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Nerima Daikon Brothers Complete Collection UK Anime DVD Review

12 min read

Nerima Daikon Brothers UK CoverAlso known by its other name ‘Ear Worm: The Anime’…

What They Say:
What’s a band to do with no fame and especially 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. LISTEN as the band AND the evil villains sing hilarious songs all along the bumpy daikon-studded road! TUNE IN AND SEE!!! (What’s daikon? Is it a vegetable? Is it a fruit? A weapon? A girl’s best friend? All of the above?!)

Finally the full series on DVD for its first ever release in the UK. As you’d expect from the director of EXCEL SAGA – it’s a crazy ride!

The Review:
Audio:
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both Japanese and English instead of a 5.1 release is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video.

Video:
The video is as usual of a decent quality, with no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing – however being an older series it suffers from a similar problem that many DVD releases did in the early to mid-2000s that when you pause it, the animation becomes blurry and almost like the lining melts in between it, granted when moving it isn’t problematic but it is noticeable. Outside of that, it is still very colourful (though they abuse the repeat animation a lot) there are no delays with timing with subtitles with animation in either language or slowdown with normal rates or via pausing where the animation can become fuzzy.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this test release.

Menu:
The menu is very different as there isn’t even a logo for the show – just a background of the daikon field with Pandaikon in the foreground with 6 episodes selectable per disc, languages (which contain the commentaries), your choice of the clean opening and ending on Disc 1, and credits on disc 2. Fortunately the shows familiar theme tune is on both discs on the very slight chance you may be wondering if you put in the right series, but it is a bit surprising. No issues with the menu in terms of selection, it is near instantaneous which you expect from a Blu-Ray rather than a DVD selection but the lack of bright colours and logo does make it feel a bit lazy. There is also an error on the languages selection where if you select the commentary with Showtaro Morikubo, you actually get the one with Ayano Matsumoto – and vice versa so unsure if this was in just the test disc but there will be confusion.

Extras:
The extras oddly aren’t in an extras menu but either on the main menu (clean op/ed and credits) or in the languages selection where you would find all of the commentaries (well, kind of) of Nabeshin and the cast members/technician. Because of the above error, you will have to select them in the reverse order for the last half of the commentaries and from what I checked, one episode commentary appears to be missing in Showtaro’s (he gets 2 episodes, whilst everyone gets 3) – this isn’t made clear in the menu selection.

The actual commentaries themselves are great – keep in mind Nerima Daikon Brothers was released in 2006 by ADV so this is over 10 years now but Nabeshin was quite a character, one of the few Japanese actors/directors I met (in 2007 when I went to Anime Central in Chicago), he does wear the Nabeshin attire according to the cast here (and he did when I went to the Nerima Daikon Brothers panel in 2007 alongside the dub cast) – the first 3 episodes contain Nabeshin with the technician simply called Haruka – Nabeshin mentioned it is his first audio commentary, and this is the most ‘serious’ of the commentaries, and even then some trademark Nabeshin goofiness is definitely included. We do get to learn why it became a musical, and things like the inclusion of Pandaikon, how the characters personalities changed, the ‘sketchy’ scenes and more controversial moments, how they prepared 20 tunes to be used, there is actually some decent information throughout these ones.

When Nabeshin gets with the actors though, he seems to be more relaxed and then it devolves into a lot of silliness. The ones with Shigeru Matsuzaki (Hideki – eps 4-6) actually mention that this is an anime of the times (perfect when you’re reviewing a release that came out 10 years prior) and it is more casual, especially as Nabeshin is actually younger that Matsuzaki (the big thing mentioned about his long singing career and the show’s opening theme song was his first big hit after 24 years) – Matsuzaki does speak about getting into Hideki’s character and how his role influenced his real life – as well as Nabeshin talking about the concept of Yurika and his praise for the other voice actors – how they performed the opening song, and the oya-san song (Nabeshin song) – Nabeshin talks about his direction and Matsuzaki says how his direction is different from the music business – so whilst definitely more casual, still has some good information throughout.

We only get 2 episodes as far as I noticed with Showtaro Morikubo (this could be an issue with the menu selection, I didn’t go into the missing episode and adjust the audio to see if the commentary was on there so it could be but not direct from the menu) the voice of Ichiro, it is the most ‘calm’ of the 3 commentaries with the voice actors but the running joke (which I heard first from Mako’s commentary) of Nabeshin’s daughter not being his daughter because she is too cute continues, and a few things about how Japanese blood types are a thing when factoring personality via fortune telling gives you a few things about the differences between how Japan views things compared to the west (a lot of the stuff Nabeshin talks about maybe a tad perverted though the female colleagues do both call him out and joke about it at the same time)….

Ayano’s Matsumoto’s (eps 10-12) is a lot of giggling and fun – Nabeshins’ daughter at that time was the most adorable girl ever as Ayano teases him that she takes after her mother, becoming legit good friends with Marina Inuoe (Yukika), how that she didn’t recognise him wearing the Nabeshin outfit at first, and jokingly makes fun of Nabeshin whilst he gives the ‘silent treatment’ pretending to be insulted. They do talk about Mako’s character and how her songs are about desire, basically suggesting the women are lustful/sinful image, but do point out that most of the characters are just as bad – and how the last episode was surprisingly emotional and how Nerima Daikon Brothers became for the then 21 year old Ayano.

We do get the clean opening and ending as well, but surprisingly we get them in both English and Japanese as the English dub actually dubbed almost all the songs throughout the show as well, so that was a nice surprise from a normal extra.

Content:
This anime was the definition of a sleeper hit back in the day. Released in Japan between December 2004 and May 2005, getting a US release by the then company ADV in 2006, it was one of the few releases along with Excel Saga and Abenobashi Shopping Arcade which got the famous ADVid-notes treatment, allowing a lot of the more obscure cultural references or otaku jokes be translated in speech bubbles alongside the show. Sadly, this isn’t in this release and also it took 10 years to get a release in the UK of this obscure yet wildly unique show but hopefully the hubbub is still there for this surprise gem to get into the hearts of UK fans.

The strangest thing is? If you go by the show on its focus, it is very basic. Formulaic, episode of the day, even repetitive could easily come with the show. If it wasn’t for one thing…but we’ll get to that in a moment. The actual content of what happens is quite small compared to its gimmick…

The plot, as it were, is basically three friends living in downtown Nerima on a simple daikon farm. The head farmer, Hideki, has dreams of owning his own dome to perform songs with his friends Ichiro, a very laid back host, and his cousin Mako, a sultry little vixen who takes advantage of Hideki’s crush on her despite telling him cousins aren’t allowed to marry (though Ichiro always points out in Japan they are allowed, with Mako making sure Hideki isn’t within earshot). However to fulfil this dream, they don’t have much of the one thing they need – money.

So the episodes are basically the day to day lives in trying to either build the dome, get the cash they need, or deal with the various nuisances which usually cost them more money. The first episode for example has them at an audition with a man who is quite sexually forward with Ichiro, or the second episode when some Korean wave pachinko with handsome Korean men getting older woman to rob the farm of their daikon (if money isn’t available, vegetables are a welcome payment as they like to make kimchee), then we have to deal with a corrupt hospital, a blackmailing fortune teller, learning from a true number one host and his overbearing wife, scummy lawyers, abducting host club members for a shopping mall before life changes into looking to sell Hideki’s farm…which actually leads to quite the political satire for the final couple of episodes.

Always during these episodes (bar said last two) there is always a complication – about episode 4 the complication intensifies with the addition of the sexy policewoman Yukika who is keeping an eye on the Nerima Daikon Brothers after their exploits in previous episodes – however she keeps getting drawn to both Ichiro…and their panda pet. Oh, did I mention the mascot Pandaikon seems to be the target of affections for both Yukika AND Ichiro, whilst Mako also seems to like Ichiro (well, getting slapped by him anyway) whilst Hideki’s pines for Mako. Yeah, it’s a very weird series.

Said complications are always dealt with the help of a mysterious man in a red suit and an afro who will lend the NDB anything (apart from money) – whatever he lends them does somehow help them out whether it is a bazooka (definitely obviously helpful) or a butt plug or a story about the Dog of Flanders (not obviously helpful but…) – however despite his help, they never seem to get the cash they are after via one thing or another – not helped when Hideki is too dumb, or Mako is too selfish that they can never win.

So the series if you look at it this way is rather predictable – it actually could seem rather boring or even annoying at first glance. You have our lead trio who with the exception of Ichiro (and even he has his weird moments – not unlikeable just strange) aren’t exactly that likeable. Hideki whilst goofy has quite a lot of perverted moments which suggests that a lot of things he suffers from he deserves, combined with his idiocy it really isn’t until the final few episodes when he snaps when his dream is in his grasp and the other two aren’t on board (Mako for her own selfish reasons, Ichiro for wanting to keep the dream to the three of them but never consulted him) – Mako is perhaps even worse, really cementing the whole women are lustful or money stereotype (Yukika fortunately is the reverse to counter that, her panda loving side…er aside…) making her incredibly annoying at times. The whole deus ex machina of always going to Nabeshin as well to save the day is also very predictable and rinse…repeat.

So why am I so high for this series despite the above? Rather simple.

IT’S AN ANIME MUSICAL.

Yes, this to my knowledge is the first, and still only full anime musical. Obviously it is a reference to the Blues Brothers and I know some series have done musical episodes (Kanamemo springs to mind) but it has a range of classy tunes, mostly blues and jazz (which I love so it gets bonus points) – each character has their own unique ditty (Ichiro’s famous panda song being the most well known), they have trademark ones as well (the Oya-san/Hey there pops song before they get the artefact of the day from Nabeshin being my personal favourite) along with a lot of parodies (the obvious one being to Michael Jackson though some of the jokes verge with hindsight due to NDB airing years before Jackson’s death). They also push the boundary with their humour, from Looney Toon-esque, to sexual imagery (the first episode being a bit one) to Japanese stars (the fortune teller episode for example is harder to know without the vid notes but is a reference to a famous Japanese fortune teller Kazuko Hosoki who you may remember from Iron Chef as the fortune teller judge) – it takes the mockery to a level that despite some of the annoyances, it always raises a chuckle. The absurdity of the panda-loving gets to mockery and pandary…er parody as well.

What makes this show even more of a big deal is the political references it refers to in criticism to the former Japanese prime minister. Again, this would have been better with notes but a bit of research and you see the parody throughout and yet it is taken surprisingly seriously with the ‘deaths’ of several characters, the lion theme and considering the politics in this day and age, it can hit much closer to home than you’d think.

Last, but definitely not least, this show has one of my favourite dubs of all time – and not just spoken, SUNG. Yes, pretty much all but maybe one song is sung in both Japanese AND English. This was back when everything was dubbed, but the fact it was done to this extreme was not just amazing, but genuinely good. The trifecta of Grey Ayres, Luci Christian and Chris Patton (who was probably sick to death of requests at cons for him to sing the panda song ^^) – and every character who sings in Japanese does sing in English as well – even asking Nabeshin for help with translations when the jokes don’t work in English (to which Nabeshins’ response was usually ‘turn it into a sex joke ^^’. – makes this a joy to listen to in either language.

This is why I really hope this does well – it’s an older series yes, and the predictability throughout means you know what is going to happen *until that surprise last 2 episodes..* but the fact it is an anime equivalent of the Blues Brothers, all singing and dancing in both languages, the parodies, comedy, excellent voice work and just all round fun this show has, it is near impossible to hate despite the many issues a series like this should have. The musical theme hits out of the park, and Hideki has left the building.

In Summary:
If this was a normal series, the grade would be much lower – whilst funny, the annoyance of most of the leads combined with the very formulaic episode nature of it would normally be quite predictable and dull. However, the fact that about 80% of the words are sung, this is pretty much anime opera in terms of a narrative story being told in song, and I love it. A rare masterpiece of voice work in both languages, Nerima Daikon Brothers will have to jigging and singing along at least, and those rare moments of intelligence ahead of comedy give it a surprising finale – not for everyone’s taste but points for the musical nerd in me to get a big grin.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: December 26th, 2016
MSRP: £39.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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