Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
In the future, middle school student Sakura Kusakabe will invent an immortality formula with a rather perverted side effect: it freezes the physical maturation of women at age 12, allegedly because of Sakura's future lolicon fetish. God is so offended by this that he sends Dokuro, an angel from Lulutie (aka the Precinct of Martial Law Council), back in time to kill Sakura while he's still young. Dokuro instead falls in love with Sakura and decides to attempt various creative methods to prevent him from learning enough to develop the immortality formula rather than kill him. Unfortunately the temperamental Dokuro frequently accidentally kills Sakura in oft-messy fashion, usually through the use of her spiked metal club Excaliborg, only to sing a magical chant that fully restores him again. While Sakura tries to survive and hook up with Shizuki, his true love, other angels periodically pop up to get involved in the situation, including the blond-haired and ultimately homeless Sabato, Dokuro's more mature-looking, eyepatch-sporting younger sister Zakuro, Sabato's mother (and Dokuro's superior) Babel, and male punk angel Zansu, who serves as Dokuro's assistant and adviser.
The premise alone should be a clear indication of what to expect: a ridiculous silly, ridiculously bloody, and generally fun little series which acts like a cross between Excel Saga and an ecchi harem romantic comedy, with a bit of Monty Python-like sensibility thrown in for good measure. It is the kind of series which can make you laugh at the central boy being gruesomely killed multiple times per episode, only to see him promptly returned to life with a magical girl-like chant of “pipiru piru piru pipiru pii.” It can make you giggle at the awful fate which awaits angels who get their halos removed. (It literally isn't pretty, which makes one wonder why angels don't do a better job of protecting their halos.) It can leave you snickering at how all of Sakura's classmates except Shizuka always seem to think the absolute worst of him, yet they do not bat an eye at an angel in their midst or fellow students running around with animal heads. It can also leave you scratching your head at topical references that would probably fly over the head of all but the most ardent Japanophile, but fortunately it does not have too many of those.
It is also anything but a clean show. The slasher movie-level gore factor quickly becomes so over-the-top that it plays about the same way as those old cartoons where a character gets blackened from something exploding in his face or pancaked by a heavy object falling on him. The content may not have any actual nudity or sex, but still offers plenty of fan service, sexual references, and even the occasional simulated sex; one scene in the final episode involving a pit and a lost bath towel is especially raunchy. It is definitely not a show for the kiddies, and the 16+ age rating on the DVD case might be on the mild side.
Like many other prominent anime sketch comedies, Dokuro-chan is divided up into half-length episodes that each have their own particular theme, with each pairing of such half-episodes getting an opener and closer. The first eight episodes, which are included on the first DVD, constitute the 2005 TV series, while the four episodes included on the second DVD are actually a second “season” of OVA episodes made in 2007, commonly labeled Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan 2. Both were wisely included together on AnimeWorks' American DVD release, thus giving it the seeming of a Complete Collection. The TV series part does have at least a vague semblance of a plot, and does try to resolve it towards the end of the first DVD, but with only tepid results. The series is far, far better when aiming for humor, as shown by its recovery to initial form in the OVA episodes.
Hal Film Maker, a little-recognized company responsible for series like Princess Tutu, Aria the Animation, and Saber Marionette J, puts forth here a production effort which normally lands the series in the realm of the decidedly ordinary. Character designs are cute enough but nothing about them stands out beyond the devilish horns given to some of the angels and Zansu's gay punk roadie look. Background art is fine but nothing special, the color scheme is satisfyingly bright, and the animation is serviceable. All of the blood and gore looks more playful than scary, too. Where the series sometimes does stand out visually is in its gimmickry, and the amusing touches thrown in are not always obvious. Sure, the cut-out animal heads given to some characters cannot be missed, and the Prince Charles visual jokes are obvious, but also watch for more subtle touches like a box of chocolates wrapped up like a bondage rope job (yeah, contemplate the implied meaning of that. . .) or the way blood briefly spurts out when Dokuro bites down on a hot dog shaped like Sakura. The series has lots of little off-kilter touches like that if you look for them.
The soundtrack, which is used sparsely in some episodes, depends primarily on a small handful of recurring themes used to play up the comedy bits. The TV series opener, which shares its name with the series, is a catchy, upbeat, and cheerfully sadistic number updated only slightly for the OVA episodes. Contrarily, the closer changes completely, with the TV closer “Survive,” a sad number featuring Sabato in her shack (and be sure to keep watching after the closer at the end of the first disk), being replaced with the more light-hearted festival dance number used in the OVAs. All are sung by Saeko Chiba, the voice of Dokuro, who performs her role with such glee that it would have been hard to adequately duplicate in an English dub.
Of course, that isn't a concern since this series did not merit an English dub, which might have been helpful in some scenes since some of the dialogue jokes are too topical and others fly by too fast to catch without using the Pause button. AnimeWorks could have partly rectified this problem by including some kind of translator notes or commentary on the more obscure jokes in the series, as ADV, Funimation, and AN Entertainment have all been known to do, and the lack of any such item stands out as a glaring omission. Do not expect much else for Extras, either, as the first disk has none and the second disk includes only clean openers and closers, but AnimeWorks did at least retain the original Japanese credits, with the English translations following episode 1-2 and 7-8 on the first DVD and episodes 3-4 on the second DVD. I must also take some issue with the overly cheap design of the DVD case interior, as the flap containing one of the DVDs breaks much too easily. (Mine did not survive a well-padded mailing.)
Perhaps the biggest legitimate strike against Dokuro-chan is that it does not have much staying power. Although its content can be riotously funny on its first view, its humor depends so much on shock value that it loses more of its punch than normal on repeat viewings. Its recurring jokes also wear thin after a few episodes, something which is especially noticeable toward the end of the TV series disk. Fortunately the content rejuvenates itself for the OVA episodes, allowing the series to finish with a good impression overall.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Can be tremendously funny, includes both TV series and OVA episodes.
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