Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Media Blasters
- MSRP: 29.95
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Gokudo
Gokudo Vol. #5
By Paul Grisham
February 27, 2003
Release Date: September 24, 2002
Gokudo Vol. #5
What They Say
© Media Blasters
Gokudo and the gang have a new quest, to find the legendary Savior Device of the Buddha people! All they need to do is deal with the fact that their bodies and souls are still swapped around, Panda is giving birth to the monkey god, Goku, Jiki has become a turtle, the witch sisters have become snakes, and everyone has been recruited by the demon Ikkyu to be in a pop band.
Luckily, they have help in the form of Nanya, a servant of the White Tiger God, but she's fallen hopelessly in love with Djinn's soul and Prince Niari's body. Even if they get all this straightened out and find the Savior Device, they still have to deal with the evil monk Sanzo, who has his own plans for it.The Review!
The Hotoke arc, already running a whopping 9 episodes, including the four episodes here and at least one more to come, is overstaying its welcome. The plot has become unwieldy and overcomplicated, and the show has violated the cardinal rule of gag anime by repeating itself.Audio:
This volume has a satisfying sound, though on this volume, I did notice a bit of a difference between the original Japanese version and the English dub version. The Japanese version sounds brighter and more balanced, while the English version is a bit bottom-heavy.Video:
The video here appears a bit lighter than previous volumes, and the red bleeding I complained of earlier is not as apparent. Packaging:
Volume 5, subtitled Lover Extraordinaire, focuses on the Prince and Nanya in a loving embrace, with an enraged Gokudo in the background. The picture is nice, but suffers a bit from a cluttered-looking composition. Still, this is probably the best cover since the first, even if Nanya is a minor character.Menus:
Menus are nearly identical to previous volumes, though they have added some volume-specific artwork to the submenus. Selecting episodes in the chapter menu requires an unnecessary number of button presses, though.Extras:
Volume 5 includes a creditless version of the second ED an extra this time, along with a set of production pencil sketches.Content:
(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)
Okay, let’s see if we can straight all this out. The Chinese gods are fighting a war with the Hotoke, a race of demons from the underworld, who may or may not be controlled by a mad monk, named Sanzo. Gokudo and his gang are walking around in each other’s bodies, a situation that could be remedied if they could get all the bodies and souls together at once. Gokuu, a monkey prince who is currently occupying Gokudo’s body, has run off with the body and is nowhere to be found,. Meanwhile the gang is searching for Genie (in Prince’s body) who has been captured by the Hotoke and banished into a desert wasteland that drives its inhabitants insane. The gang finally catches up with Genie, who is deliciously delirious, when a mysterious woman appears, claiming to know Genie (or is it Prince?)
I’m quite sure that I’ve messed up parts of this recap, and if so, it’s only because the story has become needlessly complicated to this point, and there’s little in this collection of episodes to catch you up if you’ve forgotten anything. If you let too much time pass between volume 4 and 5, I’m afraid that you run the risk of becoming as hopelessly confused as I was. In previous volumes, the insane comedy and tightness of the story arcs kept things moving along, and there was an overarching sense of logic behind the randomness. Volume 5, continuing this overlong story, has resorted to fill in the missing elements of the back-story, none of which makes much sense if you haven’t been paying close attention to the story up to now. In volume 4, everything seemed to work cleverly towards comedy genius, but here, plot and exposition take over, dominating the comedy and even the character and situational comedy.
This particular arc is much more serious than previous stories, and is far more epic in scope, but the writing is simply not up to the challenge of the bigger canvas. In addition to the emphasis on explaining over doing, a major complaint I had of this volume is that the new characters (and if you’re asking yourself why we need more characters, when there already feels like there are about five too many, you’re asking the right questions) are so terribly earnest that they seem to suck the life out of the show.
Nanya and Queen Byakko (yes, another white tiger) are ostensibly the good guys, but they’re so driven by duty that they seem aloof and oblivious to the fact that they’re characters in a comedy. Monk Sanzo lacks the wit and zing of previous Gokudo villains. I can’t think of a single memorable thing he’s said or done. And the final new character, Miroku, is so dour that a ten minute long philosophical debate on the nature of human happiness is his defining scene. (Gokudo’s response, “Stop meditating on it and just make me happy!” is actually pretty funny, though it doesn’t save the scene.) Even old characters no longer have the same zip, with Genie reduced to an incoherent, babbling wreck, something that strikes me as not so much funny as just sad.
There are a few flashes of the twisted comedy that made previous volumes so much fun, though they are fewer and farther between. I particularly liked some of the scenes involving Gokudo (in Rubette’s body) and monkey prince Gokuu (in Gokudo’s chibi-sized body.) The lecherous and greedy Gokuu makes for a perfect Gokudo Mini-Me. There’s also a nifty bit of cosmic irony when perfect happiness is bestowed on humanity. But mainly its just introduce new character, sit through exposition, fight, lather, rinse, and repeat. The worst part of it, though, is that the writers have finally resorted to repeating gags. One of the most inspired bits in the entire show, the Chingensai sisters routine makes a comeback, but it’s just the same schtick all over again, with the same song and animation. It was funny the first time because it was so unexpectedly absurd and because the “girls” were so patently untalented. The second time through, I was waiting impatiently for it to end.
That’s not to say that it is all bad. On the contrary, bad Gokudo is still worth watching, it’s just that this story could have used a bit more editing. At least two of the episodes in this arc are unnecessary, as was the Chingensai sisters bit. And in hindsight, many of the extra characters in the story, Ninya and the hermit Panda, for instance, served no other purpose than to pad out the running time. But I guess that’s the price we pay for so much funniness on the previous volume.
The teaser for the next episode on volume 6 promises the finale to the Hotoke arc. I’m certainly eager to see it, though mainly because it means I can put this arc behind me. With only a few episodes left in the series, I’m hoping that the final arc gets in gear for a tight little story that returns the show to its comedy roots.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic Panablack TV, Codefree Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)