Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, May 29th 2007
Nerima Daikon Brothers
Building a dome in their radish field has always been the Nerima Daikon Brothers' dream, and when they are approached by a slightly fishy media mogul whose goals coincide with theirs to a suspicious degree, they just might have the sponsor they need to make it come true. But only Hideki seems taken with him, and when Mako is seduced away by whispered promises of stardom from an American pop star of um, suspicious complexion, the Nerima Daikon Brothers face the greatest threat yet to their solidarity: a continuous storyline. That's right, even more than Mako's mercenary money-grubbing, Hideki's cousin-lust, and Ichiro's apathy, can the Nerima Daikon Brothers survive a plot that can't be neatly tied up in a single episode? And is that extra Daikon Brother in the purple suit Detective Yukika?
After two volumes of surprising little formula tweaks and insane comedic inventions, it has become less a question of if the show will find a way to keep itself fresh and funny, and more a question of how it will. The novelty of watching characters break into songs about silly stuff has long since worn off—especially now that the tunes of the oft-repeated half-dozen or so musical tracks have been engraved into our nervous systems—so the burden of the humor is borne by the sight gags, crazed villains, and frantic character dynamics. And for the most part, they're up to the job. Shinichi Watanabe's eye for silly-yet-hilarious sight gags and grasp of comic timing are as sharp as ever. Naturally not every joke works flawlessly, but by the time Ichiro demonstrates that his "Love Spanking" works equally well on both sexes, or the yellow-skinned Michael Jackson rip-off in Peter-Pan cosplay loses his nose, you'll be willing to forgive him for any comic inconsistencies. The scene in which the Prime Minister appears, with his theme music crooning "I collect your taxes and make merry in a big way" solemnly in the background even manages to refresh the show's musical angle.
But it's also finale time—which is where the continuous story-line comes in—and that means that it's the time in which comedies traditionally take a stab at a more serious story-line. NDB makes a pass at it too, but "more serious" is a relative term, and a "more serious" NDB is still a good deal weirder and funnier than many other comedies are at their best. Watanabe knows full well that removing all of the comedy would crush his thin characters under the weight of the drama, so no even vaguely dramatic scene lasts long before being disrupted (or destroyed altogether) by a joke. The surprising thing is how well the mix works. The sometimes cruel humor smothers the potential treacle factor, while the bonds between the Daikon Brothers (and Yukika) are real enough, and their chemistry appealing enough, that the desire to see them reunite is actually quite strong. On the other hand, the grand finale is just an up-scaled version of the usual Nerima Daikon Brothers climactic fight. And if saying that it's all tied up by a big ol' deus ex machina spoils anything for you, then you haven't been watching very closely.
While the constant repetition of the disturbingly infectious, yet limited, musical themes occasionally grates, the equally limited visuals are actually used to the series' advantage. Repeated animation—specifically the dances—are manipulated in ways that range from amusing (Nabeshin himself getting into the "Pops Song" dance) to flat-out hilarious (the sight of a fat man in a soup-pot diaper dancing Mako's sexy "Mako Wants..." dance). Characters—barring the various hideous villains—continue to look good, particularly Mako's unconventional cuteness and Hideki's hairy middle-aged charisma. Animation ranges from intentionally cheesy to good depending on the needs of any particular scene, but is definitely at its best when portraying real-life dance moves.
Perhaps more than any of the volumes previously, this volume takes serious enough liberties with the script to justify calling the dub an alternate take on the material. It has character dynamics and a humor all its own, though it does preserve the plot and mood for the most part. The timing of some of the jokes is less than perfect, but some sharp writing, clever turns of phrase and inventive rhymes make up for it. Be warned that its sense of humor is considerably more vulgar than the already broad humor of the Japanese, and that the character dynamics are overall a bit more catty. Performances are still good, and actors are well matched to their characters.
The extras available on this disc will be familiar to anyone who has been following the series. The AD Vid-notes are still a welcome addition, even if they pale in comparison to those for more pop-culture-reliant shows like Excel Saga and Pani Poni Dash! The full-length commentaries (Shoutarou Morikubo for ep. 9, and energetic Ayano Matsumoto for eps. 10-12) are interesting, even if they make one long sometimes for the unbridled charisma of Shigeru Matsuzaki (eps. 4-7). The sing-along subtitles are also present, along with a video of three women doing the Money Dancers' dance (yow!).
NDB ends here, sadly enough (despite all the tongue-in-cheek hints in the commentaries about a second season). It's been a fun little dance party throughout, and has balanced its formulaic structure and repetition with knowingly unpredictable little touches. There's some marginally more serious content here at the end, but it never forgets that it is, at heart, a no-holds-barred comedy. At which it succeeds beautifully.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Features a touch of drama that adds depth without distracting from the all-important gags.
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