What They Say:
What’s a band to do with no fame and 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 farm daikon by day and battle slimy record producers, pachinko-mad hags, monstrous nurses, flatulent hospital administrators, and hot police babes by night.
Contains all 12 episodes!
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 5.1 surround. The Japanese track is available in 2.0. The channels and tracks are clear, though I noticed a bit of unevenness sometimes as the audio would dropout. It wasn’t so much a single track would drop, but rather the whole thing, so I think there might have just been an encoding issue, perhaps with just my set. It only happened a couple times, so it was no big deal.
As an additional note, I just want to say that the English cast did a fantastic job with all of the singing that’s involved in this series. They brought just the right tone and amount of manic energy to the whole thing. I’m not usually one to think too hard about voice acting performances, basically believing that if I don’t really notice it, then it must be being done right. But series such as this can be really tough to do, and I think they did it well.
This release is presented in its original 4:3 standard aspect ratio. There were no real technical issues other than the occasional soft focus, which was distracting, but it wasn’t a huge deal. My biggest issue was that this release looked old at time, which is odd considering Nerima Daikon Brothers originally aired in 2006. Particularly, colors looked a bit washed out in places; add in the occasional soft focus, and it seemed to be a title that could have used some remastering. Again, it wasn’t a huge deal since Nerima Daikon Brothers isn’t exactly dependent on crisp visuals, but it did seem noticeable.
This release is a standard ADV-era thinpak, with the three thinpak cases contained inside a sturdy box. The front of the box has a montage of Hideki, Mako, and Ichiro posing along with the panda. Mako is looking particularly flirty here with the way she’s bending over and looking back over her shoulder, and I noticed that because, well, I did. Ahem. On the back of the box is a concert image with the pandas playing in front of the Nerima Daikon Dome. Interestingly, the individual thinpaks appear to have the same designs as the original singles releases, with negative space images of one of the characters on the front, and a disc summary and technical details on the back. All in all, it is nothing special, but I do love the imagery chosen for it.
The menu is the very definition of basic. The entire background is taken up with a faded image of the stage and daikon field, with the panda laying amongst some daikon along the bottom. The selections are just plain black text laid across the middle of the screen, while a green daikon acts as the cursor. While the menu is up, an instrumental version of the OP plays, though it is on a quick loop, so you likely won’t want to spend too much time there.
Aside from a few trailers, there are no extras on this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I didn’t really know anything about Nerima Daikon Brothers before watching it, coming from Shinichi Watanabe, the same director that brought us Excel Saga among others, I did expect twelve episodes of something only vaguely comprehensible combined with some truly ridiculous humor. While not quite as insane as Excel Saga, that is basically what I got. What I did not expect was a brilliant parody of the musical genre with some fantastic Blues Brothers-esque numbers to really keep things moving.
The Nerima Daikon Brothers are a wannabe band made up of brothers Hideki and Ichiro and their (female) cousin, Mako. Since they were children, they have dreamed of building a giant domed stadium where they could put on concerts of their music. To that end, they keep themselves afloat and fed with their small daikon (Japanese radish) farm right in the middle of the Nerima ward of Tokyo, while dreaming up get rich quick schemes. These schemes have them run afoul of the law quite often, as well as pit them up against any number of corrupt individuals who have their own plans to get rich quick. But with a little effort, some luck, and some timely help from a blink-twelve-times-and-you’ll-miss-him Nabeshin (whom Excel Saga fans will know very well), they always seem to come out on top. Unfortunately, they always seem to come out poorer too.
Like Excel Saga, Nerima Daikon Brothers has a vague, overarching theme that helps tie the episodes together and give the series a very general direction, but just about each episode is its own little story that has little, if any, bearing on the rest of the series. Also like Excel Saga, this series is dependent on throwing a lot of things at the screen and hoping some of them stick in order to keep it moving. While it isn’t quite as manic as Excel Saga, it’s definitely a title that keeps you on your toes.
What this series does differently is that it plays on the basic themes and ideas of the musical genre, accepting the fact that nothing should be said if it can be sung. Barely a minute ever goes by without at least one of the characters breaking out into song. After the first episode, I thought it was a neat idea, but I worried it would wear thin well before the next eleven episodes would be up. By the end of the second episode, I was completely sold on the idea.
One of the things that helps with this is that while each episode has completely new songs, word-wise, there are only a half-dozen or so different tunes that keep getting reused—similar to many real musicals I suppose—and each tune can definitely get the toe tapping. What this meant was that by the third or fourth episode, I may not have been able to sing along with the characters, but I could at least hum along with them, and that’s half the fun of musicals.
They also tended to reuse the tunes in similar situations; so there was always the “this is the antagonist for this episode, and here is his/her evil plans” song, the “Nerima Daikon Brothers are stuck and need Nabeshin’s help to proceed” song, and the “Nerima Daikon Brothers are now set to foil the antagonist” song, and each of these were the same thing, musically, from one episode to the next, so it set up a nice pattern of knowing what to expect next.
The other thing I was impressed with musically was how well they were able to translate the songs for the English dub into something that worked for each situation. If for some reason you weren’t aware that this was originally a Japanese cartoon that had been translated into English, you’d never be able to tell that the songs came out of a different language. I can’t really attest to how accurate the translations are, because I didn’t switch to the Japanese track to listen, I just know that the English versions worked and worked well. Considering that the music is easily the most important part of the series, making sure it worked in the dub was probably their biggest priority. I’d say they passed that test.
And, of course, any series like this is only as strong as its cast, and Nerima Daikon Brothers has a pretty good one. Hideki, Mako, and Ichiro have a funny dichotomy between them as they are all completely different archetypes. Hideki is all gung-ho and energetic, while Mako is very self-absorbed and generally looking out for #1. But I loved Ichiro because he is the complete opposite of energetic and motivated, and so he tends to stand out like a sore-thumb among everything that is always going on around them.
There’s also a pretty funny sort-of love web that exists between all of them. Hideki is in love with Mako and proposes to her quite frequently, but she always turns him down by proclaiming the non-existent law that cousins cannot marry. Part of the reason she isn’t interested in Hideki, though, is that she has a thing for Ichiro—who, it should be noted, is also her cousin. But unfortunately for Mako, Ichiro is not interested in her, and even flat out turns her down at one point. Instead, Ichiro finds himself attracted to their pet panda. His potential relationship with the panda is complicated by the police officer in charge of tracking and arresting them for their crimes, Yukika Karakuri, who has her own infatuation for the panda. I’d say that it’d make sense if you watched it, but I just finished watching it, and it still makes no sense to me.
The only real flaw I have with Nerima Daikon Brothers is that over the last four episodes, they tried to shoehorn in a larger plot, and I don’t really feel like it came off too well. In these episodes, the band is split up by some greedy people looking to steal their land away from them, and they are forced to find out what is really important to them. The episodes still contained all of the same tropes that the previous episodes setup, but I really feel like a title like this is best served by keeping it simple and moving on before plotlines get too complex. The very manic nature of the comedy almost demands it.
It likely doesn’t help that there are quite a few insider references that require you to have some knowledge of the current (at the time) political climate in order to get; while I understood the references, I can imagine a lot of the jokes being lost on a large portion of the American audience. It isn’t like the plot became overly complex, because it didn’t, but it did become too complex for what worked best, and that was a shame.
One final note—make sure to listen to ED song—a thank you from the voice actors for paying their salary—at least once. It’s almost worth the price of admission by itself.
Nerima Daikon Brothers is a fun romp pretty much the whole way through. Much like Excel Saga, it is a series that relies a lot on random humor, but most of it hits here. It starts to drag a bit at the end when they try to give it a plot, but even then, there is still a lot of fun to be had. The good news is that unlike Excel Saga, they knew when it was time to get out, and it didn’t overstay its welcome. If it had proceeded much past twelve episodes, it would have begun to lose its charm. As it is, it is just about the right length. If you like the idea of a slightly tamer Excel Saga that parodies the entire idea of the musical genre, then you cannot go wrong here. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Section 23 Films
Release Date: May 27, 2008
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System