Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Carlo Santos, Sep 26th 2006
DVD Box Set
Suzuo is on his summer break from college, but he can't get a part-time job. So when a young girl asks him test out a "Power Suit" for a toy company, he figures he might as well try—not realizing that the suit turns him into an actual superhero, Dokkoida! What's more, the company is developing this power suit as part of a Galaxy Federation Police project, using the Earth as their test facility. To prove his worth, Dokkoida will have to outperform rival superhero Neruloid Girl, and must defeat galactic villains like mad scientist Dr. Marronflower, the spoiled-brat princess Edelweiss and S&M mistress Hyacinth. But Suzuo's real problems begin when all the heroes and villains take on secret identities and move into the same apartment complex...
There could have been many ways for Dokkoida?! to fail. It is, after all, a wacky superhero parody, an idea so overused that it's become as clichéd as the genre it tries to make fun of. Suzuo's living arrangements border dangerously close on harem territory—how convenient for him that his adversaries (and unwitting next-door-neighbors) should fit so neatly into basic bishoujo personality types. But despite these potential pitfalls of bad anime, the series generally stays on the side of good, turning out some genuinely fun moments and showing flashes of creativity. The end result is a solid run of 12 episodes that successfully balances comedy, action and just a bit of drama. Not a terribly ambitious show, but one that accomplishes what it sets out to do.
Every hero needs an origin—and the first few episodes are all about that, showing how Suzuo gets his Dokkoida?! suit and introducing the main characters. It's probably the driest part of the series, trudging through action-adventure formula as Dokkoida?! battles each villain. Even at this point, though, cleverness shines through; the anticlimactic effect of Edelweiss's power and Hyacinth's unusual methods add an extra spark to what would otherwise be generic stereotypes. The second DVD is where the adventure really starts to take off, starting with an unexpected dilemma: Suzuo needs more money. Who knew that economics mattered in a superhero universe? In fact, the world of Dokkoida?! shows more depth than the typical comedy-adventure, bringing business and politics into play: the whole thing starts off because of a space police-funded research program, and the finale revolves around the culmination of the project.
In between those two points in the story arc lies a mixed bag of episodes, with some just meandering filler (did they really need that pool race or the movie-star escapade?) and others approaching brilliance. Episode 7, "Kurika's Dream," stands out as one of the best single episodes of anime ever produced, with its surreal, shifting imagery and a mood that will warm even the coldest heart. Right after that is more brilliance, except in the opposite direction: a send-up of "little sister fetish" that is about as close to harem as the series gets, taken to the limits of absurdity. Economics also strikes again when Suzuo and friends unknowingly become stars on a galaxy-wide "reality show," another strong episode that spoofs showbiz. In fact, the series somehow does better when it avoids Dokkoida?!'s superheroics entirely. The ending, although moving, is just as cookie-cutter as the origin story, and it's what happens in the middle that makes things truly entertaining.
Good production values help to keep Dokkoida?! out of the comedy bargain bin, with sharply-colored visuals and competent animation. While the action scenes aren't particularly astounding, they do carry the right amount of energy for superhero battle—and the motion is smooth enough to please the eye during high-speed moments. Where the visuals really shine, however, is in the design department, from the animal-headed aliens of the Galaxy Federation to the pseudo-Star Wars settings in the final arc to the instant-cosplay outfits of the main characters. Certainly there's a hint of old-school in there, like the multicolored hair and the lead hero's blatant Ultraman homage, but the artists' genuine love for the genre and a bit of 21st-century polish keep everything looking fresh and creative.
The easygoing, acoustic guitar-laced theme songs in the show may sound like the complete opposite of what a superhero anime should be—but with day-to-day comedy getting as much screen time as battle action, an easygoing mood makes sense. The real superhero theme doesn't come up until Dokkoida?! actually appears, and the hilariously stilted sentai tune is itself a part of the story: supposedly, Dokkoida?! gets into his fighting spirit when he hears his theme music being played. But the soundtrack is capable of more subdued moods as well; some of the best music scoring happens in "Kurika's Dream" with sweet, simple melodies.
Although the English dub of the series is just as energetic as the original audio, don't expect to be hearing the same lines in different languages. The dub script plays loose with the dialogue, often altering jokes to put them in a more Western cultural context and sometimes just trying to add that last drop of humor into the script. It's still possible to enjoy the series this way; just realize that the dub is an all-purpose, mildly Americanized version of the show. Veteran actor Brad Swaile takes Suzuo's role, sounding very familiar as the typical leading male, and the rest of the cast performs decently as well, although the very young characters do grate on the ears after prolonged exposure.
The overall packaging of the set is fairly average—a cardboard box with a wraparound image of all the characters—but the DVD extras prove to be a lot of fun. Going beyond just the usual clean opening and endings, there's also a promotional video clip, a "Making of" feature about the stop-motion ending sequence, a live performance of the opening song, and a cosplay clip scattered among the three discs. Even the DVD cases have their share of goodies, with themed iron-on transfers in each one and reversible covers with bonus comic strips.
Perhaps this action-comedy avoids the failings of other action-comedies by inverting the structure of such a series. While most anime shows clog their middle episodes with filler and work their way up to a momentous closing arc, Dokkoida?! settles for a predictable closer and brings out the good stuff in the middle. When lampooning the entertainment industry or walking through dreamworlds, it shows real ingenuity, and yet when going through the actual adventures of Dokkoida?!, it delivers only what's expected and nothing more. Nonetheless, it looks awfully convenient in this box set—so anyone with a soft spot for superheroes and spoof comedy should give it a try.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Some brilliantly produced middle episodes; good DVD extras.
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