Review for Nerima Daikon Brothers: Complete Collection
What’s the opposite of an acquired taste? Something that you like on immediate exposure, but repeated exposure makes you more and more averse to it. For me, it’s the anime stylings of Shinichi Watanabe, more commonly referred to, alongside his alter ego be-afro’d anime character as Nabeshin. The first times I have had with his creations, whether it’s Excel Saga or Puni Puni Poemy, or the couple of episodes of Hayate the Combat Butler that he directed, I have loved, and laughed at them uproariously. The second time not so much. Now I just find Excel Saga and Puni Puni Poemy to be crass, formulaic and belaboured, more tiresome than funny. The only show of his that has sustained in my view has been Tenchi Muyo GXP, and that is less through Nabeshin, and more through its connections to the Tenchi universe. So when All the Anime announced his musical opus, Nerima Daikon Brothers, I had more than a little trepidation.
Then I had a little impatience... then weary resignation, and then I forgot all about it. Nerima Daikon Brothers is one of the earliest shows that All the Anime announced, but it has taken three years for the show to actually make its DVD debut in the UK. Noises were heard about the difficulty of getting materials, but these look to be the Funimation discs merely reworked for Region 2. Incidentally, this was originally an ADV release in the US back in 2006, but following their dissolution, it was picked up for re-release in 2009 by Funimation as part of their budget S.A.V.E label. That release has long since been deleted, which makes this UK release pretty much the only place in the English speaking world that you can pick it up for new. Anyway, expect the first time love affair with all things Nabeshin in this review. You’ll have to come back in a few years after I’ve re-watched it a couple of times to see if actually manages to sustain like Tenchi GXP, or if it will be off to the back of the cupboard like Excel Saga. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what a daikon is, it’s a mooli. Great stuffing for parathas, and goes down a treat as a salad with saag.
Hideki, his cousin Mako, and the laconic Ichiro are the famed Nerima Daikon Brothers (even if Mako is a Daikon sister), and together they rock the Daikon Concert Dome. In Hideki’s dreams. The reality is more low-rent. They live in a Daikon radish field where they’ve set up a cobbled together stage, although the only audience they have is a panda that wandered in looking for daikon to eat. They need a get rich quick scheme. Actually they need several get rich quick schemes, as they are usually out-schemed by whoever they encounter, winding up needing the help of the local pawnbroker, Nabeshin, and whatever bizarre weaponry he can supply to help them give their temporary foes their comeuppance.
12 episodes of Nerima Daikon Brothers are presented across two DVDs from All the Anime.
1. Please Touch My Nerima Daikon
2. Sa Rang Hey Yo with My Balls
3. My Shot Will Crash into Your Backside
4. My Gadget (Detective) Is Huge, Huh?
5. Roll Mine, No. 1
6. My Backroom Fortune-Telling
7. Play with Mine! Sue Me!
8. My Dirt-Cheap Rocket is About to Launch
9. Cook-Up an Erection in Mine!
10. Give My Bad a Thrilla-Thriller
11. A Threesome in My Dome?!
12. My Finish! Take a Look at This!
Nerima Daikon Brothers gets a 4:3 regular NTSC transfer that is perfectly watchable. The image is clear and sharp, colours are bold, and there are no visible signs of compression. It’s not the most groundbreaking of animations; if you’ve experienced Excel Saga, then you’ll be familiar with the simplistic character designs, the profusion of bright, primary colours, and the repetitive animation that does enough to get the gags across. It’s a watchable show though.
You have the choice between DD 5.1 Surround English, and DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. Nerima Daikon Brothers was licensed at the height of the last anime bubble, and ADV spent some serious money on this dub, including recording all of the songs in English. It certainly makes for a more consistent anime viewing experience than in current dubs, where the songs usually stay in Japanese. I stuck with the Japanese audio as usual, and enjoyed the actor performances, hitting the right notes for the comedy.
The discs present their content with static menus
This has the textless credits, and if you can find it, a rather brilliant Easter Egg, a live action music video of the theme song, featuring the Japanese voice cast.
All of the episodes have commentaries to them. Episodes 1-3 feature the director Shinichi Watanabe alongside technician Haruka. This is a more detailed and informative commentary. The other commentaries feature the main voice cast and are a little more frivolous in tone.
Episodes 4-6 have Nabeshin joined by Shigeru Matsuzaki (Hideki).
The links to the commentaries can be found in the audio menu on each disc. Note that the links on disc 1 point to the wrong episodes, and it’s more convenient just playing the episode you’re interested in, and switching the audio and subtitles on your remote to access the commentaries that way.
If you click Also Available, instead of the trailers you might be expecting, you’ll find a 7:17 promo for Nerima Daikon Brothers.
Commentaries on these discs include Nabeshin with Showtaro Morikubo (Ichiro) for episodes 7-9, and Nabeshin with Ayano Matsumoto (Mako) for episodes10-12. This time the first link correctly points to episode 7, but the second link is still incorrect. Once again, it’s easier to just select an episode and change the subs and audio manually.
If ever a series was the poster child for formulaic and repetitive storylines, Nerima Daikon Brothers would be it. It’s really just the one joke played out over and over again; a satire on whatever aspect of Japanese society invites criticism that week, while the same little gags get recycled. That’s something that I’d usually be down on, but Nerima Daikon Brothers makes it work. One thing is for certain though, this is not a show that you can marathon by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, the original broadcast schedule of one episode weekly might be pushing it. On my self-imposed reviewer schedule of two episodes a night, I enjoyed maybe four episodes, tolerated another four, before seriously wanting to get the review done and over with. My favourite thing on the discs was the Easter Egg, the live action music video.
So why am I recommending Nerima Daikon Brothers? Well, you’ll have seen nothing like this before. I remember last year expounding on the one episode of Space Dandy that was a musical episode, pointing out just how unique that was in anime, but ten years previously, Nerima Daikon Brothers had already topped that. This is a musical series, and it has some decent tunes to it as well. Sure they get reused a lot in 12 episodes, but they all get the lyrics reworked to be appropriate to each specific story, and just like the inevitability of a recycled gag, you come to expect them in each episode, and actually miss them when they don’t appear.
It’s a cross between The Blues Brothers and The Happiness of the Katakuris, with a hint of Field of Dreams thrown in as well. If the Nerima Daikon Brothers build a dome in their field of radishes, the audiences will come. The music and the sartorial style of the brothers (plus one sister) certainly calls to mind Jake and Elwood, although their mission from God doesn’t require a cross country journey, rather fleecing the villain of the week of their ill-gotten gains, to contribute to the afore-mentioned dome.
Each week the villain will be whatever satirical target the writers have chosen, whether it’s an exploitative entertainment producer (who charges for auditions), an unscrupulous Korean pachinko parlour, an exploitative hospital, an infamous fortune-teller, a budget super-mart and more. Naturally the Nerima Daikon Brothers’ activities catch the eyes of the local police, and soon the resident Inspector Gadget (sexy female version) is on the case, and constantly investigating them, in between falling in love with the panda and then Ichiro. Of course Hideki is in love with Mako, who after being slapped by Ichiro falls in love with him. It might seem like a sexist development, but it transpires that being slapped by Ichiro makes all his victims fall in love with him.
I enjoyed the novelty value of Nerima Daikon Brothers most certainly, and it has that first time thrill that I’ve had with all of Nabeshin’s comedy anime. It’s fast-paced, anarchic and it has the same reliance and inspired usage of the repeated gags that typified sketch shows like The Fast Show. They work their way through bemusement via amusement and then tedium to eventual pay off. For a first time viewing Nerima Daikon Brothers will entertain. Will it entertain the second and third times? Ask me again in a few years. In terms of extras though, the commentaries are a very useful addition.