Nerima Daikon Brothers Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, November 06, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2006



What They Say


The Review!
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.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language adaptation. The English mix for this release has received the 5.1 treatment and it works out pretty well as there is some good action on the subwoofer side of it. The rear channels don't seem to get quite so much though 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. 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:
It's hard to tell if this show is going to be a hard sell or one with a unique hook by which people will try it regardless of how the cover looks, but the opening volume makes you want to check it out regardless. Mako takes the first cover with a great looking piece that has her in her performance outfit and providing just the right amount of fanservice while winking. And on her elbow is Pandaikon doing basically the same little move which just looks perfect. Though the actual brothers don't appear here, it's also got headshots of some of the bad guys they have to face along the way. Overall, it's nicely tied together and Mako really makes it work. The back cover uses the dream dome as the backdrop and places a lot of little picture bubbles along one side to show off the animation. The summary is straightforward though with a bit of emphasis in it for the musical side while below it is the listing of the discs extras. Production information is clearly listed as is most of the technical information which suffers from having a bunch of mini logos to squish in there. While there is no reverse side cover, an insert is included. This piece serves as a bit of a glossary and key phrase set of liner notes that's mixed with lots of colorful shots from the show.


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's also one that has some rather good animation to it as there are clouds floating by in the background, the sun shines down and you can see the sound waves from the speakers growing as the music gets going. It's almost the kind of menu you wish they'd spend some time on in making it longer than the 30 second loop and really getting creative. With ADV's discs reading the 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 extras for this release are a bit deceptive since they don't seem like a lot but they're actually very solid. The standard and welcome inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequence kicks things off. Extras from the Japanese release have been brought over, which includes two episode commentaries by Nabeshin and others which are just simply amusing and enlightening. One of the best extras and one that I was the happiest to see is the music video. While animated music clips and videos are often included, live action ones are few and far between. But they're also generally the best in terms of making me smile and this one is o exception. The two remaining extras are ones that are more critical to this release. The first is that they have a separate sing along subtitle track so you can get all the words to the English language songs. Sometimes some of the words are hard to understand or they go by fast so this helps to flesh that out. The other is that the Vid Notes has returned, not seen I believe since Abenobashi. There's a lot of subtle humor and parodies in here as well as gags that do need some cultural explanations. Similar to past ones, the notes do get a bit snarky at times which is very much part of the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When this series was licensed, it was one that I had known absolutely nothing about. In keeping with my tradition of trying to not know much about a show before I watch it, all I had learned in the intervening months was that Nabeshin was behind it and that it was musically oriented. I had seen the live action music video which has a few clips but not much and that was it. Sitting down to watch this disc, we watched the first episode in Japanese and then checked out a few spots in English. Then we switched to English for the remaining three episodes.

The Nerima Daikon series, all too short at twelve episodes, is one that in the first four episodes here 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.

Nerima Daikon Brothers is the kind of show that will play better in English I think, not that the Japanese version is a slouch by any stretch. I certainly enjoyed the first episode in Japanese and laughed quite a lot, but the English version manages to retain a lot of the humor but the adaptation just seems to work better. Now, because this is essentially a musical, the adaptation has to follow a different set of rules simply because the language doesn't allow for translations to work in the same way. A standard translation, which is what we get in the subtitles, just would not work in song format in English. That said, I think Philip Lehl and Scott McClennen have done an amazing job here. While the do punch it up more than the Japanese with more swearing, it is nowhere near the same level as some of Stephen Foster's scripts. In coming from the Japanese language to the English language, it was jarring to have it become a bit more coarse because of that.

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.

The humor in the English adaptation is also a fair bit raunchier than in the original. It doesn't get up to a crude level but the jokes and phrases slipped into it are just hilarious and work really well. The reworking of the pachinko balls bits into English captures the same kind of innuendo as the original. Ichiro's character tends to bring a few more obvious gay references and feels even more so because of how Chris Patton voices him. In some previous dubs where the profanity is brought into it, it's something I come away from with the feeling of it being either completely unnecessary or just too much for certain scenes. Here, it really does seem like it fits in just right. It doesn't go over the top and it doesn't offend. But it does surprise you sometimes and for some more tender sensibilities may even shock. For me, I just laughed my ass off.

In Summary:
In the last several years, we've seen a number of shows in Hollywood break from their usual storylines to do something like a musical episode. Nerima Daikon Brothers is all about that and carries it off to great effect in both languages while still having a very enjoyable story in each episode. The comedy ranges from parodies to physical and isn't afraid of being raunchy and just plain fun. I had no real expectations going into it but it's been something that I've now seen three or four times since the first viewing. It's simply got a lot of replay value and is highly entertaining. The actual storyline itself may not be high concept or anything special, but the show as a whole is top notch and likely to be one of the more memorable shows that I'll see.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Episode Commentaries (2),Music Video,Sing Along,Vid-Notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Nerima Daikon Brothers