Reviewby Carlo Santos,
The Daichis - Earth Defence Family
DVD 2: Debt-Doomed
The Daichi family continues its efforts to protect Japan from otherworldly forces, mostly to make up their debts for weapons and upgrades. After a long night of training leaves everyone drained, father and son Mamoru and Dai must face a surprise robot attack alone. Will the ladies (mother Seiko and daughter Nozomi) get back to them in time? Next, a factory in Russia goes missing, and the Daichis must fend off a Commie-bot while trying to get Dai out of his bad mood. Then the magical monster craze arrives with a cute new toy called Pokemaru, and if Mamoru doesn't get over his addiction to them, the Pokemaru could potentially destroy all of Japan's major cities. Finally, cynical Nozomi must save the day when a giant pink heart atop Tokyo Tower brainwashes everyone into lovesickness.
It seems that anime fans have missed a golden opportunity to lash out against evil corporate American animation. A family of superheroes, with a well-meaning but misguided dad, a harried mom trying to keep everything together, a sarcastic but insecure daughter, and a hyperactive son? Come on folks, The Incredibles obviously ripped off The Daichis. But don't watch the show trying to second-guess Pixar, or you'll miss out on an entertaining parody that actually works. It's a love letter from the animation staff to the over-the-top action shows of their youth, and when creative minds work on something they love, it's easy to tell. The Daichis was a whole lot of fun to make, and because of that, it's a whole lot of fun to watch.
The idea of lampooning clichéd anime genres is nothing new, but The Daichis is one of the few shows that gets it right. The secret to its success is telling a story with substance and letting the scenario be a springboard for jokes, rather than dishing out the jokes first and trying to string them together later. Admittedly, the series is far from epic (and is there any comedy that is?), but each individual episode is a fully fleshed-out adventure. It can seem like a long time before the halfway point even comes up, but it's not because the pacing is slow; rather, it's because there's so much going on. Even amid the absurdity, there are some remarkably true-to-life moments—Seiko finding a gray hair; Nozomi facing peer pressure from her friends—that make The Daichis a real family story and not just a farce.
In telling stories about superhero teams, it's vital to make the characters interesting, and while The Daichis plays it safe with family stereotypes, it also give those stereotypes some flavor. Don't mistake this for a kids' show—Dai's dirty mouth and mind could scare off Bart Simpson, and there's even a serious approach to marriage with Mamoru agonizing over Seiko's suspected affair. While each episode can be watched on its own, there are also story threads about the family members that develop gradually over the series, and that's what makes the characters interesting. If you really want to see creativity unleashed, though, just look at the villains: who'd have thought that you could get away with a Commie-bot whose special attack is a hammer and sickle? Even Pokemaru, which symbolizes the easiest target of all for parody anime, becomes downright creepy as the innocuous toy takes over Mamoru's mind.
Not only is bad parody anime often maligned for its weak storylines, but it also gets a lot of flak for cheap, slapdash animation. This isn't the case with The Daichis, where action scenes are rendered with a quality that can only come from the hands of animators who truly love the big, extravagant fights of classic anime. Despite being produced in 2001, the grainy, hand-drawn look urges viewers to see beneath the surface, and discover the dynamic moves and high frame rates that leave serious action shows in the dust. Sadly, most people only ever see the surface, and the intentionally old-fashioned character designs and color schemes will probably alienate audiences with more modern tastes. Sure, everyone's hairstyles and outfits look ridiculous, and some of the special effects lack polish, but fundamentally good animation has no expiration date. Even the transformation scenes look cool, and those things supposedly went out of style years ago.
The musical setting for The Daichis has one unified purpose: to ROCK OUT. Shigeo Naka, lead guitarist of The Surf Coasters, provides something that isn't so much a music score as it is a maniacal, guitar-ripping surge of energy. Every fight scene is boosted by a hard rock soundtrack laden with power chords, even going so far as to have an actual concert take place in Episode 6. For more subdued scenes, Naka proves himself equally adept with a bluesy acoustic guitar style. Oh, and make sure to check out the blatantly metaphorical lyrics of the opening theme—that song is about exactly what you think it is.
Geneon may have taken the old-school anime aesthetic a little too far with their dub production. Although the translations are solid and carry over well from to subtitle to script, the voice acting only meets the standards of days gone by. Danny McKinnon and Anna Cummer, who play Dai and Nozomi respectively, turn their child roles into overblown caricatures of children. John Murphy and Lisa Ann Beley fare better as Mamoru and Seiko, but they get too caught up in their character stereotypes to come up with unique voices that fit those specific personalities. On a subtler note, be aware that a lot of swearing in the original script gets toned down in the dub.
Perhaps the best thing that The Daichis revives from the pre-angsty era of anime is a pure, honest sense of enjoyment. It's crazy, it's over-the-top, and some of the stuff that happens just makes no sense. But with off-the-wall attacks and even more off-the-wall villains, it's entertaining even if it doesn't make you laugh out loud. The fact that there's great animation and actual character depth is just an added bonus, so sit back and enjoy this lively adventure that manages to both poke fun... and have fun.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Surprisingly slick animation and parody that actually works.
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