Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 27th 2006
Misako's ex-husband comes seeking money, giving Misako and Sana an excellent chance to try out some of their new toys. More weighty matters are at hand, however, for Misako's new essay “My Daughter and I” has finally been released, revealing a major long-kept secret about Sana and her mother. The nature of the revelation, and the way it is handled, doesn't set well with everyone, attracts even more press attention than expected, and leaves both Sana and Misako worried about how the other will react. Sana's dear friends come to her rescue, however, making the situation easier to bear. A different surprise ultimately awaits both Sana and her mother, forcing them both to confront the consequences of the revelation in their own way, consequences which could have a long-term impact on both of them and their relationship.
And what better way to wrap up a bunch of heavy content than with a light-hearted quiz show which takes a look back at the series to date?
Kodocha spent much of its previous volume (eps 13-16) building up intrigue over a bombshell of a revelation about Sana and her mother that was set to come out in her mother's upcoming book. The book finally arrives halfway through the first episode of this volume, and the build-up proves appropriate; the secret it reveals is a certifiable doozy, one which fans are unlikely to see coming and which could force the reevaluation of some earlier content. The way it's done carries real dramatic power, the kind of thing certain to keep a viewer transfixed and in awe of its implications.
A revelation of this magnitude cannot be dropped without telling the full story and examining the fall-out from it, so what follows are 2½ episodes where drama becomes the focus and the series' trademark silliness and hyperactivity are only occasional flavorings. Even the obnoxious Babbit actually shuts up at one point, and that's saying a lot. Some details that fans may have wondered about for some time now are explained during this period, such as why Sana's mother wears such crazy headpieces, but throughout all the characters remain true to their natures. The ultimate resolution of the storyline late in episode 19, while predictable, is also a surprisingly emotional reaffirmation of the strength of the relationship between Sana and her mother. Kodocha quickly returns to its silly ways after that, but the wake of that episode will leave most viewers with a full appreciation of how good this series actually is. The best “dramadies” are the ones that can be funny without being a hindrance to their serious content (and vice versa), and that's something that Kodocha does quite well.
After its dramatic peak in episode 19 the volume finishes out with “Sana's Super Happy Quiz Show”, which is nothing more than a comical take on a recap episode. Naozumi Kaomura also pops up a few times throughout these episodes and plays at least a small part in the drama, suggesting that we will see more of him in future volumes.
That the series dates back to the mid-to-late '90s is evident from its artistic style, but even by the standards of the pre-digital era the artistry is nothing special. Character designs are suitable and convey the spirit of the character, but everything has a flat and slightly rough look to it. Animation quality is basic; good enough to support the humor, but it won't be winning any awards. The musical score fares much better, with appropriate mood music used for serious scenes and lively ditties enhancing more fun-loving scenes. Most importantly, though, the score knows when it isn't needed. These episodes still use the opener from later in the series rather than the one originally associated with them, but an explanation for why this was done is included in a note on the Audio menu. (This can be accessed by highlighting the asterisk beside the Japanese Stereo option.) The short version? It's a licensing issue, which has also required the deletion of any references to a certain character appearing in that opener.
FUNimation's English dub continues its tradition of being more interpretive than accurate in scripting, a move which diehard fans may lament but which definitely makes some key statements sound considerably less awkward than the more literal translations provided in the subtitles. The English script is certainly more straightforward than the subtitles, which keeps scenes flowing along nicely. Dub performances are also more interpretive of the original roles than accurate recreations of them, but this generally works quite well, to the point that dub-favoring fans are likely to be quite satisfied with the sound and flow. The only significant flaw is that child characters occasionally sound too old for their age, especially in flashbacks involving Sana, but this was a problem in the original Japanese vocals, too. The rapping is a less prominent component this time around but is still done well.
Extras this time around are more limited, consisting only of a new mini-episode of Mr. Stain on Junk Alley and the second part of an interview with original director Akitaro Daichi, who this time around comments at length on the travails of voicing Sana, amongst other topics. His discussions about how the Japanese vocals probably wouldn't have worked as well had he used experienced seiyuu rather than novices in key roles is much more interesting that the inanity of Mr. Stain. Typical FUNi DVD architectures – being able to flip between the Japanese and English versions of the opening and closing credits using the Angle button, for instance – are in place, though in an unusual move for FUNimation the opening and closing themes are not dubbed.
A major revelation sparks the most serious and emotional story arc in the series to date, but Kodocha proves up to the task. Its excellent mix of dramatic and comedic elements continues to sustain the series despite less than stellar technical merits.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B+
+ Excellent use of dramatic content, good comedic support.
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