The good stuff
It all adds up to something quite weird and quite unique, but also quite specific and niche. Going in with a good understanding of how and what the film makes fun of is probably a prerequisite.
Weird and crazy. You don't necessarily need to be familiar with the Gintama manga, but you probably do need some understanding of Japanese comedy. There's are plenty of silly references and insane gags that make no sense unless you have a working knowledge of what makes the average otaku giggle. Fun, but very, very niche.
Weird and outlandish Japanese comedy, the kind Fukuda is good at. Strong manga influences, wacky characters and a combination of absurd comedy and dry delivery make this a very funny and pleasant watch. It doesn't make any sense and it looks a bit cheap at times, but lots of fun nonetheless.
Superhero films are hot property these days, but what happens when you mix the superhero myths with some Japanese exploitation? Well, the result is not entirely what you might have expected. Hentai Kamen (which very roughly translates to perverted mask/disguise) is more comedy than it is exploitation, forgoing cheap female nudity and horrible plot lines (think Iguchi's Oira Sukeban) for ... well, cheap male nudity and horrible plot lines, but delivered with a great sense of humor. In a sense, Hentai Kamen is a loving parody on the Sushi Typhoon style of film making.
The story of Hentai Kamen revolves around Kyosuke, a descendant of two of the biggest perverts ever to grace Japan. The problem is that Kyosuke seems to lack the family genes, until one day, completely by accident, he puts on a pair of used girl's underpants on his head. This triggers something inside Kyosuke, unleashing his true potential. Even after his transformation, Kyosuke doesn't consider himself a true perv though, so he uses his power to protect the nice people of Tokyo.
Now, where other directors would no doubt use this setup as an excuse for gratuitous nudity, Fukuda reverses expectations. Expect man butts, crotch attacks and lots of male nipple flicking. Kyosuke's tanned appearance (sporting stockings, girl panty masks and one of those horrible Borat-like swimsuits) is hilarious, but not exactly genre material. A great twist that makes the film a lot funnier.
HK Hentai Kamen never really escapes its low-budget background, with plenty of bad CG, bad acting and bored camera work to fill in the filler parts of the story, but all of that is quickly forgotten whenever Hentai Kamen appears, destroying the bad guys as he trots through Tokyo. It makes you wonder if this film is going to find a sizeable audience, though people with a little love for (and a little knowledge of) the Sushi Typhoon scene should be able to appreciate the clichés that are being demolished here.
Goofy and understated comedy about a 40 y/o guy who quits his job and vows to become a manga artist. Fukuda is a skilled comedy director and Tsutsumi hasn't lost much of his flair. It's not a real stand-out film, but there are some good laughs and the film never drags or gets boring. Very good filler indeed.
When Fukuda makes a comedy/parody of a Japanese high school brawler, I take notice. The thing is that the genre isn't very serious to begin with, so if you want to do a proper comedy it really needs to be extra. Fukuda is one of the few people who can actually pull that off, but here he dropped the ball a little.
Maybe it's because the film is part of a franchise, which may have limited Fukuda's potential, but From Today, It's My Turn offers little more than a basic story about a proper student who ends up in the wrong school and has to fend for himself while gangs fight it out around him.
Compare it to the Cromartie High film, or the more recent High & Low franchise, and this one simply falls short. The characters aren't crazy enough, the plot is just average and the gags are rather predictable. That's not to say there isn't some fun to be had with this one, it's just that Fukuda can do better, especially when handling this type of material.
Fukuda's latest is a rather typical look at otaku love. Every so often one of these films pops up, delving into otaku culture and detailing the social awkwardness these people have to deal with on a daily basis. It rarely turns out to be great cinema, not even Fukuda can do anything to change that.
It's not that he didn't give it a fair try, the pleasant mix of romance, musical and comedy shows a lot of promise, but that's par for the course. Quirky but loveable characters, fun (and surprisingly well done) musical interludes and a fair dosage of comedy give the film a perfect start.
Sadly, Fukuda can't quite keep it up. The romance is a little too basic and predictable, the comedy fades away during the second half and two hours is simply too long. Apart from cutting it a little shorter or turning it into a downright parody, there's not much Fukuda could've done I'm afraid. This niche simply doesn't allow for much leeway.
Live action adaptation of the manga. I loved the anime version of Saint Young Men, the translation to live action is clearly a bit trickier. It doesn't help that all the sketches play inside the same little flat, but at least the dry, good-natured and down-to-earth comedy is still very much intact. It's a pleasant film, just not as good as the anime version.
Silly and simple parody. If you're familiar with the Power Rangers-like franchises, you'll have no trouble following the jokes and puns here. Not everything is funny, but there are definitely more hits than misses and Fukuda is a capable director, especially for this kind of comedy. Not a great film, but pretty fun filler nonetheless.