Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jan 11th 2007
Oroshitate Musical Nerima Daikon Brothers
DVD 1 - Speak Softly But Carry a Big Daikon
The Nerima Daikon Brothers are a band consisting of easy-going host Ichiro, outgoing farmer Hide, good-times girl Mako, and a panda. They spend their time singing, dancing, farming daikon radish, and, with the help of a mysterious afro-ed rental guy, defeating Nerima's villains for reasons that have nothing (absolutely nothing!) to do with the piles of cash that they steal from them.
First off, Nerima Daikon Brothers is a musical. Being a musical, there is singing. Lots of singing. If people breaking out in song makes you break out in hives then consider yourself duly warned, because the music is this series raison d'être.
The music is the draw, not more so than the humor, but because by-and-large it is the humor. Or at least the best of the humor. There's plenty of humor outside of the music, much of it Shinichi Watanabe-style. Silly word-play and bodily function jokes abound, sexual innuendo proliferates, and a panda rear-grabbing stretches out ad infinitum. But the music is the true comedic core. Much of it is the songs themselves: backed by music that borders on TV-jingle levels of addictiveness (without their reductive simplicity) and poisoned with a biting sarcasm and acid cynicism that's at odds with their bubblegum bounce (and slinky sexuality), they are often hilarious in their own right. Some of it is the visuals: the Brothers dancing one of their signature numbers with their missing member replaced by a cardboard cutout, Mako singing and dancing a sorrowful requiem all while strapped arm-and-leg to a hospital mattress. And often it is simply the sight of people expressing themselves through song: Two men pretending to be gay? Eh, whatever. Two men singing about their fake gay relationship (complete with sappy love song clichés and sparkly effects)? Comedy gold. Not all of the songs succeed of course—the Gadget Detective's songs simply don't measure up to the likes of the Pops Song or the Ode to Dom Perignon—but they do so regularly enough to make it a genuine musical treat.
Of course, springing as it does from the same brain that spawned the viler elements in Puni Puni Poemy, occasionally the humor flirts with (and sometimes dispenses with all foreplay and goes straight to bedding) bad taste. Sometimes it pays off—especially the sexual harassment turnaround in episode 1 and the rocket-powered butt-seeking enema machine—while sometimes it simply disturbs (an extended visual metaphor with sausages, and an accidental kimchee-soaked tryst between Ichiro and the panda come most strongly to mind).
There's something to be said for something that aims to be pure, simple entertainment. There is no emotional or mental heavy lifting here; it's a bright, pleasant respite from darker, weightier material. But this is also a potentially fatal weakness. It seems churlish to fault something so fundamentally good-natured on grounds of a lack of substance, but without something solid to anchor audiences through its increasingly outlandish comedic indulgences, the show is in constant danger of rattling itself (and the viewer) apart with its own rabid energy. The dynamic between Ichiro, Hide, and Mako provides a tenuous lifeline amidst the comic mayhem, but without further development it could easily be swamped, leaving the show with marathoning tolerances set firmly in the one-episode-at-a-time range.
It also feels churlish to begrudge the show its animation shortcuts and simplified art. And it is. Simple the character designs and backgrounds may be, but sloppy or inappropriate they are not. When necessary, they are as detailed, textured and three-dimensional as they need be, and when appropriate they lapse into a simplified flatness that (aside from saving lots of money) is used to great comic effect. Animation is likewise variable. Though it's never top-quality, it is fluid when necessary, choppy when appropriate, and almost always so crowded with things zipping about that one rarely has time to notice its shortcomings. The perfection with which the art and animation communicate Hide's forthright personality, or with which Mako's mix of sexiness and cavity-inducing cuteness mirrors her worldliness and naiveté make criticisms seem... well, churlish.
Requiring that the lion's share of the dialogue rhymes means that, of necessity, the dialogue in the dub varies greatly from that of the original. In and of itself, this presents no problems, and on a technical level the dub is fine; the performances are strong and the English cast's singing capabilities, if not quite on par with their Japanese counterparts, is good. But the changes in the script tip the balance of the humor even further towards the crude and vulgar, and taint the personalities of the leads (Mako and Hide specifically) with a mean-spiritedness that upsets the delicate balance of their interaction, effectively severing that lifeline mentioned two paragraphs previous.
If you ever want to become a Nerima Daikon Brothers expert, this disc's extras are a good place to start. Every episode has a full-length commentary featuring the original director and one other member of the staff ("technician" Haruka for episodes 1-3 and the lead actor for episode 4). There's an insert filled with useful background information. And there're the ever-popular AD Vid-Notes. Unfortunately, there simply isn't enough interesting information in the on-screen notes to justify watching the entire disc over again just in order to read them. It's fantastic that the information is included in any form, and they work as an extra source of entertainment, but in pure information-gathering terms, they would have been better if compiled as an on-disc document. Also included are a karaoke option that provides sing-a-long subtitles for the songs, and a live-action music video of the opening song. Spoiler watch: the audio commentaries give away one important development later in the series.
Audiences in search of some pure enjoyment that won't strain the brain but doesn't insult the intelligence, keep an eye on NDB. Even if it scores a 2 or 3 on the depth meter, it rates a full 10 on the fun meter. It's an hour and a half of pure singin', dancin' good times.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Fun songs, fun characters, fun show.
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