Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 7th 2006
It's time for the village festival, which for Weda means (what else?) lots of drinking and for Haré means further stress over his mother's behavior. When conflict arises over Weda, a curious four-way duel (of sorts) is arranged to see who gets her for a year. Soon after new visitors arrive, a scary-eyed young man named Ashio and a tall, heavily-dressed brunette named Bell who, it turns out, are quite familiar with Weda from her past. For Haré this presents an opportunity to learn some of the things his mother has always left unsaid about her past, such as why she left home in the first place. Later still, Haré's quest for legends for a school assignment turns up some unusual stories, including a particularly odd one involving pokute and one of his neighbors.
Guu, of course, is her usual helpful or stress-causing self, depending on the situation.
Been wondering what the incongruously serious first scene of the series, where a young and pregnant Weda is walking away from a mansion, was all about? This is the volume you want to see to find out the whole story – well, at least part of it, anyway. Episode 12 is typical flippant fun with lots of great gags and parodies, but with the arrival of Bell and Ashio in episode 13, and the revelation of who they actually are, the series actually starts to develop a plot. The story even briefly turns (mostly) serious in episode 14 as Haré, for the first time, learns some of the truth concerning Weda's past and how and why that opening scene happened. The truth is hardly surprising, nor is Haré's reaction to it, and for a rare moment we get a sweet scene of Weda actually acting motherly. We also get a clear look at Weda's mother – and Haré's grandmother – for the first time.
But this is a dedicated comedy series, so it doesn't remain even half-serious for long. Weda is back to her primary boozing, childlike persona in a split-second, and the comedy rolls full steam once again through the end of the episode and on into episode 15. The addition of Ashio and Bell provide two more amusing characters for Haré and Guu to play off of, although the newcomers are interesting enough on their own or when playing off of each other. Bell's gushing nosebleeds are a little too ridiculous (although what they imply is somewhat amusing), but otherwise they are fine additions to the cast. The Doctor makes his own contributions as a man still fearful of the attention of the hairdresser lady from the previous volume, while Haré is still his usual neurotic self. Other regular supporting characters pop up from time to time as well.
As with the earlier volumes, though, Guu is the grease that keeps this series rolling. In her own weird way she shapes, directs, and provokes things to happen, sometimes being directly or indirectly helpful, other times giving the impression that she's tormenting Haré just for fun, and often not being clear about which is which. Part sardonic angel, part devil, part warrior (apparently), and part everything-swallowing monster, she is what separates this series from other weird/goofy anime comedies.
The artistic and technical merits of the series have been discussed in previous reviews, and nothing much has changed on that front for this batch of episodes. Ashio and Bell both have designs very consistent with the styles of the other characters, with the only flaw being that Ashio's “scary eyes,” which are incessantly commented on by other characters, aren't convincing. (It's possible, of course, that this is actually just part of the joke.) Weda's 12-year-old and 15-year-old self are convincingly de-aged, and Weda's mother is capably drawn to look like a different person but still bear a distinct resemblance. The opener and closer also remain unchanged as the series moves into its second half, and the quirky background music is as fun as ever. Serious moments are highlights by piano, string, and flute, but again, those moments don't last long.
Bang Zoom! once again does a bang-up job for the dub, using a script that's reasonably close to the subtitles as comedy series go and a well-chosen cast of English VAs. Deep-voiced Melodee M. Spevack, who has mostly minor credits to her name, is a perfect vocal match for the original Japanese performance of Bell, while Sam Regal uses a mild but distinct country twang to represent the Kansai dialect Ashio uses in Japanese. The subtitles retain as much of the original Japanese naming conventions as is feasible, including the “ojousama” and “ojousan” references used towards Weda by Bell and Ashio, respectively, and the “-bocchan” honorifics used towards Haré. The recurring performances are as good as ever, making for a very pleasing dub.
AN Entertainment continues its practice of including colorful liner notes filled with irreverent facts and some serious cultural and translation notes, which are always repeated on the disk. Also present is the typical array of clean opener/closer, English outtakes (actual bloopers, not alternate dialogue), a limited art gallery, and Japanese commercials.
Some truths are revealed, tears are shed, and lots of fun is had as the series chugs merrily along into its second half. While it may not be the funniest stretch of episodes in the series, it's still regularly funny and the occasional serious bits pick up the slack.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Finally develops some plot, still quite funny.
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