The second entry in the ‘Tetsudon’ series sees 22 directors come together to present a series of absurdly comedic segments. The format was inspired by the “ABC’s of Death” films which saw various directors making short horror films assigned to a letter of the alphabet.
The comedy anthology film is a rather uncommon occurrence, with the format more often saved for horror genre, let alone a twenty two segment collection. It is a daunting task to bring so many creators together to turn a slew of short films into something cohesive. Thankfully, the production does seem to contain a certain amount of familiarity within each segment, with one of the most common themes being in presenting a particularly absurd hero i.e. ‘Jelly Man’, ‘Boob Slinger’ ‘Marijuana Man’, ‘Train Girl’. The comedic tone is uniform in keeping a similar delivery, with all gags and lines delivered loudly and at a brisk pace. Overall, this consistency helps the productions to feel truly like a joint project, versus a bunch of random creators hoping their material will fit the loose criteria.
Even with the segments showing consistency, the quality does differ, with only a handful being exemplary, most passable and a few redundant and lazy. However, the segments that do shine elevate the overall experience, and they are spread out among the less entertaining shorts. Some stand outs include; Artegg Yumi’s cute, yet darkly twisted, animated segment in which a cartoon pig investigates a series of murders. “Jelly Man” (which opens the film) creates a superhero reminiscent of a “Tim and Eric” sketch, where the humour is generated through awkward repetitiveness. “Train Girl” revolves around a woman cursed by a train that proceeds to run over any courting males. Ultimately, the production offers up many unique moments that will seer into memory.
Given the number of films, it becomes difficult to approach technical aspects in statements that would feel fair to each individual short. However, as an over arching statement, the shorts boast a decent sound design, and no segments are shot poorly (unless intentional for comedic effect). One constant across the entire production, deserving of praise, lies with the performances. Every actor, from stars to the background, deliver campy dialogue with great expression and comedic timing. It is a commendable effort across the board, with the success of the project being carried by memorable performances.
There is one major glaring negative within the project, which has to be within the format itself. The multi-segmented production, first echoed with the “ABC’s of Death” films, has gained as much praise as it has ire among fans. This breaks down to the monotony of watching 22 similar themed projects in a row, which regardless of quality of the work, turns into a slog, as the production nears its end. This also has the unfortunate effect of dulling the enjoyment of the later segments since it becomes difficult to keep interest. The format is really not complimentary, and any praise for the shorts will come from memorizing certain segments after viewing, not the overall project. It creates an odd competition between directors, with the later entries always losing.
In spite of getting burnt out and disengaging from the later segments, “Tetsudon: Fool Wars” still offers up some of the best comedic short films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Offering up characters that I will never forget, it left me with sincere joy in realizing I will want to call on Jelly Man when in a bind, never tell trains they are stupid or trust a drug peddling super hero. Overall, the production offers a great diverse collection of short films that contains some of the greatest absurdist/comedic moments committed to film.