Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 6th 2012
DVD - The Complete Series Part 1
In the year 3001.5 the Earth has fallen under the tyrannical rule of the Chrome Dome Empire and its leader Baldy Bald IV. In an effort to enforce hair-free standards empire-wide, Hair Hunt troops roam the land, wreaking devastation as they seek to make everyone bald. The pink-haired girl Beauty seems slated to become their next victim when her town is attacked and its population de-haired, but a bold hero jumps to her rescue: the afro-sporting Bo-Bobo, who uses his mastery of the Fist of the Nose Hair technique – which yes, does involve super-long nose hairs – to thwart the Chrome Dome hoodlums. As Beauty travels the land with Bo-Bobo, they eventually collect an eclectic band of fellow oddballs, including the sun-shaped Don Patch, a former gang leader who participates in innumerable stupid jokes with Bo-Bobo; the teen boy Gasser, whose techniques include dangerous farts; the reformed bad guy Jelly Jiggler; and the teleporting girl Suzu, not to mention all of the people and weird critters who live in Bo-Bobo's afro and nose. They'll need all of the help they can get, too, as they must face down the lieutenants and assassins of the various Chrome Dome squads and eventually the Empire's Big Four as well.
The entirety of the 76 episode 2003-2005 series Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo aired on Cartoon Network starting in the fall of 2005 and running through the fall of 2007 (with some breaks along the way), during which time Illumitoon Entertainment tried selling DVD volumes containing three episodes each. They apparently didn't sell well, though, so Illumitoon gave up after the fourth volume. Thus this 2012 release by S'more Entertainment, which represents the first foray into anime by a company which has traditionally dealt with older and more obscure live-action movie releases, is the first time that many of these episodes have been available in DVD form. But while seeing forgotten titles picked up and released like this can certainly be regarded as a Good Thing, was it really worth the effort in this case?
Part One contains the first 38 episodes spread across four discs, which come in two cases fitted into an artbox, all for a remarkably economic price. ($50 MSRP for so many episodes is hard to beat, especially given that these are full 26-minute episodes.) Just because so much of this series is available in one place doesn't mean that marathoning it is necessarily a good idea, however; in fact, the DVDs should carry a warning label cautioning viewers that watching too much of it in one sitting will result in brain rot – yes, it's that stupid. In fact, the aggressive stupidity present in this title is so constant, pervasive, and strong that it has few anime rivals; the series even acknowledges what it's doing in one unusually inspired episode late in this run where the principal cast members are unable to defeat one villain because she can ruthlessly punish them for making bad jokes, which they cannot stop making for long enough to defeat her.
Of course, stupidity used right can be quite funny, and the first half of the series spares no effort trying to be so. Although the series does, more or less, have a fairly typical shonen plot about an evil empire that needs to be defeated and the heroes systematically going around and defeating its underlings and leaders one by one, the overwhelming majority of the content is an unending stream of ridiculous jokes, puns, and parodies. The main target of ridicule is Fist of the North Star, from which the series derives much of its basic premise and structure as well as some naming conventions and even a guest appearance by the telltale scar Kenshiro has on his chest. Other elements are distinctly reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z, such as the uniform designs on the Hair Hunt flunkies, some of the human character designs, and some of the power-up effects, including most notably the Fusion techniques that Bo-Bobo undergoes with various other characters. (Amusingly, the results are always pretty boys no matter who's fusing together.) An astute viewer will doubtlessly catch references to other shonen titles, too. Older American viewers may recognize the style of some of the jokes – especially the cross-dressing and skits that Bo-Bobo and Don Patch routinely engage in – as reminiscent of fare seen in the older Hanna-Barbera shorts, while those more versed in Japanese culture will find the style of joke-telling to be more representative of the traditional manzai style of stand-up comedy.
Claiming that such references make the humor sophisticated would be a gross overstatement, however, as most of it functions on a more juvenile level. This is a series where almost anything can happen and usually does: a squirrel lamenting a lost girlfriend might be seen talking to a buddy inside Bo-Bobo's afro, one bad guy-turned-good guy looks like a jelly candy, another has a head shaped like a pile of frozen yogurt, talking fish are defeated in a dojo fight by slathering fruit jelly on them, a shop keeper who lives inside Bo-Bobo's nose occasionally shutters it off, Bo-Bobo at one point spends a week inside a giant bun trying to learn what a hamburger feels like, or a P-35 torpedo with a woman's arms and legs repeatedly reminds the protagonists that she's “a tor-PEDO!” (It's actually funnier in execution than it sounds.) That Bo-Bobo routinely uses skills based on elongated nose hairs and his martial arts style Snot Fu Yu (yeah, the series really goes there, and even has talking boogers, too) to defeat foes are, naturally, two of the main recurring jokes, although they lose their full punch after the first few times. Breaking the fourth wall and talking about their creators, the script, on-screen text, or even fanciful reinterpretations of earlier events in the episode-initiating recaps are also regular features for both the characters and narrator.
Through it all Beauty stands as the Straight Girl, the one seemingly sane character in an otherwise-insane setting. She ultimately serve little other purpose than to react to the stupidity with her eye-popping expression and give the guys someone to rescue when she occasionally gets captured (if they can be bothered to give up their antics about dressing like a schoolgirl or someone's momma long enough to do their jobs, of course). Bo-Bobo and Don Patch serve as the primary jokesters and fighters (though Don is often ineffective at the latter), while Gasser is an up-and-coming fighter and kinda-sorta mutual love interest for Beauty; he mostly plays straight but does have a sort of “baby mode” that he sometimes goes into. Jelly Jiggler, once his time as a villain passes, is a nominal fighter who much more often ends up serving as the put-upon fall guy. Much later on Dengakuman shows up as a mascot character so weak that he can't even get enemies to acknowledge his existence. Recurring characters in this half include the highly-capable fighter Softon (the aforementioned character with the frozen yogurt head) and the female teleporter Suzu, who is a faithful underling of the semi-villain Captain Battleship but turns out to be a pretty decent girl. The villains that come and go mostly have completely ridiculous names and personalities, including the dreadfully fiendish Kitty-Poo.
The animation production by Toei Animation favors bright colors and simplistic designs – in other words, what one would expect from a kid's show. The visual gags are as endlessly weird and creative as the verbal jokes and typically move the action along at a frenetic pace. Animation quality is good enough to support the humor but nothing special. These episodes offer not a whiff of fan service and violence restrained to a cartoonish level; a parent could feel safe showing this to elementary school-age children.
The musical score is likewise effective at supporting and promoting the jokes and silly tone but is not particularly memorable. Initial opener “Wild Challenger” is a lively, rap-themed song which is replaced in the 30s by new opener “Baka Survivor,” an enthusiastic tune which may be even better. This block of episodes uses three different closers consecutively but none of them make much of an impression.
S'more Entertainment's release of the series has received some negative press for claiming on the packaging that it offers English subtitles when, in fact, the disks have no subtitling at all – not for the extensive use of on-screen text and not for the Japanese dub, either – nor were they apparently ever intended to. Thus one must either watch this dubbed or watch it raw. The fourth disc does have the novel feature of .pdf files containing the full script for each episode, but that is hardly an acceptable compromise. Fortunately the English dub is a high-spirited, fun-loving one whose cast members fully get into the kooky spirit of the show. Richard Epcar nails Bo-Bobo in portraying him as a deep-voiced beefcake guy a few slices short of a full loaf and Kirk Thornton is a hoot as Don Patch, while amongst guest appearances Melodee M. Spevack distinguishes herself in a great one-shot appearance as Torpedo Girl. The English script doubtless got some extensive rewrites, as a lot of the jokes are tweaked specifically for the peculiarities of the English language and references that would be less arcane to American viewers.
Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo can be a fun series to watch while drinking of if you just want to sit down and veg out, and it does occasionally have some good jokes tucked in amongst the rampant stupidity. It is mindless entertainment about on the same level as much of Adult Swim's original animated fare and should be treated as such.
Overall (dub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ So many jokes are thrown out that almost everyone will find something to laugh at.
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