Being a Brief Discussion of Anime Dubs: Nerima Daikon Brothers, Volume Three (Mania.com)
Date: Monday, April 09, 2007
People who write about anime have to make a lot of choices, but one of the first is always how much of a series to watch before writing. There are three basic choices, each with pros and cons. The fastest is to watch the first volume and write a review based on that volume alone. It's easy and tempting to look at the first volume of a series and assume that the rest of the show will provide the same basic experience. On the other extreme is watching the series in its entirety and writing about it all in one go. The first option is easy for reviewers because it's so easy to stay on top of shows as they come out, and the second is good because it gives the reviewer the chance to view the title as a finished whole. Widespread release of season collections has made waiting for a series to finish that option even more appealing. The third option is to write about a series volume by volume. This approach is the most time consuming, and arguably the most difficult.
The problem with the third option is that every now a show like Nerima Daikon Brothers will decide to depart from the formula and finish its run with a different format. Up until this point I've advocated this show on the grounds that it's a classic sitcom told through anime. It had a few stock bits, the ostensible unobtainable goal, and at the end of the day everything went back to the way it started. A lot of shows will alter an episodic format slightly for the last episode or two in order to provide some extra emotional closure, but Nerima Daikon Brothers goes a lot further than that. The entire third volume is devoted to a single plot arc that brings the show to its final moments. This might not be too bad if it were just two episodes at the end, but with four out of twelve episodes falling inside this plot arc it's hard to describe exactly what kind of show Nerima Daikon Brothers is. It's no longer a simple set of one-shot episodes, and its single plot arc comes into play later than usual. Some shows spend about a third to half of their run in mostly episodic material, but very few decide to add a continuous plot two-thirds of the way in.
This change brings both good and bad for viewers. The good is that it adds quite a bit of complexity to the episodes. For the first time it feels like the series moves towards a goal, and the characters have some emotional stakes on the line. The bad is that viewers who want the simplicity the show started with are almost certain to be at least a little disappointed. The final plot arc is considerably more serious than previous volumes. A couple of points are downright somber. The scenes play on the characters' dreams, past history, and personal greed to set them against each other. Yet even for that, the show doesn't achieve the pathos it needs to pay off the scenes. At least some of that is due to the show's sparse emotional appeal early on. Building the Nerima Dome was never more than an ostensible goal for these characters. That is to say, it was a narrative vehicle with no purpose other than to give the characters a reason to involve themselves in comic hijinks. That was plenty enough to go on when the series was all fun and games, but it feels thin during when the drama kicks in. The characters haven't demonstrated enough emotional stakes to make the requisite level of pathos work. Yet even that might be forgivable in light of the show's earlier frivolous atmosphere if the series saw the end through to a fulfilling conclusion. Unfortunately that's not the case, and when everything is said and done the series finishes right where it started.
In the end, it's hard to say that the last volume of Nerima Daikon Brothers fails for any particular reason because it doesn't. The drama has some good points and some bad. The comedy doesn't go away completely and has enough good jokes to remain somewhat entertaining. The plot has a few confusing references that aren't funny in an American context, but none of these problems are a big deal in and of themselves. Fans should read the insert describing Japan's recent politics and Prime Minister Koizomi's career before watching the disc. It doesn't necessarily make the jokes funny beyond a very dry and academic appreciation, but it makes them sensible. The volume is mostly a mish-mash of good and bad that's alternately enjoyable and boring. I often say that it's easier to watch a show that's uniformly bad than one that fluctuates between good and bad, and that applies to Nerima Daikon Brothers as much as any other show.
But that's not to say that all is lost for fans. The show's cast is in top form. Luci Christian, Carli Mosier, Greg Ayres, and Chris Patton all do fantastic work in this volume that easily equals or surpasses their previous work. The songs have a couple of awkward moments, but on the whole they sound clean. The rental and money-lending songs get new versions with interesting twists and different cast members, including Yukika, singing. Fans who enjoy the music numbers are sure to get a kick out of them.
Newcomers to the cast include Jim McClellen, who plays a newspaper and tabloid mogul named Donabenabe. Mike McFarland also joins the cast as an effete Michael Jackson parody called Yukel Hakushon. Finally, Andy McAvin plays Prime Minister Oizumi. All performances sound good, though Mr. McFarland's stands out because the humor behind the character is so much more accessible. Be sure to check out his work in the disc's second episode when Yukel explains his dreams to Mako. The dub is an excellent example of a show that grew into its full potential. The core cast started strong and demonstrated considerable potential, and by the end the dub sounded practically flawless. There are few weak moments to be found anywhere in the final disc, either in the core or supporting cast, and none worth mentioning in an overall review. This is a polished dub and a great piece of work.
Copyright 2007 by Way Jeng