Many have bemoaned the lack of originality in Japanese cinema over the last 15 years. A few, however, such as Yosuke Fujita, have proven to be an exception. His hilarious and touching debut Zenzen Daijōbu (Fine, Totally Fine, 2008) picked up the Audience Award at the New York Asian Film Festival and secured distribution in many international territories. His new work is equally as forlorn, funny, touching and tantalizing.

The title character, Fuku-chan, played by actress Miyuki Oshima (who grabbed the Best Actress Award at the Montreal International Film Festival for her efforts), is a bashful thirty-something man who lives alone in the dumpy Fukufuku-sō and leads the collection of resident losers there. He has no life outside of his job and hobby, and his goofy buddy Shimacchi (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) is forever failing to set him up with women. When successful photographer Chiho (Asami Mizukawa) suddenly appears, we start to learn about Fuku-chan’s girl-induced trauma.

With a perfect knack for deadpan humor, absurd situations that feel all too real and an insight into the pathos of the human spirit, Fujita unspools another masterpiece. This Japan-U.K.-Italy-Taiwan-Germany co-production (a first) is simply a must-see, and one of the best Japanese films since … Fujita’s last flick. English title: Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats. (110 min)