Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fun Clips Fun Club DVD Review

As one of the only PUFFY DVD's still in print and therefore somewhat easy to come by, I thought it might be relevant for some of you to take a look back at FUN CLIPS FUN CLUB. This 2005 release includes nine of their promotional videos dating to around 2002, and in one of the few really good extras on any PUFFY DVD, about that many live clips as a "bonus track" on the disc.

Since this is a clip collection, I thought I'd take it song by song and spend a paragraph or so on each video. I'll talk a bit about the live material separately. First, the main track listing:

1. Boogie Woogie No. 5
2. Atarashi Hibi (Brand New Days)
3. Aoi Namida
4. Hurricane
5. Akai Buranko (Red Swing)
6. PRMX Turbo
7. Sunrise
8. Teen Titans Theme
9. Joining a Fan Club

Here's the bonus live material:

5/24/2004 Shibuya O-East
Invisible Tomorrow
Umi Eto
Tokusuru Karada

8/14/2004 Rising Sun Rock Festival
Ajia no Junshin

8/28/2004 Setstock '04
Wild Girls on Circuit

10/10/2004 House of Blues (L.A.)
Joining a Fan Club

10/29/2004 Club Quattro

While the live material is all from 2004, the videos span a number of years and show quite a transformation both in PUFFY's music and look over that time period. Track by track:

Boogie Woogie No. 5Still one of PUFFY's most popular songs, this collaboration with the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra is one of PUFFY's most slickly-produced, densely-choreographed videos to this day. Shot against an all-white background, it's a singing, playing, dancing extravaganza.

Atarashi HibiShot in the style of an 8mm home movie; one of PUFFY's many low-budget videos without much of anything to do with the song. Ami and Yumi ride bikes, walk around, and generally traipse around the countryside. They both look very young in this video; younger than they usually did at this point. I really like this video; it's got its own charm. Makes me feel relaxed.

Aoi NamidaThis is a serious song and it's treated as such in the video. Both girls look quite a bit older in this than they did in Atarashi Hibi, probably intentionally as they're meant to be sort of a "mentor" for a troubled school girl. PUFFY spend time in the girl's house, at a train station and out at the beach as they tell her what's what. Not one of my favorite songs, but maybe one they wanted as a single for its subject matter. Yumi had apparently just dyed her hair brown, but it hadn't yet grown out from the spiked style of, well, Spike. It looks a bit awkward.

HurricaneLots of choreography here, and another slick production. Not one of my favorite songs but definitely one of my favorite videos. Basically PUFFY singing and dancing around an extremely windy room. There's a lot of humor in their performance, their dancing is probably the best I've seen, and they both look great. Watch for the shot of Yumi singing "Let me show you a magokoro" - it cracks me up every time.

Akai BurankoThe sole representative here from the album Nice (unless you count the Teen Titans Theme), and apparently shot for the most part during their "Rolling Debut Revue" tour of 2002. Includes lots of concert and backstage footage, edited together with gusto. This is a great example of a "live" video for a recorded song - it really injects some energy into it. This was shot during PUFFY's "indie rock" period, when they were wearing a lot of ratty cargo pants and punk band t-shirts and not doing much with their hair. I actually wish they'd kept on like this; it gives them a bit more street cred, at least in the US. Not a very mainstream look in Japan, though.

PRMX TurboLike the song itself, this video is sort of a mashup of past stuff, re-edited and sped up, slowed down or with new effects added. Kinda neat if you're feeling nostalgic, but not really something you're going to re-watch a bunch of times. There does seem to be some footage included that was probably shot for the early "Run! Puffy! Run!" long-form video but didn't make the cut, so that's one thing to keep the interest level up.

Incidentally, the station they're waiting at for the 1 train above is one station away from the one I use twice a day :)

SunriseA controversial video not coincidentally from their least popular album "59". Either you think this video is postmodern avant-garde brilliance or you think they've lost their minds. The song is nice, and it served as the theme to the anime SD Mobile Gundam Force, but the video's got nothing to do with that. Instead, it features Ami and Yumi collecting garbage. They don't sing... well, not much anyway. They don't dance. There's no band. It's similar in tone to Atarashi Hibi, but with better production values... and more garbage. I think it's brilliant.

Teen Titans ThemeA throwaway cartoon theme song but with a cute video. A much different style than most of their videos, seemingly intended for the same audience as the "Teen Titans" TV show - young American kids. Guitar Wolf makes a guest cameo that probably none of the video's target demographic will get the reference to.

Joining a Fan ClubPUFFY's cover of Andy Sturmer's Jellyfish song is treated as light bubblegum pop in the video, which, judging by the girls' outfits, is themed after their characters in the "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi" cartoon. It feels a bit fake. Still, it's a fun video in which both girls engage in a slow-motion water balloon/food fight - one of the cool things about them has always been their ability to laugh at themselves. By the end of the video, they're both covered in pie.

The progression from track 1 to track 9 is pretty stark. Their early videos - and I'd say "Atarashi Hibi" is the last in that style - were all pretty naturalistic. Ami and Yumi looked like regular girls, and the videos were shot with very low budgets - purposely like a student film or home movie. That's part of what made them popular in the first place; the public could identify with them. By track 9, everything seems a bit more calculated - there's a lot more obvious marketing going on (in this case, of the cartoon), and the mood is a lot less natural and a lot more geared to one particular targeted demographic.

The live material is a great bonus - almost too much of a bonus to be considered one. The Shibuya performance, especially, warrants its own full-length DVD - and I wish we'd gotten one. Could this have been footage from an abandoned project? It seems like a pretty complex production for just three songs. (This was also the performance used in the opening credits for "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi".) In any case, it's "Tokusuru Karada" that's the standout of this show - they really look like they're having fun. Not to mention both of the girls' hair styles, which are as distinctive as they've ever been.

The other clips are more hit and miss. It is nice to see them perform in daylight, and without the benefit of a light show at some of these large festivals - it's just a bit of a change from the standard concert DVD. But as I know firsthand, they're better at night and with their own dedicated crowd on their side.

The House of Blues clip is odd in that the audio is not very good... and "Joining a Fan Club" is not really among their best songs. I'm sure it was included because it's really a clip of Cartoon Network's New Year's Eve countdown - it was used to ring in the New Year in 2005 - so it has an air of importance.

However, their cover of Tamio Okuda's "Beef" totally rocks. This is not a song they've ever done before to my knowledge, and it's not on any PUFFY album. This is a driving rock song in the Steppenwolf vein, and they're obviously into it - and they work it out.

I don't even know who the guitar chick below is, but I have to give her props for playing lead on a left-handed Fender Jazzmaster. That's hardcore:

The DVD is region 2, and as much of this footage is several years old, it's non-anamorphic 4:3. It still looks pretty good, though, although the concert footage varies in quality with the venue.

This was the first PUFFY DVD I bought, and I have to say that it was exactly what I was looking for. Japanese music DVD's can be expensive, so I wasn't sure I wanted to spend all that money on one single concert performance (which are by nature little snapshots in time) or alternatively on just a bunch of random videos. This DVD gives you a bit of both, with some really interesting stuff, although a few of the clips are a little disappointing. It also obviously only covers a few years worth of videos and a few 2004 shows. For me, it was enough to convince me I wanted more - a jumping-off point for the rest of their DVD collection. I'm now on a mission to acquire them all, and that's still in process. I'll bring you more reviews of both new and old DVD's coming soon!


  1. great review and nice pics! i don't have any puffy dvd's yet but i think this might be my first too! yumi looks soooooo cute in boogie woogie no. 5.

  2. How do you play R2 DVDs? And how did you take the screenshots?

  3. I just play them on my laptop using PowerDVD, which has a built in screen grab thingy.

    Sometimes I need to go through some hoops to get region 2 discs working... I have two little applications that I downloaded off the net, I think one is called "DVD Region + CSS Free" and the other is called "DVD Region Killer". One or the other usually works. If not, I just set my DVD drive to region 2 temporarily. You can do it five times... I think I'm up to 2 or 3. Eventually I'll probably just make the drive itself region-free, though I'm not sure if I can. With some drives, you can do it with a firmware update.

    That's for the blog, though. In my house, I also have two region-free DVD players - a Gateway networked DVD player that I bought used (it already had a flashed firmware) and a cheap Chinese-made RCA player that just needed a remote key combo to unlock it. I can play anything on those. It's only getting the screen grabs that's kind of a pain sometimes.