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Vermilion Pleasure Night, Vol. 1: Optic Erotica

ADV Films // Unrated // June 13, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted August 22, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Background: If you're as much a xenophile (and pervert) as I am, you're probably always looking for shows that combine a weird sense of foreignness with hot looking babes of legal age. Well, that said, I also like comedy shows from around the world, having grown up on many of them while a youngster in the People's Republic of Massachusetts. The only problem with foreign humor is that unlike babes, humor tends to be a lot more subjective so many of the jokes from such shows would be completely lost on me without the cultural context in which they originally aired. Such was the case with a show from ADV Films I watched awhile back called Meet the Fuccons; a series of vignettes from Japan that uses mannequins in a wholly unique manner. Having sat through that one scratching my head (repeatedly I might add), one of the guys from the party I showed it to suggested I look for the companion release that recently came out entitled Vermillion Pleasure Night: V1: Optic Nerve. I was hesitant at first but upon seeing the little hotties on the front cover, I figured that this was where the good stuff was at in the show so it would be payback from my time with the Fuccons.

The Show: Okay, a number of years back, some genius in Japan must've been bored with watching the usual entertaining shows and demanded something different. This led them to hiring director Yoshimasa Ishibashi to use his unique vision to create a comedy show airing late at night in the Land of the Rising Sun. The general idea is like combining two parts of sketch comedy (like Saturday Night Live), one part eight-ball, and a whole heaping mound of artistic vision that few will understand (inside or out of Japan). One of the most common sketches is that of the Meet the Fuccons show, with the motionless mannequins talking like they come from another world altogether. The story involves a nuclear family that has moved to Japan and the situations they get into. The caveat is that the skits make absolutely no sense whatsoever so liberal doses of your favorite mood enhancer might be needed to instill the sense of "getting it" that so many folks online seem to have. Like a great many other pieces of art, when asked to explain it, such people resort to the kind of psycho-babble you'd expect from someone trying to cover up that they don't get it either but are afraid to admit it for fear of not being "hip, cool, with it" or whatever other slang word you deem appropriate for modern consumption.

The rest of Vermillion Pleasure Night: V1: Optic Nerve is similar in this sense that it comes off like the Emperor has no clothes in most cases. The best thing I can say about it with a straight face is that it appears to be designed strictly for the visual sensation sluts that have developed over the years as a result of seeing so many things online or via cable TV that they need a fix of something new, different, and unexplainable that they can use to lord it over whatever sub-group they associate with. Seriously though, the two episodes covered by this DVD seem to be a highlights package more than a couple of actual episodes given the odd numbering of the episodes. For those who care to know, here's a breakdown of the episodes on the DVD:

01: Opening
02: The Fuccon Family: Just Moved In
03: Dr Phero: Injections in the Bum
04: Animation by Kaneshow: Hard Attack
05: The Fuccon Family: Mikey's Been Kidnapped
06: Fire
07: Starship Residence: Drug
08: One Point English Lesson: Part 5
09: The Fuccon Family: A Martial Dispute
10: Midnight Cooking: Cooking by Song Part 2
11: Doll Comedienne: Don't and Not
12: The Fuccon Family: Mikey Sees All
13: A Loony Housewife
14: Mirror
15: Cathy's House: Wonderful Day
16: The Fuccon Family: Dad's Affair
17: Scuttle

01: Fastener and Zipper: Love Rival
02: Opening
03: 6 Singing Girls: A Chopping Board
04: A Juvenile Delinquent, Takako: Shoplifting
05: Animation by Kaneshow: Submission (3) #2
06: Fire
07: Starship Residence: Space Counselor
08: One Point English Lesson: Part 6
09: Head Wrest (5): #4 King of Realism
10: A Juvenile Delinquent, Takako: Smoking
11: Dr Phero: Incision
12: Japanese Kitchen: Let's Make a Child Today
13: Drop
14: Bar Federico
15: Midnight Cooking: Sushi
16: 6 Singing Girls: Song of Love
17: Polyester: Sweet Heart

For me, there were a couple of segments that stood out as at least passingly amusing. One of them was the One Point English Lesson where a gal in Geisha attire and make up gives lessons in English about sexual situations. The second episode was the better of the two with "I give good head" ("you're so good" being the other) being the focal point but even without the shock value of hearing the woman say how her grandmother gives good head, it brought a smile to my face. Another segment worth noting was the Toshiro the Spaceman episodes of Starship Residence; a city in space with humor even stranger than Red Dwarf as a snaggle-toothed alien with bulbous eyes continually finds himself in need of help (in the first episode, he had a cold so a space cocaine dealer sells him some space coke while in the second, he gets advice about love from a nutcase advisor with a laser gun). Skits that really sucked hard included A Juvenile Delinquent, Takako where the mannequin theme was brought back or A Loony Housewife where a crazy woman seemed to be the inspiration of laughs by those who made it (if no one else).

The medical shenanigans of Dr. Phero were decidedly twisted as the opener showed the two dancing gals routinely stabbing some asses with needles to music and the various cooking and singing combination skits appeared to lose a lot in translation. Otherwise, there was some animation that reminded me of the kind you'll find in the Eastern Bloc countries and I liked some of the songs, even if it appeared the subtitles (and/or English dub) were markedly differing from one another. In all, I can safely say that you'll either really like this one or really hate it so while I'm going to rate it a Skip It (maybe on a generous day, I'd up that to a rental), others will think of it as worthy of the DVD Talk Collector Series. As always, your mileage may vary but don't expect the show to live up to the hype; especially considering that rumors about lots of nudity and skimpy lingerie were GREATLY exaggerated though there was a fair amount of fetish styled clothing worn by the ladies.

Picture: Vermillion Pleasure Night: V1: Optic Nerve was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame it was shot in by director Yoshimasa Ishibashi and his assistants. Most of the skits appeared to be shot in video or on digital formats but some came across as being on film or made to look that way. There was some grain at times, some video noise, and other minor issues with the experimental nature of this low budget, late night television show.

Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of 2.0 Dolby Digital in either the original Japanese or an English language dub as commissioned by ADV Films. There was a moderate amount of separation and the music was often interesting but the original language was superior in terms of the humor this time. I got the impression that some of the jokes were altered in the dub and other times there didn't appear to be any translated track. Like the visuals then, it was a mixed bag.

Extras: There were only two episodes of the show, each lasting about 50 minutes, so I kind of expected some decent extras. All I found was 6 trailers, including those to Meet the Fuccons, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, Excel Saga, and Cyberteam in Akihabara.

Final Thoughts: Vermillion Pleasure Night: V1: Optic Nerve might be the best art comedy coming out of Japan these days and appeal to a great many of you who think it should be rated as a DVD Talk Collector Series show. For those of you into weird, nondescript sketch shows that are made to be completely alien, that would be a fair rating. The lack of extras, lack of a full DVD, and mediocre quality of many of the bits offered up obviously didn't impress me too much but I'd rent it on a slow day that I intended to go bar hopping on and wanted to completely confuse whoever I brought home with me. In short, you're unlikely to find any show from Japan as strange as Vermillion Pleasure Night: V1: Optic Nerve though I can see why ADV Films didn't release this in a season set (the copyright date put these two episodes as coming from 2004 though I'm led to believe the show has been around substantially longer).

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.

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