Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 13th 2008
Di Gi Charat Nyo!
Piyoko's plan to reverse her fortunes using the ransom for Princess Dejiko just can't seem to gather steam. Her well-intentioned subordinates can't seem to help turning every crime into a community service, and as often as not she just ends up on the wrong end of Dejiko's mean streak (and eye beams). But like any good villain she persists, accidentally spreading cheer and good fellowship and generally living like a sainted pauper. With all that scheming going on, you'd think Dejiko would be worried, but her days pass in the usual carefree blur of laziness and gluttony. Usada frets over her un-romance with Kiyoshi, Puchiko visits, everyone obsesses over pop idol Akari, and Opposite Worlds, aliens, and bad American stereotypes visit without making more than a passing impression, proving once and for all that if you spend enough time with the abnormal, it quickly becomes normal.
I've never really understood why Scooby Doo is a drug culture icon. Sure, he's dopey and eats suspicious snacks, but there's nothing particularly druggy or counterculture about his show (besides his van). I believe it's time we replaced Scooby, and I think Di Gi Charat is the cat (girl) to do it. Di Gi Charat Nyo is the perfect demonstration of why. Meandering and pointless, drenched in psychedelically-colored imagery, and starring a pair of girls who do nothing but laze and eat, it isn't particularly funny, and frankly isn't all that entertaining, but it is weirdly relaxing and makes you crave junk food.
Not, of course, that that in any way makes it good. None of it makes much sense, and the series has drawn on far too long for its own good, the mean-spirited humor of the opening volumes having long ago given way to an endless cycling of weirdness for weirdness' sake. The series hasn't been consistently funny for volumes now. Dejiko's relentless selfishness has grown abrasive, and whenever the energy level cranks up too high—as with the return of the preposterous American stereotype—the series is downright annoying. However, when the series lays back and simply follows its nose, the parade of nonsense imagery and wandering, meaningless happenings sometimes approaches a druggy stream-of-consciousness that can be oddly hypnotic—so long as you're in the right mood or have ingested the right combination of chemicals.
Unfortunately, other than being sort of mindlessly absorbing, the only thing this volume really has going for it is the heavy use of fan favorites from the franchise's previous incarnations. Actually, make that fan favorite, singular. While two refugees from the hyper-caffeinated kawaii-kandy of Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat do make an appearance, it's only in a preview; the rest of the volume is owned by Piyoko. She's possibly the cutest mascot character of all time, and her bumbling not-villain schtick is as endearing as she is adorable. That she and her retainers, the series' “villains,” share a warm familial bond while Dejiko (ostensibly the heroine) is a mercenary leech who uses people as if they were meal tickets (or live entertainment) is amusing, and the various ways their plans go awry are clever in a way that the vast majority of the series is most emphatically not.
The purposefully cheap production is aimed primarily at keeping the cartoony nonsequiturs marching on and juxtaposing Koge Donbo's insanely cute characters (all big shiny eyes, tiny mouths, and giant, cutesy hair accessories) with their slobby behavior and petty meanness. It's rather endearing in a lazy garage-band kind of way, and often good for a smile, but is here more notable for its creation of the paradoxically laid-back air of frantic energy that gives the series its relaxing quality. The constant repetition of Toshio Masuda's simple, silly score serves much the same purpose, blending with the blobbish animals that pop out of nowhere and the pointlessly over-decorated houses to create a pointedly cartoonish world where even the most outrageous absurdity is absolutely normal.
For a silly comedy, Bandai's English dub is curiously low on energy. Most of the cast comes across rather mechanical, and the occasional liberty with the script (such as Grandpa Ankoro's confection-isms) only serves to highlight how rote the rest of the translation is. No attempt is made to translate the puns into English (even the mid-episode riddles have lost their moxie) and the subtitle script is often used verbatim. The odd casting decisions—from Gema's sinus-infection inflection to Piyoko's precipitous loss of cuteness—undermine what humor remains.
Di Gi Charat Nyo is the poster child for comedies that have been allowed to carry on too long. It exhausted the comedic potential of its characters roughly twenty episodes ago and has been running on the reassuring sameness of its spacey nonsense ever since. There are echoes of earlier comic successes—such as John and Paul's strange affinity with a pair of strangers who look as if their names should be Ringo and George—and Piyoko adds some much-needed spice, but in the end this volume's main draw is pure mindless relaxation. Whether that will be drudgery or a thoughtless oasis into which to sink will depend largely on one's mood—and the combination of chemicals ingested.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Plenty of silly weirdness for those who have grown tired of thinking and following plots; Piyoko.
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