What They Say:
Some cities spend millions to draw in tourists, but a small town like Nagarekawa doesn’t have those resources. What it DOES have is Nanako, whose dream of becoming an idol singer is suddenly given life when she and fellow classmate Yukari are recruited by her uncle (who serves on the city council) to become local idols. That means performing at the openings of swimming pools and appearing on the smaller local TV stations, so it’s not the glamorous lifestyle one sees in the movies. But it is a way to help her city and neighbors while doing something she cares about. And when Nanako and Yukari are joined by a third classmate, the petite but athletic Yui, who takes on the task of appearing in costume as the town mascot, everything really comes together. They may not be on the road to fame and fortune, but there’s plenty of fun to be found ahead as they become LOCODOLS!
Encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 48 kHz, the audio sounds clear. Audio remains purposeful as it moves from quiet moments where vocal inflection feels as important as the video to concert performances where a good stereo track delivers an appropriate soundstage.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. I saw no distracting artifacts from a normal viewing distance. While the animation is limited and the scenery often has few details, the artists have created a very nuanced space by using textures to create depth, shadow, and reflection. The DVD transfer maintains much of this through good color reproduction.
The thirteen episodes are spread across a three disc set that comes in a standard size keepcase. Discs 1 and 2 are on opposite sides of a hinged leaf. The hub for disc 3 is on the inside back cover. Each disc has been printed with art of the Locodols. The first has Yukari and Nanako holding microphones and wearing their pink tops. Disc 2 has Yukari, Nanako, and Yui wearing colorful dresses with ribbons and hoop skirts. Disc 3 repeats the image from the front cover. The four girls stand together on stage. Yukari and Nanako wear sailor hats and midriff-baring coat and tie. The two girls wear t-shirts with Japanese writing. The spine has an image of the mascot walking in profile, the title logo in the middle, and Nanako stretching as she jumps in the bottom third. The rear cover offers the summary in white text on a blue field. Above and below are small images from the series. A larger size image of the mascot, Nanako, and Yukari performing dominate the back cover. The special features are clearly listed. In the bottom third credits and copyright information appear in black font on a honey field surrounding the technical grid.
Each disc’s menu screen has a vertical column with white episode numbers in an orange ball and the episode title in orange and white font on a blue field. An image of the costumed mascot is at the bottom. Sentia trailers can be selected on disc 1 and special features on disc 3. On the right side of each screen is an image of the girls. Disc 1 menu shows Nanako and Yukari on a children’s ride. On Disc 2, Nanako in her stage costume holds the shoulders of Mirai as she stands in the mascot costume. Disc 3 shows Nanako shopping with her three classmates. On the special features menu, all four girls stand in the street wearing casual clothes.
Sentai includes a clean opening and closing. There is also a series of art bumpers which offers an interesting way to reimagine the characters.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story follows Nanako as she experiences the change from being a marginal, unexceptional young lady on her rise to local celebrity and promoter for her town. While this slice of life series doesn’t have lots of action, it really does follow Nanako’s transformation from being a self-absorbed school girl to being a valuable member of the community. Viewers will see the Locodols start as nervous amateurs and become more polished as they practice. They perform in public, they record promotional videos, and they compete in Locodol and community mascot contests. Locodol focuses on the need for a small town to curb the exodus of young people to cities and the importance of creating a local identity for both tourism and the community to rally around.
Much of the show offers scenes from daily life without overcompensating with too much detail or activity. When trying to think what great things the town offers its residents and visitors, Nanako can’t offer a compelling vision of the town or its attractions. She takes the visitors to a few restaurants to sample their specialties, and then they end up at the recently restored city pool. In one scene, we have a rather empty sidewalk where Nanako stops to read a help wanted sign. Instead of trying to exaggerate the setting to make it interesting, the creators decided to allow the surprise opening of the security door and Nanako’s startled reaction to create a somewhat realistic moment. The interest for the viewer mimics the character’s sudden break from the safe and mundane world. In another episode, the Locodols seem to be teaching each other local history, and this leads to Nanako’s discovery of a small shrine for the local god she has never known existed. To be a good citizen means to learn about the local history and appreciate the people and businesses of today.
Money tends to be a continual issue for Nanako. Her uncle got her to sign on as a Locodol by advancing her the money to buy a swimsuit she otherwise could not afford. Her awareness that she remains a public employee continues to ground her to her humble role. When she first goes to Yukari’s home, Nanako sees her friend has the entire floor of the building, and she thinks aloud that rich people do exist. Yukari is older, taller, and wealthier than Nanako. The young lady smoothly acts as a representative of the community and of her political family as she flows through a formal cocktail party with the cultural elite. As a Locodol, Yukari offers the same gracious communication with people who have come to watch them perform in a parking lot. Yukari’s only awkward communication occurs when she tries to act as a gracious host for Nanako’s first visit to her home, but they have to negotiate the social etiquette to return to being equals. The Locodols represent all social and economic divisions in their community. Their official roles range from performing for a crowd to recording segments where they sample food at a local restaurant, act as exterminators, and promote the town on national TV. As their community begins to see them as ambassadors, they are not treated as idols. They easily communicate with people from all social and economic sectors of their town.
While never the focus of the series, a yuri element permeates the show. Yukari seems to have a crush on Nanako, and occasionally makes comments that the viewer will see as hints, but Nanako remains completely unaware. Early in the series, they get a creepy female manager who seems overly interested in the girls. Outside of some stalker-like activity the manager uses to promote the Locodols, her behavior never moves fully into yuri territory. Still, this element adds an odd vibe that begs for more character development than the series gives us.
Locodol offers a contemporary view of small towns at risk as their populations leave for urban jobs and their infrastructures don’t offer viable tourist options. As a slice of life show, this seems to be a coming of age series where maturity equals good citizenship. With very little action and even less character development, the series will not appeal to those hoping for an idol-centric show or an ecchi comedy. For those who want to experience a slice of Japanese culture, at least a current issue in the culture that doesn’t seem to be a frequent trope, the series offers a much appreciated step toward a realistic Japan.
If you want a slice of life that follows cute girls as they grow up to be valuable public servants, this is the series for you. Locodol offers viewers a slice of Japan outside of the large cities. Highly recommended for anime fans who want to learn more about broader Japanese culture.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Art Bumpers, Clean Open and Closing, and Sentai trailers.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 19th, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.