Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Oh! Edo Rocket
DVD - Season 1 Part 2
The quest to launch lady alien Sora to the moon atop the world's biggest firework continues. As primary rocket architect, Seikichi continues his testing, without much success. But failed nozzles and exploding rockets aren't his only problems. Viciously petty policeman Akai has it in for Seikichi, and worse, is convinced that Sora is the white "sky beast" that is trying to kill his own alien cohabiter, the blood-sucking Blue Woman. When Sora is captured by the shogunate, Seikichi and the misfits of the Furai Row House must do the unthinkable: seek official sanction for their rocket and the plucky intergalactic policewoman who is to ride it. But even if they succeed they'll still have to contend with Akai and the Blue Woman. And official sanction comes at a price; a price that could strip Seikishi of something more precious than even his life: his dream.
Oh! Edo Rocket's second half kicks off with all of the show's trademark goofiness intact, although the super-serious subplots are threatening to take the series over. The mini-sized caricatures of the Furui Row House dodge debt collectors, the cast digs through the history behind the show (and are horrified by what they learn), Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi gets a plug, Ayakashi Ayashi gets a dig in the ribs, and the show is just generally three supersized espressos to the wind, as always. Akai's bitterness at row house's residents and the Blue Woman's ominous interest in Seikichi bubble beneath the caffeinated surface, but there they stay.
Then things change. The darkest of Edo Rocket's subplots boil to the surface as Seikichi's rocket falls completely to the wayside, and the show grows quite grim. Surprisingly, it works. Gin's association with the Men in Black, Sora's secret identity as one of the sky beasts, and Akai's increasingly ugly vendetta against Seikichi and Sora collide in a powerful climax that leaves no secrets between allies or enemies, instigating a seismic shift in the positions and relationships of all involved. A rescue mission predictably follows, though with far more twists and bittersweet little developments than such a rote exercise should reasonably have. And it's all polished off by a massive medieval sci-fi action set-piece that gathers each of the arc's plot threads and neatly severs them in one go.
Whereupon the series ends. Just one small problem: It isn't actually over. Seikichi hasn't launched his rocket yet, and there are six full episodes left in which to do it. Thus begins the set's second arc, and into its vast empty spaces the show pours all of the energy, idiocy, and devious, tongue-in-cheek reflexivity that the blacker parts of the previous arc held back. There's play-within-a-play (within-an-anime). There're seriocomic side-stories about Gin and O-riku. And, quite naturally, there are love-potion snafus. All of which pass in a chaotic whirl of blithe anachronism and merrily violated cinematic convention. Mistakes are made. Tetsuju should have been used more sparingly (if at all). The antics of the Furai crowd have the recycled air of a behavioral pastiche. And never has the filler function of the series' anarchy been so obvious. Even so, it's good fun. Indefatigable energy and a knack for mad invention rescue even its most dismal comic turns: add a few pokes at zombie-movie conventions and you can make even a romantic-comedy stinker like the love-potion funny again. And when gags fail, Sora and Seikichi's cute new rapport easily carries the day.
It is to this hurricane of comic activity that the series' look and feel truly belongs. The goofy character designs lend themselves far more readily to hijinks than the kind of heartbreak and shockingly nasty drama exemplified by Sora's prison-break. Ditto the humorous score, with its lively big-band sounds and foot-shuffling hints of Latin dance. Puffy's exemplary pop opener was positively jarring during the oft bleak episodes that finished off the first disc. Here, it, like the lighthearted (if inferior) new closer, is perfectly in sync with the tone of the show. As are the manic excesses of Seiji Mizushima's pointlessly well-executed action scenes and the chunky, painterly lines of the background art. Make no mistake, Mizushima did right by the dark days of the penultimate arc, both when emotionally charged (the play of emotions across monster-Sora's face when the row house turns on her) and spectacle-oriented (the final fight over, under and through a hovering alien spaceship). But there was still a bit of a disconnect, particularly when SD midget-people got involved.
Funimation's English dub retrofits Edo Rocket's self-referential humor with an enthusiasm that borders on the reckless. Some of the alterations make perfect sense, as when cultural references cluster together or a joke mentions the work of the Japanese voice talent. A lot of them, however, can only be chalked up to the dub staff having a hell of a lot of fun. Which luckily translates into a heck of a lot of fun for us. Occasionally the alteration fever intrudes into the more serious dialogue, and there's more than one mismatch between dub script and visuals, but neither is common: fidelity seems to have been the watchword for most of the dramatic content. Of necessity that means the dub is duller when substantial, which affects the acting and causes some emotional nuances to go MIA—the bitter futility felt by those against whom absolute power is maliciously wielded being just one.
That the pressures building beneath Edo Rocket's comedy padding crest six episodes before the series ends leaves it feeling pretty ill-structured. Like a race car that ran a great final lap, only to die halfway through and coast over the finish line, a definite anticlimacticism haunts its final episodes. It's somehow appropriate, though, given the series' nutty charm, that it would blunder like that in the final stretch. And it's a testament to that charm, as well as Sora's, that even with its meandering end the show still manages to pass that final and most important of litmus tests: When it ends, we're sad to see it go.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Sora is adorable; still as whacked as ever; comes to a powerful and poignant end.
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