The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Eternal Family

Title: Eternal Family
Genre: Comedy
Company: Studio 4°C
Format: 1 OVA
Dates: 1 Apr 1997

Synopsis: Somewhere in Japan, six people and a dog live together in one apartment: an aging sex-maniac, his ditzy wife, their elder daughter who is a pyromaniac, their younger daughter who only talks with the help of a handdoll, their oldest son who is a juvenile delinquent and their toddler who loves to attack people with scissors. They all think they are a family, but their life is actually a TV reality show – and they have no idea…

The Highlights
Plot: Biting satire both of Japanese media and Japanese society.
Humor: Hilarious situation comedy.
Editing: Unnecessarily weird.
Comedy: Overused toilet humor.
Length: Too short for its plot.

Recipe for an anime: Take an ounce of wackiness from FLCL. Take three spoonfuls of weird characters from Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai. Take a quart of the plot from The Truman Show. Stir for 28 minutes. Serves one audience.

While one could sum up Eternal Family like this, it probably wouldn’t do the anime justice. Eternal Family proves that a good movie is more than the sum of its parts. While virtually nothing about this production is completely new, the mix it creates from a media satire plot, hilarious situation comedy and psychedelic artwork sure packs great entertainment.

At heart, Eternal Family is a biting media satire making fun of the numerous tasteless shows on Japanese television. If you’ve ever seen “game shows” like Drink Till You Drop where people compete in consuming alcoholic beverages and the last one to vomit wins, you don’t have a hard time imagining that, if a reality show about six mentally disturbed people living as a family were possible, it would be on Japanese television. The additional, rather serious twist that only one member of the “family” really knows they’re on TV isn’t used much, but this is essential for the comedy of Eternal Family to work.

And great comedy it sure is. While mostly situation-based, the laughs in Eternal Family are among the best in a long time. The characters and their unique personalities just work, and the countless funny situations that develop from their interactions guarantee hearty laughs. Even the entire city they live in and the people who sold their lives to television are designed for maximum satirical value. Great job from the art department; it all blends together perfectly. Eternal Family simply brings wackiness to the next level.

While the overall wackiness in action and character play is a good thing, the fact that the editors in the production team were apparently trying to add to the confusion doesn’t work out so well. The entire first half of Eternal Family is a jumble of fast cuts and cryptic (though funny) scenes that initially don’t make much sense, even though the main plot is explained by a scrolling text in the beginning. It seems as though the director tried to give his creation a touch of “artful confusion” and went for images of stylised spinning cogs and the occasional shot of a flushing toilet. Weirdness normally is a good thing in a movie like that one, but this was a tad too much.

Speaking of toilets, some of the humor of Eternal Family also goes a little far. In less than thirty minutes, there are jokes about an inflatable sex toy, diarrhea, a woman humping every man she sees next to a fire and, of course, an overflowing toilet that floods everything. While these elements sure add to the humor of the movie, here they are used so often that they almost stop being funny. The keyword, fortunately, is “almost”, as the short length of the movie prevents the humor from becoming too repetetive.

Still, the short length of Eternal Family is also what hurts this production most. At less than thirty minutes, it’s only a short trip to the wacky world of Japanese television. Movies like The Truman Show have already proven that you can make full-length feature films from the same setup. While Eternal Family is a fast and enjoyable rollercoaster ride, I think I would have rather had an entire day at the carnival. That doesn’t make Eternal Family less hilarious, of course, and if you liked FLCL, it’s a must-see. Another hour of the same biting satire, though, and it would have been perfect.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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