplification of tragedy and overstating the obvious. The spoon-fed info was perhaps necessary, but a more subtle approach would have been more believable.
Time For Some Facts, You Loser!
The story in Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! was originally written as a play by Yukiko Motoya. In 2005, she turned it into a novel that got her nominated for the 18th Yukio Mishima Award (source).
Thereafter, the story was adapted for screen by Daihachi Yoshida, who also directed the film. It was the first film he made on his own, and it launched his career with a bang. In 2008, Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! won five prizes at the 29th Yokohama Film Festival, not the least of which being «Best New Director».
About the film title, Yoshida stated that, «yes, Funuke can be translated as loser, but even more so, it describes the attitude of the main characters. They became Funuke by their actions and how they dealt with their problems in life.»
A Peacefully Provocative Production
There has been some critique of the cinematography in Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!, which seems largely unwarranted. If anything, the camera work, lighting, and sound design felt undistinguished by design, to direct all attention towards the characters.
For it is the quartet of main characters that is the heart and soul of Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!, and better casting could hardly be imagined. Even though most of the situations are exaggerated beyond belief, the chemistry between the four of them makes us laugh, squirm, and yell out in anger.
Eriko Satô plays the elder sister convincingly despicable. By the first half of the film, you can’t help but praying that karmic retribution is about to reign down on her appalling ass (figuratively speaking). Satô portrays the bad actor so well that the amplified drama still evokes strong emotions.
Hiromi Nagasaku gives an equally memorable performance as the brother’s mail-order wife. Her inner demons manifest in a completely different way than her sister-in-law. But her forced smiles and ceaseless sunny disposition are no less disturbing, especially when constantly abused by the elder brother.
Even though the two actresses steal the show, the brother is an equally interesting character. His development is more elaborate, which makes him more nuanced and believable. He is no angel though. Repeatedly, he takes out his frustration on his wife, often by physical violence.
One such violent outburst almost ends up blinding her, which momentarily seems to make him aware of his own misconduct. It takes some tough love from his wife, though, quite literally, for his fog of depression to lift. It doesn't take long, however, before the older sister gets her claws back into him and continues her never-ending torment.
When re-watching the film a few more times, competent cinematography creeps out of the shadows. The low camera angles and the many static shots appear to parallel classic Japanese melodramas, while the sets and props reveal a keen eye for details.
In a way, the inconspicuous cinematography compliments the storytelling perfectly. It contrasts the disturbing behavior, grounds the exaggerated characters in a believable reality, and somehow makes the appalling events palatable.
In particular, the filming of the family house lightens the mood. It is strikingly homey and authentic, and the warm lighting makes for a soothing atmosphere. At times, it almost feels cozy, were it not for the vile mind-games hiding around every corner.
Insanity & Honor | Funuke Analysis
It is not easy to assess the message of a film in which all the characters are somewhat caricatured. Even the clerk at the local store is creepy as hell, which fits the dark comedy atmosphere like a glove, but makes it hard to take it all seriously. Even so, Funuke brings some thoughts to mind.
First and foremost, it makes you wonder what goes on behind closed doors in Japan. It is a country known for its politeness, manners, hospitality, and picture-perfect family homes. Not so surprising, keeping up such a façade takes its toll, but how bad it really gets is somewhat of a mystery.
Some critics have pointed out uneven Japanese gender roles as a catalyst for the manic nature of the three female leads. All of them are obsessed with escapism - acting, manga, or making family bliss - all of them dream of a better tomorrow, and all of them are punished for attempting to escape.
The fact that none of them can break out of their obsession, is an interesting aspect, which somehow seems to align with the lingering patriarchy in Japan. If this family is any indication, though, the apparent patriarchy is under the control of powerful women, whose judgment was warped by male chauvinism in the first place.
Imagining such an evil circle in society is interesting, albeit somewhat speculative. A far more shocking side of the story is that the family don’t seem to care about the craziness that goes on in the privacy of their own home. The only thing that tears them apart is the shame of being exposed in the manga magazine.
They don’t really care that the oldest sister almost stabbed her brother to death or threatened to kill her father for cash. The shame from the disclosure of their ways, however, makes them break down in tears and scold the youngest sister. No one stops to think that their behavior pushed her to the brink of mental breakdown.
This brings to mind two social issues in Japan, both of which appears to be the fabric from which Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! is woven. First and foremost, the story points a finger at mental issues and the treatment of such in Japan.
There is a reason that this proud nation became famous for high suicide rates, and it is not proper treatment of the clinically insane. Without going in depth about the issue, it is well-known that Japan overmedicates and neglects hordes of overworked salarymen, voluntary shut-ins, and alcoholized homemakers.
This ties into the second social issue, which is the Japanese codex of honor. The maintaining of picture-perfect families is all that matters. The price? Husbands who work themselves to death, wives who drink their solitude away, and kids who dive headfirst into obsessions to cope.
Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! is dark and twisted indeed, and under the layers of black comedy is a plethora of disconcerting social comments to be found. Actually, the more I think of it, the more impressed I become with Yoshida’s ability to keep it all easy digestible and entertaining from start to end.
Final Verdict for Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!
Funuke will make you laugh, cry, exclaim, and wonder. But most of all, it will make you think. It might seem average at first, but its impact stays with you long after the end credits roll.
The limited character development is done by design to underline a point, and it is not to be mistaken for lack of depth. None of the characters are shallow. They are lost souls, whose innocence has been partly or completely whisked away by the sins of their parents and the society around them.
«That’s life» you might say, and yes, we are all shaped by the sins of our elders and rulers. For this reason, we can all relate to Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!, even though both tale and characters are bat-s**t crazy. There is something hidden between the lines that makes this film thoroughly re-watchable.
Even though Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! was widely acclaimed in Japan, it doesn’t seem to have made the biggest impact abroad. Hopefully, it will get its day in the sun someday. In the sea of Japanese family dramas, Daihachi Yoshida truly made a one-of-a-kind film, an underrated gem that deserves so much more.
Asian Movie Pulse: Film Review: Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers!
The Digital Fix: Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers! Review
The Japan Times: 'Funuke Domo, Kanashimi no Ai o Misero'
Projected Figures: Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! (2007)
Screen Anarchy: Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers: Review
Trinketization: Funuke domo kanashimi no Ai o Misero
The time of wonders is not over! Japanese film gems are still being released on Blu-ray. Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! was out of print on DVD for a long while, but now it is back in stock at Third Window Films. Head on over to their website to find Funuke and a bunch of other cool Japanese films on Blu-ray and DVD.