Nerima Daikon Brothers Box Set (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

With the goal of building their own concert dome so they can perform anytime they want, the Nerima Daikon Brothers have to face challenges in the way only the can " musically.

What They Say
What's a band to do with no fame and especially no sold-out arena to perform in? How can they grab the cash they need to build the Concert Dome of their DREAMS?! Well they can't. But the NERIMA DAIKON BROTHERS sure as hell are going to try! WATCH as Hideki Ichiro and Mako (yeah one of them's a chick!) farm daikon by day and battle slimy record producers, pachinko-mad hags, monstrous nurses, flatulent hospital administrators and hot police babes by night. LISTEN as the band AND the evil villains sing hilarious songs all along the bumpy daikon-studded road! TUNE IN AND SEE!!! (What's daikon? Is it a vegetable? Is it a fruit? A weapon? A girl's best friend? All of the above?! )

The Review!
Audio:
Nerima Daikon Brothers was a series that I didn’t expect as good of a language mix as I ended up getting for it. The original Japanese stereo track is solid, encoded at 224kbps, as it conveys the music quite well and the placement of dialogue is good throughout when used. The English mix for this release has received the 5.1 treatment, encoded at 448kbps, and it works out rather well, even in the bass department. The rear channels don't seem to get quite so much but it's not surprising since it's based on the stereo mix from the Japanese. The forward soundstage really comes across well though and the music, singing and dialogue is strong. We checked out both tracks during the course of the disc and had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series was originally released on three discs and this set brings us down to two with six episodes on each disc. This is mostly the same as the previous collection but with extras on here, the release isn’t identical overall. Bright and colorful, the transfer for this show is pretty much spot on throughout. Being such a recent production and being as stylish as it is, the transfer really manages to showcase this well. On occasion there is a bit of softness and some noise in the backgrounds but these moments are brief and few between. Colors in general are very strong and maintain a solid feel. One area that will pleaser a number of people is that the end credits sequence is done in a paged format and it looks great. This was a very welcome change.

Packaging:
Part of the fun of the show is the “Blues Brothers” kind of design to it and the way it plays up the mildly raunchy factor. The thin slipcover for the release is spot on as it has the three principle players and the panda in a line-up with a spotlight on them. Of course, Mako is showing off the most fanservice but I’m sure some of the girls are all happy about Ichiro and/or the panda. The back of the slipcover is pretty busy with more character artwork and a lot of shots from the show. The summary gives us a good idea of the show and just how wacky it is (always an amusing selling point) and a clean listing of what to expect for features. They don’t push the episode count as much as I would have guessed but it’s a good looking package overall with the slipcover.

The inside made me happier, though poor Hideki loses out to no surprise. The two clear thinpaks use the cover artwork from the single disc releases of Mako and Ichiro with the same colors around them as they’re up against the line-up. Mako looks really hot here with her outfit and pose while Ichiro is all bashful and cute, especially with the panda hanging in there as well. The back covers have the same layout in general with their respective colors where they list the episode numbers and titles along with the extras for that volume and a cute list of what “guests” appear in these episodes. The bottom portion really made me smile as each volume is different, one with the bank girls posing and another with the pandas rocking out. Each cover has artwork on the reverse side as well with a large image of the daikon field and stage from different distances.

Menu:
The menu design for this volume is rather cute and definitely in theme with the show as it has you looking in at the stage from the show with the selections on it. It isn’t as strong as the single disc releases which had animation to it and a more vibrant feeling, but I still like the visual of the stage and the field in front of it with the episode selection over it. While the discs did read our player presets properly, their minimal menus aren't all that much in terms of navigation but I continue to like that they give you quick episode access right from the top.

Extras:
The previous collection, from ADV Films, did not retain any of its extras. This release nabs a few as we get several episode commentaries by Nabeshin and others which are just simply amusing and enlightening. We had listened to these the first time around in the single disc form so we didn’t listen to them again. I’m most disappointed at the loss of the Vid-Notes, though it’s not surprising. While the show is entirely watchable and amusing without them (and I prefer without on first viewings), losing them is significant since they represent a lot of hard work and a metric ton of wonderful information about the show. At least we also get the clean opening and closing sequences, but I wanted more like the music videos.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Nerima Daikon Brothers first came out, I really wasn’t sure what I’d make of it. Hollywood had dabbled in a few TV shows with musical episodes, but a series that revolves around music like this? Well, anime has done it a lot but this had a different feel because it was playing the comedy angle. And with comedy, well, it can be really hit or miss and I figured it’d be even more so when it comes to musical comedy. And this one had an even bigger challenge ahead of it because they were going to dub the songs and that requires a bit more talent than usual.

The Nerima Daikon series, all too short at twelve episodes, is one that has a pretty straightforward formula to it. Initially we're introduced to the brothers Hideki and Ichiro. Along with their cousin Mako, the three of them want to make their music and are working towards the goal of building a concert dome in Nerima. Well, working may not be the right word. Looking for the quickest way to get the money to make it happen is better. For now, they have a small field within the city where they grow daikon. Their house on it is basically a half open shed where the TV, beds and big old speakers are so they can perform, basically having it feel like a stage and the daikon being their captive audience.

The show starts off with the introduction of something of a new member to the group, a small panda that has been coming by lately to eat the daikon. Hideki wants to get rid of it but Ichiro has a strange fetish attachment to it, and Pandaikon ends up becoming the latest member. One that seemingly can play instruments. Even better for the band, he has a connection to a most amusing shadowed figure in an alley where the group is able to get rentals of bizarre pieces of equipment that will help them solve whatever foolish situation has arisen that has cost them a ton of money. Be it a bazooka or costumes to invade a pachinko parlor, he's got it on hand and ready to use. Even a flying butt plug.

Each episode handles a new subject, from a pachinko parlor that has lots of Korean pretty boys taking advantage of older women to a hospital where Mako gets drawn in as the head nurse to entice more men to undergo unnecessary surgery. Along the way it shifts between amusing dialogue and some great little numbers that while they may be designed in a similar manner are just a lot of fun. Everything is done in order to gain the group money to build their dome, but in order to make money you have to spend money and these guys spend most of their time trying to recover just that after being taken advantage of.

While each of the episodes has its own theme to it, none come across quite as racially bad as the Korean one did, The secondary cast of characters, which is basically all of the villains that make our leads work hard for the money that they want, are one dimensional in their own way but have some very amusing moments to them. A couple of other characters do fit in as real secondary characters, but it's hard to qualify them in the same way. Yukika has more importance in this volume and turns into a bit more of an interesting character to watch since she gets a bit more range. She still comes across as the weakest of the leads though even if she does add a bit more fun for the Brothers. The panda is also something of an odd character in that I wouldn't quite call him secondary but without him so much of the humor disappears. Much of the same can be said of the Nabeshin character as well.

Another episode revolves around a woman who predicts peoples futures and naturally she's got the hots for Ichiro. Similar to other episodes, which include later ones here that has a disingenuous lawyer and a company president, it's all about getting the cash and dealing with whatever problems come up. More often than not, Ichiro finds himself being caught up in the action and kept out of the scenes with Nabeshin though they make do amusingly enough without him. Nabeshin also mocks them nicely in one sequence about their music that just cuts to the core of the issue with the way the show is built on repetition. It works beautifully in a weekly format but is harder in this form with the second volume.

As the series gets closer to the end, it tries working in a few different things. One of them is the introduction of a wealthy developer named Donabe. He's intent on buying the field that the Brothers own and build a dome there but only if Hideki will sign it over. To entice Hideki, he offers the possibility of doing it as a dual use dome where sports and other events can be hosted as well as the Nerima Daikon Brothers. Hideki is head over heels about these guys plans since it brings their dreams to fruition but the others aren't so sure. Even worse for Hideki, he starts to do all of this without direct input from the other two and that sets them even more against the idea. As the dome wouldn't be built using their own hard work and sweat it doesn't feel like its right to them.

Along the way there are a few more people that end up becoming involved in this though Donabe is fairly consistent throughout it. The introduction of Yukel, a Michael Jackson parody distortion that's just even more amusing in English because of the accent and inflection, feels a bit off at times because similar to Donabe it presents the show as spinning its wheels more than anything else. That's not to say that each of the musical numbers aren't hilarious and that the comedy overall is solid. It's simply that as a progressive plot it doesn't add a lot to things. If anything, things feel like they're slowing down a bit even if it is building up towards the end when the Lions Club is introduced. That alone takes the series to an even more unrealistic setting with a flying parliament. It does however provide a positively great send-up of former Prime Minister Koizumi which is great if you follow politics there.

There are a lot of good moments towards the end that are unrelated to the storylines in some ways. Yurika takes on a very amusing role this time around as she gets closer to the gang in general. Be it her doing the money dance, hitting on Ichiro a bit or doing song and dance numbers with them in proper costume she manages to finally grow into someone that doesn't make me want to throttle her off the show. Her panda humor continues to be amusing but the change in her nature here a bit helps to make her a lot more amusing. Equally fun to watch is the way Mako and Ichiro get closer throughout here as Hideki goes off on his dome plans. It gets pretty weird to see naked Mako cuddling up to Ichiro but when it brings her into a kind of competition with Yurika it all works out great.

Though the series doesn't end with a real sense of closure it does bring about a conclusion that in a way feels like it closes things out well enough. These last four episodes are fun as they try to break structure a bit but still end up adhering to it for the most part. A bit more background is given to the cast, they face a big time challenge separately and then together and come to realize what it is that really drives them. The biggest appeal of course continues to be the music and I really have to say that this series has a great amount of replay value. Listening to both versions isn't exactly a completely different show because the plots are the same but the comedy allows for some really diverse moments. I'm by no means a fan of changing translations but this is one of those rare exception shows where it's almost required because of the music.

For the most part, the cast for this managed to do a really solid job in my opinion. I'm by no means a musical or singing expert so those with an ear for it may and likely will find more things to be critical of. After all, I enjoy plenty of Engrish songs and I have no talent myself so anyone who puts forward the effort and sounds good to me is just that. While the adaptation isn't intended to be a direct copy of the Japanese, the voices used here match fairly well and are strong on their own. Under the direction of Christopher Ayres, the main trio of actors have some of their best performances yet. Greg Ayres as Hideki, the leader of the band, sounds unlike anything I've heard him in before and really becomes the role. Having met so many voice actors over the years, the problem I run into is that when I watch shows in English I see and hear the actor, not the character. Greg nailed this completely and has put in his most memorable performance yet.

For the role of Ichiro, I was really unsure about how Chris Patton would be in it but he surprised me with just how smoothly it comes across. With the character being so laid back and mellow while also having to handle more of the sexual situations, it's not the same performance as the original but it strikes such a perfect note and in some ways makes it a far better character. The final member of the band, Mako, is done by Luci Christian. This role is tough in a couple of ways, mostly in how it has to alternate between having her have an air of innocence about her but then being sultry, sex and playful. As Hideki says at one point, "Christ in a race car, look at her hop." She hops between these styles just right and for the most part manages to pull them off very well. Having just listened to about a hundred episodes of her in Gatchaman, her voice is far more familiar to me and that was a bit of a challenge to see just the Mako character. This was also a bit of a problem in the way the accent seemed to vary slightly depending on the scene, but these are incredibly minor quibbles that in no way detract from the performance in general.

The best thing about all of this is that when combined, the three of them really seem like they're on stage together and just having a hell of a great time singing their hearts out. The rest of the cast comes off pretty strong as well, though some of them are weaker than others. The Korean Love Wave owner was a lot of fun as are the pretty boys who work for him. The hospital episode had a very strong set of performances in both the head doctor and the nurses, which just cracked me up to no end. But the hospital director was a much harder sell " in both languages. The last episode was also problematic with the police babe as it felt a bit more stilted and not quite as fluid. But that was beautifully balanced by the police chief and yakuza head's performances.

In Summary:
Nerima Daikon Brothers was a blast to watch when I first saw it but I have to admit that it has lost a touch of its allure in the time since then. Some of that comes from the loss of the very detailed vid notes. Thankfully, the show is still quite hilarious even without those and the performances in the English language version continue to impress. When I originally watched it, I thought it might play out better watching it an episode every now and then rather than four in a row. Watching twelve in a row certainly highlights the formulaic nature of the show even more than the single volumes did. Still, there’s a lot of genius in here with the way it weaves in so many jokes, tackles so many different things and does it with a somewhat raunchy and amusing tone. Everything about it just left me smiling and I’m glad to see that it’s still in print since it’s a great little hidden treasure.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Commentaries

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Nerima Daikon Brothers