Upon the release of Ranma 1/2 on Bluray, Mike takes a stroll through the world of Rumiko Takahashi.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Feb 11th 2004
DVD 2: Friends & Enemies
Marin is still being attacked by the Monomakia falling from Brigadoon. To make matters worse, the local police chief wants to capture her for information, and he'll stop at nothing to get her! Luckily, Marin will soon be joined by two more Monomakia to help protect her.
There are two categories of “once in a lifetime” anime series out there. There are those that fill every part of you with emotion and revelation and can't help being watched over and over again. Then there are shows like Brigadoon that are truly enjoyable, but can only be watched—“once in a lifetime.” You've watched it that requisite one time and nothing short of its spontaneous combustion can remind you that it still sits on your shelf. It's easy to see why, too. It has an absolutely engaging storyline that hustles you eagerly through its episodes, but there are so many other negative aspects offsetting this that the two sides cancel each other out and leave you with only a shiny disc and an empty feeling.
Much of the next five episodes in the series are Pokémon-fashion. Marin and her trusty sidekick Melan Blue have fun little adventures all around the country while a bad guy keeps sending enemies after her. Along the way, Marin finds two other ampoules containing Monomakia willing to protect her. So now instead of relying just on Melan, she can throw these containers at monsters, scream out a name, and *POOF!* instant Monomakia. While Brigadoon does tread the old Weekly Monster formula, it's at least smart enough to keep the rest of the story moving along briskly. Shrouded in mystery, the whole “What child is this?! Is she our saviour?!” gimmick works wonders and keeps viewers occupied, while at the same time, the battle between rich and poor continues to fester on screen. Dabbling in shoujo-ai undertones and the emotional lives of all the side characters, the series keeps itself busy and fresh, using the scenes as an opportunity to evenly develop all of the characters amidst the attacking monsters.
What's kind of clever is the way that the time era is slipped in. It never mentions what year the show is set in, but through hints, it's made clear that it's set in the 1960s. Laced with mentions of a US vs. Soviet space race and allusions to the Pacific War, it's unclear why that decade was chosen, but it works. Not to mention the US government decides to send, of all things, Apollo 11 up to Brigadoon to scope things out. There are some eyebrow raisers scattered throughout the scenes, though. For one, there's heavy anti-American sentiment in some of the characters, but at the same time, the Japanese government is portrayed as a cowering pup in awe of the Mighty United States Conglomerate Power Thing. Apparently the Japanese policing system is ridiculously corrupt too, since the cops have a penchant for kidnapping kids, beating up civilians, and ruthlessly pounding suspect's heads onto interrogation tables (though it does showcase Marin's lovely healing powers, since her bloody battered head is impeccably clean in the next shot).
While the story itself is intriguing, it also harbors plenty of scenes that are just downright stupid and unintentionally hilarious. In one of the episodes, Marin and her friend Moe take a nighttime vacation to the beach and have the world's sorriest party. Using Melan as their slave to build bonfires and light fireworks, the two have an almost endearing sing-along where they hold hands, bob back and forth, and sing the ending theme. I say “almost” endearing because the characters look like they were pulled from a 50s sitcom fishing trip and it looks so incredibly fake that any cynic would be hard-pressed not to double up in laughter. Then the group busts out those round candies with the holes in them that let you whistle so the trio of them can all bob around and look cheesy together.
Alas, the fun ends there. Every other aspect of the show except the music takes a plunge into polluted waters. One of the biggest party-poopers is Marin. She's aggravating beyond comparison and if a hearty slap could be delivered to her, each viewer would be much happier. She is skilled in only two things: whining and bitching. She seems to be of the opinion that every male in the world is trying to get in her pants or sneak a peek at her flat chest. Naturally, every time she's caught in a situation where some poor soul accidentally touches her unattractive body, she throws a tantrum and screams her heart out. It's understandable that girls don't want to be violated, but clasping hands over your anti-bosom and squealing “MY BOOBS!” doesn't turn anyone on. Add to that the repulsing character designs and you've got a winner.
The thing is, when the characters were designed, they tried to pass Marin off as a girl mature enough to hold the fate of the world in her hands. To solve that, they threw some lipstick on her and made her blush every time her hair was down. With her grotesquely large head and spacious glasses though, she comes off as a cross-dressing Detective Conan. Tack on a pair of legs that seem to end in solid clay stumps, and she is one troll-ugly girl. See, the reason why television producers cast attractive actors in shows is because they are pleasant on the eyes and thus likely to pull in more viewers. In Brigadoon's case, it's truly hard to concentrate on the story and dialogue when thoughts of “Damn, she's got tree trunks for legs” flash through one's head every time Marin is on the screen.
I only wish that her character could be helped out by the miracles of voice acting, but she's a lost cause. Her Japanese voice seems to have acquired a nasty quirk of uttering an “Ahaaaaaa!” every two minutes. Now in a disc with five episodes, that's a lot of “Ahaaaaaa!”s. By the fifth one, the easily annoyed will have miraculously acquired a bat (the choice of whether to hit the TV or bludgeon your own skull is left up to the viewer). Luckily, the rest of the cast performs their lines with pizzazz and dedication. The one American resident in the tenement however, is a huge exception. It's entertaining that his Japanese is made intentionally bad, but there's no reason why his English should sound as atrocious as it does. Folks, if you can't get an actor that speaks perfect English, stop putting American characters in your shows. A token to Tokyopop though, English script is wonderfully translated and its respective cast delivers an equally talented presentation. Special kudos go to them for dubbing over one of Marin's new Monomakia buddies' grunts so she no longer sounds like a biker chick with the worst imaginable case of constipation.
It's really too bad that Marin was designed to be such a sore to all five senses because she's a valuable asset to the story. Not only is she the key to saving Earth and Brigadoon (well, that's obvious), but many of the series' “friends are forever!” messages are channeled through her interactions with Melan. In fact, it's half the fun just seeing how the two grow with each other and how their loyalty to one another lead the duo to safety every time. Giving a helping hand to her friends and the other tenement residents whenever they need it, she also acts as an important mediator for the rest of the characters' problems.
In the end, it's a series that will pull viewers through the episodes and leave them anxious for the next one. Thanks to the mysterious air that shrouds the show and entirely likable characters like Melan Blue, it makes people just want to see what will happen next. Sadly, there are just so many other distractions like an annoying main character, cheesy friendship scenes, and ghastly character designs that it's hard to not leave each viewing feeling underwhelmed. The compilation of so many trivial problems just renders the disc too unpalatable for any repeat viewings.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : C-
Music : A
+ Engaging storyline
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