Daichis Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Daichis

Daichis Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     November 18, 2004
Release Date: December 14, 2004

Daichis Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Yesterday, dad suffered as a programmer in a dead-end job, mom worked to forget her regrets about being married, sister struggled to balance her homework and keeping up the house and little brother used silly pranks and outrageous behavior to keep everyone laughing. Today, they are the Earth?s front line of defense against extra terrestrial invasion! Can they find a way to keep their family together while defeating the aliens on time and under budget?

The Review!
Family dysfunction, invading aliens, cheesy super-hero outfits and large amounts of fecal matter are the focus of the Earth Defense Family.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is done up in a stereo mix that's very active across the forward soundstage. There is a lot of directionality when it comes to the audio track here with things flying all over the place, dialogue moving across it and just the overall combination. The mix seems pretty similar across both language tracks as well. In listening to both tracks, we didn't note any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally broadcast in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The look and feel of this show is a very busy one with lots of detail and almost a traditional animation style to it but with the benefits of the digital side of things. The show is pretty much clean outside of a bit of aliasing but it lacks that oomph that just screams that it's a gorgeous transfer. Colors maintain a good solid feel through, especially with the dark blues and blacks, cross coloration is non-existent and the color gradation issue isn't here at all. This'll look great on most setups and should please in general.

Using the Japanese artwork, the front cover here is a busy and colorful piece that has the family in their battle mode uniforms flying around a really darkened view of the Earth in the background. Though it's a bit busy, it's a decent looking cover and it gives you a good idea of what to expect in terms of cheesy costumes. The back cover has a large shot from the show through the center with a couple of smaller shots below it that highlight the characters and monsters to be found within. The upper half has a brief summary of the premise and a listing of the discs features, extras and episode numbers and titles. The bottom half has the usual array of production information and technical data, most of which could be laid out much better in a technical grid. The insert has another shot of the front cover with a few less logos on it while the reverse side provides chapter marks for all five episodes and a rundown by month for the two future volumes.

Some of the worst looking menus in recent memory call this disc home. With a strange multi-colored layout of yellows, blues and oranges and simply various shapes bouncing around on the screen, some bits of animation play underneath the logo and selections to the hyper music from the show. The submenus use various clips from the eye-catches and elsewhere but the scheme, colors and style used here just doesn't suit the show at all in my opinion. This is also the first disc in recent memory from Geneon where there's no credits page so I can't even tell who did it. The menus do load fast however and access times are good. The other plus is that it did read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

The opening volume has a couple of the standard extras available on it. The opening sequence gets a textless version, there are a few promotional trailers for the series and the usual conceptual artwork gallery. Decent material and stuff I like to check out but nothing that really gets you into the nitty-gritty of the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Daichi's, more commonly known as the Earth Defense Family, is an amusing thirteen episode series that has some pretty interesting material to work with. Coming from the mind of Shoji Kawamori, who worked here on the overall screenplay, concept and mechanical designs, it's a look at a modern dysfunctional family, fairly well to the extreme in a lot of ways, who end up getting involved in something larger than all of them that require them to stay together and actually work together. It's an easy hook and obvious cliché to keep them together but it works well here.

The family is amusing in itself. We're introduced to the Daichi's over their morning breakfast. Mamoru's the father, an overweight introvert who's always working on his laptop and can't confront his wife about anything. Seiko's the wife who has threatened thirteen times now over the years that she's going to leave and wants Mamoru to sign the papers. She intends to take Nozomi with her since she's treated Nozomi as a slave over the years and wants her to continue to do all the chores for her. Nozomi hates that thought and wishes her mother would just leave and be done with it as she wants to stay with Mamoru so that she can take care of him cause he actually needs it. At the bottom of the pile is Dai, a precocious and highly energetic young kid who feels like he's one of those near-monkey humans who came down from the trees and settled with a family but can speak Japanese.

There's a fair amount of dysfunction in there that's accentuated by the way they live. Seiko's selfishness over things and wanting to deal with just her own life and not the others is pretty strong and has caused both kids to turn against her. Mamoru's introverted nature has allowed his wife to walk all over him but also led to the kids growing up with a missing level of general respect. In a way, the kids are similar to the Simpson family kids in that they call both their parents by their first names and the parents don't blink about it. They've accepted it as a matter of course and don't think anything about it. But that breaks down a level of hierarchy within the family unit that's required for children in order to discipline them and for numerous other reasons.

Everything yet nothing changes for the family when a mysterious fax comes over their line and they suddenly find themselves being offered the position of the Earth Defense Family. Signing the contract means that they'll have to defend the Earth for at least the next six months time from all sorts of invading aliens and other threats from space. On the plus side, they get approximately 9,800,000 yen for each successful mission that they pull off. That speaks very much to Seiko's greedy side and she's all for it. But as they learn later, there's a price that they have to pay for using some of their gear and attacks and breaking the contract equals a hundred years of hard labor on some far flung ice planet. But initially, the family ends up getting involved in the entire event at varying levels. While Dai is obviously super hyper over it, Nozomi wants nothing to do with it. Mamoru sees the need to defend the Earth as important while Seiko sees yen signs all over the place.

The attacks on the Earth, which range in different areas such as from Virgina to Japan to China just for starters, bring in all sorts of strange creatures with no apparent real plan other than to cause destruction. There's some hint of what's going on through a young girl in Dai's class who has tricked everyone into believing she's a recent transfer student but is really someone who knows the bigger picture, but most of what we get is a mystery that's not all that important to the Daichi family. They're generally more concerned with getting the threat eliminated as quickly as possible and then going back to arguing with each other over anything and everything under the sun. The dysfunctional side of the family is used a lot here as a foil to the larger issues. But in reality, the dysfunction is the core store just wrapped up in a big science fiction package. As much fun as the action and cheesy battle mode outfits are, it's the characters interactions with each other that's the real story.

The characters really are a good bit of fun when they interact. From Dai's clinging to his fathers chest to the way Nozomi just has the near-snap tension where you wonder if she's going to knife them all. What's really appealing with the show in general is that none of the women are all that attractive, but rather pretty regular looking. The little alien girl is cute, but Nozomi is pretty plain and while Dai gives his mother grief about her soft boobies, she's not all that much herself. It's a nice change of pace from a show where either the mother or daughter would be bombshells and there'd be a lot of humor there.

There is a lot of potty humor however and I'll admit that sadly I laughed at a lot of it. Dai himself is one of the main causes, such as his running around the school and flipping all the girls skirts including his teachers. Even worse is Mamoru who has some bowel issues that has created "the biggest turd in the world" according to the dub. What's amusing with this segment of the episode is that the dub continually uses the word "turd" for it while the Japanese side goes for the blunt with calling it shit. Dai does a comical song routine about his fathers' latest bowel movement and it really loses something with the lighter phrasing. This isn't top tier humor but in this larger package it manages to work strangely enough.

There's some really interesting people working on this show. While Kawamori gets the biggest nods as the conceptual brains behind it and his involvement in the mechanical side, I was really happy to see and hear that the end song for the show is done by Akino Arai. Her music is one of my favorite out there and getting a new soft lilting lyrical piece from her is great. The other person I was most surprised by was the presence of Akira Kamiya as Mamoru. He's a completely surprising casting choice for the role since it's so completely unlike many of his past roles that hearing his voice coming from this kind of character just adds to the insanity of it all the more.

In Summary:
The Daichi's is a series that really threw me with some of its weirdness and non-standard way of doing things. The roughness of some of the dialogue, the cheese factor of the suits and the dysfunctional aspect of the family are all strange pieces that manage to combine together in an entertaining way. I found myself laughing at things more than I thought I would and was glad that they aren't trying to wrap up each alien within an episode so it's not turning into an "of the week" kind of show. With only three volumes for the length of the series, this is one of those short commitment titles that may be an undiscovered gem for a lot of people looking for something different to laugh with.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitle,Textless Opening,Promotional Trailers,Conceptual Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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