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Reviewby Theron Martin, Dec 3rd 2006
Sana's class at school has been relatively calm of late, but disagreements over cleaning the classroom and between two engaged teachers trigger a war of the sexes, one which Akito avoids but Sana relishes. Can Tsuyoshi and Aya's love withstand not only that separation, but the presents from an unidentified admirer that come Tsuyoshi's way, threatening him where he's weakest? A TV special gives Sana a chance to join two other 11-year-old media darlings in an all-girl singing and performing trio, but while one of the girls proves to be nice, the other turns out to be a young prima donna. Sana is too distracted by planning Zenjiro's birthday party to notice, however, and bumbles on in her typical business-as-usual fashion. Later, a visit to the hot springs operated by her grandparents finds Sana and her mother in the company of the Hayamas, but what scheme does her wily grandmother have cooked up this time?
Kodocha has well-established a capability to deliver quality drama, but its greatest entertainment value usually comes from its full-bore Comedy Mode. Its ninth volume, which covers episodes 33-36, is a shining example of that. Barely a hint of serious content can be found as it barrels through one crazy situation after another. Little of what Kodocha does is truly original, although it does take some clever twists on stock situations; how a battle of wills utterly fails to materialize between Sana and the prima donna is actually funnier than a head-to-head conflict ever could have been. The gags are well-executed and snappily-paced, allowing each episode to cram in as much content as one might expect in two or three episodes of most other comedy series. Because of that, this is, without question, the most consistently and unrelentingly funny volume in the series to date, and one of the funnier volumes of anime in general this year.
Though the content here is almost entirely episodic, elements of seemingly random episodes have a habit of coming back up again later. The reappearance of Sana's scheming grandmother, who's still out to sucker Sana into committing to run the family inn when she retires, is a good example. Naozumi also makes a return appearance, as does the too-long-absent Principal Narunaru. Kodocha isn't entirely without plot development, however, as the young teachers in love in the earliest episodes are now formally engaged and planning their wedding. Tsuyoshi's great weakness is also something that has been hinted at almost since the beginning of the series but only now is the series finally delving into it. Akito, who has typically been the leading man in the series so far, takes a back seat throughout this volume, an observation which Sana herself comments on at one point, but he does get a handful of good scenes. Sana's manager Rei also earns laughs of his own with all his shtick about becoming the Chief Clerk at the hotel he imagines Sana operating.
That Kodocha is a 10-year-old family-oriented title is most apparent in its artistry, whose flat look and more subdued coloring pales compared to the more glossy and vibrant digitally-colored artistry common in more recent series. Despite that, the artistry is sufficient to carry all of the visual gags, and there's nothing wrong with credible, appealing character designs; the two new girls in Sana's “girl group” look especially cute but not overbearingly so. The unimpressive animation isn't bad enough to be a detriment, but it doesn't need to be especially sharp for this kind of content.
The musical score does a respectable job of supporting the comedic content, but the real draw on the sound front is the excellent English dub. Keeping up with Sana's rapping, fast-paced speech, and hyper attitude would be a challenge for any voice actor, but Laura Bailey shows no let-down in masterfully handling the role, further solidifying the performance as one of the year's best for an English VA. The supporting performers also handle their stabs at rapping well when their turns come up, and generally provide appropriate voices for the characters. The style of the performances may sometimes be significantly different than those in the original Japanese dub, which may be enough to throw off sub-favoring fans, but English cast does a great job of capturing the enthusiasm and energy of the series. The English script continues to be more interpretive than faithful, with jokes often being rephrased in a manner more suitable to the English language and the name of the girl group being changed in a vain attempt to capture some sense of why the name chosen for the group is so bad. (It doesn't carry through well at all when translated literally, either.) The songs and raps are, of course, all complete rewrites, but they wouldn't be feasible any other way.
FUNimation normally doesn't skimp on Extras, but they did this time. Not a single one is present beyond company trailers.
After regularly spotting its previous few volumes with dramatic content, the ninth volume of Kodocha goes for all-out comedy, resulting in a volume that fans of the series are likely to watch through with perpetual smiles on their faces. The content may be too much to be tolerable in doses bigger than one or two episodes per sitting, but it certainly won't leave any viewer bored.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Quality English dub performances, consistently funny.
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