It may start with a fart but it’s a film full of heart. Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats is an indie comedy drama where plenty of laughs abound but it also has a serious side, discussing social issues, most notably themes of bullying and abuse and the way that these affect the protagonists’ lives.

Fuku-chan (Oshima Miyuki) is a painter working in the construction industry, painting plain colours onto the walls of housing blocks. He lives a quiet life, occasionally socialising with his colleagues and his oddball neighbours from his apartment block. His hobbies involve reconstructing his childhood enthusiasm for painting and flying kites. Socially awkward and hugely reticent about forming relationships, even with potential dates -introduced by his colleagues – who find him to be attractive, his reluctance to engage with possible partners seems to stem from his rotund size and a bullying incident at school which has had a significant impact on his life. Where is love in the world? A similarly artistic soul is Chiho who desires to be a photographer but finds the requirements to remove her clothes in order to shoot with a posh svengali disturbing and uncomfortable. Two artists, seeking love. Fuku-chan and Chiho have a history, she was involved in a high school prank which resulted in a good deal of humiliation for Fuku-chan. A terrible ordeal that neither have forgotten. Chiho seeks forgiveness and Fuku-chan seeks to forget. But could they possibly now become friends and rediscover their creativity?

Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats is a comedy/drama as director Yosuke Fujita states in the film’s introduction that accompanies this Third Window DVD release. And while there are serious issues to address the comic elements ensure that a strong vein of humour pervades the film throughout its running time. At times the situations and relationships are hilarious and absurd – learning to play Shogi, trying to cook – but the subtext also permeates the narrative. Even Fuku-chan’s kite flying becomes an integral part to the plot, character, comedy and themes relating to events of the past and their relevance to the present. So there are scenes which make the transition from humorous to uncomfortable – for example when Chiho becomes increasingly distressed by the unwanted attentions of her photography mentor – but that is the point: the personal and the public, the past and the present have different perspectives as relationships integrate, disintegrate and reintegrage.

Oshima Miyuki is central to the role as the titular Fuku-chan, a member of a famous female comedy troupe with a multitude of television appearances, she had her hair shaved off in order to play a male character for her first titular role, a wonderful performance that runs the gamut from pathos to slapstick but with a genuine warmth that immediately endears Fuku-chan to the audience.

This is a film where working class troubles, childhood traumas and misunderstandings combine with food and fart gags to produce a drama that is both affecting and hilariously funny.