Reviewby Theron Martin,
Castle Town Dandelion
BD+DVD - The Complete Series
The Sakurada family lives in a normal (if large) house on a normal street, but they are anything but a normal family. For starters, the father and his nine children all have distinct superpowers, and on top of that, they're royalty. Father Soichiro is the king of their kingdom, and one of his children is going to be his designated successor. Instead of automatically giving that honor to Aoi, the eldest, Soichiro has declared that a popular election will be held upon Aoi's upcoming high school graduation, and the child who gets the most votes will be the next king. While mild-mannered nice girl Aoi consistently maintains the top spot in popularity polls without much effort, most of her younger siblings campaign for their own widely varying reasons. This is most difficult for Akane, the twin-tailed third princess and fourth child, who suffers intense anxiety in the public eye and absolutely hates the security cameras stationed all around town by Soichiro to keep an eye on his children. However, her endearing awkwardness and penchant for superhero-style heroics make her quite popular, and the other Sakurada children also face their own issues concerning their powers, pasts, or potential love interests as Election Day gradually approaches.
Some anime series are best watched week-by-week as they broadcast, while some others are best suited for marathon viewing. This 12-episode series from 2015 decidedly falls in the former category, since its penchant for high-strung character antics is fine in small doses but can grate on the nerves after a while. The minimal amount of actual plot progression also gives little compelling reason to watch multiple episodes in a row. If you're looking for a story-intensive series, this is definitely not it.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a mostly positive and lighthearted look at an odd premise, then there's a fair amount to like here. The nine Sakurada children, ranging in age from early elementary school to approaching high school graduation, compete to see who will be elected the official successor to their kingly father. Nearly everything else that follows is just character development interspersed with comic hijinks. There's much less conflict in play than the concept might suggest; while most of the siblings are technically at odds with one another (a couple don't seem to care much for the election and one would specifically avoid it if she could), there's not a hint of nastiness, sabotage, or even head-to-head competition overall. In fact, some of the siblings even covertly or directly support the others. It's about as amicable as an election campaign can get.
With only a limited plot and sense of conflict, the series depends most heavily on its character development for entertainment value. In some cases, this takes on comic overtones, especially where Akane and her fear of being in public are concerned, not to mention her enthusiastic fan club. Youngest princess Shiori also gets several indirect zingers, as her ability to speak to animals and inanimate objects reveals that many of them have a lot of attitude; the cat Borscht has only a handful of lines throughout the series, but all of them are great. The varying personalities of the clones that fourth princess Misaki generates can also be funny at times, since each one of them embodies Haruki's take on one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The concept of the show also becomes a joke unto itself for a number of reasons.
Not all of the character development is played for laughs though, and the series' best moments usually come from narrowing its focus. The seemingly carefree Aoi never uses her actual power because of how frighteningly easy it could be to abuse; her spotlight episode forces the viewers to see her in a completely different light. Misaki frets about whether she's anything more than a manager for her very popular clones, and the seemingly confident Kanade is haunted by a past tragedy resulting from childish misuse of her power. One strong vignette looks back at how Soichiro met his future wife Satsuki (and how that meeting may have shaped his ideas about family), and fifth princess Hikari has some serious moments involving her pursuit of an idol career, especially where her inspiration/fellow idol Sachiko is involved. Occasional events where the siblings have to collectively take action also employ a more serious (if not necessarily heavy) tone.
All of this plays out mostly in half-episode vignettes hearkening back to the anime's origin as a 4-koma manga. They combine to make for gradually progressive storytelling over the course of a year; with events from earlier episodes definitely having impact on later ones even though there isn't much plot overall. Akane is the nominal lead protagonist and gets the most attention, but the focus shifts around so much that it ends up focusing on her less than half of the time. In a few cases, the focus isn't even on the Sakurada kids at all, as the viewpoint also switches to Sachiko, eldest prince Shu's wannabe-girlfriend Hana, and Akane Fan Club president Fukushina. While this is necessary to cover all of the storytelling bases, it also results in the series spreading itself too thin, leading to some characters (especially Shu and Shiori) being underdeveloped. The series also plays coy with the nature of the Sakuradas' powers, so don't expect any insight into how Kanade's creation power being linked to her bank account works or any particulars about Misaki's cloning. Some greater suspension of disbelief is also required, such as how everyone in the public sees through Akane's superhero identity but doesn't notice that the idol Lito is really just an aged-up Hikari.
While the production values of the series aren't a weak point, neither are they a strength. Character designs are distinct but anime-typical across the board, and nothing in the background art is unusually sharp or exciting. The color palette leans on the bright side, with almost no darkly shaded scenes anywhere in the series, even in serious moments. The show's animation is sufficient, indulging in some occasional background animation flourishes and robustly animating a couple of Lito and Sachiko's idol performances. A couple panty shots for Akane are practically the only times the series even approaches fanservice, and those brief shots aren't enough to garner more than a TV-PG rating. The musical score is adequate but unremarkable beyond the catchy, exuberant opener “Ring Ring Rainbow!!” which is sung by the seiyuu for Hikari and Kanade.
The English dub is also adequate but nothing special. Bryn Apprill goes just a little overboard at times as Akane (as do a couple of other voice actresses who rocket to high pitches when their characters get frantic), but she does much better with Akane's lower-key scenes. The star performance is probably Jad Saxton as Misaki, who does a great job of making each of Misaki's clones sound just different enough to clearly convey their personality variations. (That couldn't have been easy to keep straight!) Alexis Tipton also gets the motherly tone just right as Sachiko, and Christopher R. Sabat is a scene-stealer with his limited lines as the cat Borscht.
Funimation is releasing the title in their standard Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, with all four discs housed in a single case with a slipcover. Extras on disc including the standard clean opener and closer set, trailers, and voice actor audio commentaries for episodes 3 and 12. Neither is especially insightful.
On the whole, Castle Town Dandelion is a warmhearted, pleasant little series that doesn't have big ambitions but does reasonably well delivering on its own modest goals. Its ending is a bit rushed, but the story is least complete. Opinions will doubtless be mixed on who ends up winning the throne, but most of the entertainment value comes from the journey rather than the destination on this one.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Occasionally funny, some involving character stories
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