From the outside, it can seem like cinema and television in Japan are dominated by samurais, Manga adaptations, limp romantic comedies and period dramas. However, there’s a weird and often wonderful independent cinema industry lurking just out of sight. It has produced some great films like The Taste of Tea, Fish Story, Hula Girls and Yosuke Fujita’s Fine, Totally Fine. His new film, Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats, is another eccentric slice of oddball madness.

Fuku Tatsuo (Miyuki Oshima) has given up on his dream of being an artist and instead paints buildings for a living.  Residing in the rundown FukuFuku Flats, he is the ad-hoc leader of a coterie of odd and often squabbling outsiders who call it their home; settling disputes and solving problems. His best friend (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) is determined to play matchmaker despite Fuku-chan’s protestations. When a childhood sweetheart (Asami Mizukawa) and budding photographer on a quest to make amends appears, he finds his resolve tested.  

Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats is a goofy and sweet indie comedy with a heart of gold. The bright and breezy tone clashes with a more serious underbelly, creating an offbeat drama which never takes itself too seriously. The whole thing is grounded by a brilliant performance from Oshima, who is the most unlikely of unlikely leading man. Sweet and silly, Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats champions life on the fringes.

Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats screens at Fantasia Festival.