What They Say:
Welcome to Edo, a town where the finer things in life are strictly forbidden. You can’t have fun, you can’t earn money, and you certainly can’t strap a princess to a rocket and blast her into space – but none of that will stop Seikichi. Making things explode is his calling, and if the little man with the big rocket can send his lady to the moon, the city of Edo just might become bearable again. Contains episodes 1-13.
The bilingual release for this series is a bit of a surprise as it wasn’t one that I was expecting FUNimation to do a 5.1 mix for when it comes to the English track. The original Japanese track is in stereo encoded at 192kbps and come across well though without any surprises. The forward soundstage mix does nicely with a bit of oomph for some of the fireworks and action scenes but overall it’s mostly a dialogue and mild comedy piece so it doesn’t have too much stretching to do. The English mix does well in the 5.1 encoded at 448kbps as it gives it more clarity and impact overall. It’s not a huge upgrade, but with it coming across as a bit louder and more defined, it stands out more. Both tracks are good throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes for this release are spread across two discs in a standard seven/six format. The show has a very clean and vibrant look to it that mixes with the more earthy backgrounds, though they’re more often than not lighter instead of murky. The style of the show is fairly typical for a comedy and it uses it well with the backgrounds having a good look to them with little issue outside of some minor noise in some of the darker scenes. Character animation is quite good and has a clean flow and movement about it with no problems creeping in such as cross coloration or line noise of note. Madhouse has produced a decent looking comedy here with some nice touches in its style that translates well through the transfer.
You can tell how a show ranks on how well it will sell by the kind of packaging FUNimation uses for it. Oh! Edo Rocket gets a standard size keepcase with a hing inside to hold one of the two discs. The front cover has a good shot of Seikichi and Sora together with fireworks exploding behind them and a shot of the moon along the top where the cutely done logo resides. There’s an extra bit of definition for it as well with a orange checkered stripe along the left side that’s thin which keeps it from dominating. The cover gives off an upbeat and fun feeling to it which is pretty much what it wants to achieve. The back cover is a fair bit darker but that’s because it wants to give focus to the fireworks. The design has a simple summary through the middle while surrounding it with shots from the show and a good strip of upbeat characters images underneath. The bottom is given over to the standard production credits and technical information which is hard to read as it’s orange against black and done using a small font. The cover is reversible as well as the left side has a breakdown of the discs with the episode numbers and titles while the other side features a nice and slightly more serious image of Gin and Ise. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design definitely fits in with the kind of things we saw with the packaging where each disc has a static screen with a piece of character artwork, Seikichi on the first and Sora on the second, with bright colors behind them. The bottom section features the navigation strip which keeps it simple with its features but is quick and easy to access. With a bit of music playing along, it’s a fairly upbeat menu with its design and it sets the mood for the show as well as it can. Submenus load quickly and the layout is clean and easy and the discs did not read our players’ language presets as it defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The only extras here are on the second disc with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Oh! Edo Rocket is certainly an odd duck in its source material for an anime series as it was originally a stage play. Bringing it into anime form, and obviously expanding on it and changing it up is not what you’d normally expect but for the most part it works. The twenty-six episode series, the first thirteen of which are in this set, has Madhouse bringing its considerable skills to the fore to make it work. Unfortunately, the show reminded me more of Clockwork Fighters from BONES in that it’s playing with an older time period with a comedic bent that just doesn’t click well. A lot of what we get here feels rather well worn at this point and it lacks that extra something to make it stand above other efforts of a similar vein.
Taking place in the middle of the 19th century during the Tenpo era, Oh! Edo Rocket puts us firmly in the row houses of Edo where life is hard. The reforms that have been enacted have crushed the citizenry pretty well and many things are off limits. Life is hard and the people have little unless they were already in a position of power. The show has a very ensemble cast feeling to it but it does narrow down to focus on a few characters. The heart of the series comes in the form of Seikichi, a young man living in the row houses who dreams of making the best fireworks ever and inspiring everyone around him. Unfortunately, making such things is illegal now so he’s had his dream stolen from him. He’s still intent on making them though and avoiding those that will cause him trouble.
Where his life goes pear-shaped is when he runs into a beautiful girl named Sora who seemingly moves in with him without him realizing it. As it turns out, she’s actually an alien from another world and she’s hoping he can build her a ship to take her back to the moon as her craft has been destroyed. Sora’s come to Earth to capture and stop the threat of another of her kind, termed a Sky Beast as they’re able to take on a more creature-like form. Through various encounters, as Sora and Seikichi focus on the goal of getting her back home, an understanding comes of what Sora is there to do and why she cannot return until it has been done. Her need to capture this other Sky Beast, which has set itself to various pieces across the area, is what dominates her at the moment. But she does work with Seikichi to get him to use his fireworks and engineering basics to build various prototypes to help get her to the moon.
Because it’s an ensemble cast, there’s a lot more going on here than just that. The residents of the row houses are cute and quirky, many of them feeling like the diminutive figures from a Matsumoto series, but it’s the fully fleshed out ones that stand out the most. And among those is Ginjiro, a slightly older man who watches out for everyone. He’s got the same kind of luck as everyone else but he manages to make out a touch better. As it turns out, he’s part of a rich history of specialists that have disappeared over the years known as the Men in Black. Because of events happening in the world these days, there are government officials seeking them out to take care of the city and Gin gets drawn into that. And because of how good he is, he even ends up leading the group while trying to hide his role in all of it from his friends at the row house.
A surprise or two is introduced along the way, notably with the police officer that’s assigned to this area that has absolutely no love for any of the people who live there, but by and large the show runs the gamut of action comedy plots. The Sky Beasts are pursued by the Men in Black, there are mysterious murders that take place and coverups of the same as well. And as that goes on, we spend a lot of time enjoying the simple charms of the poor folk of the row houses and the exploration of fireworks technology by Seikichi. It has its charms to be certain, but the way it goes through the motions leaves you a bit put off by it all.
Everyone that learns about the Sky Beasts handles it well enough, though they think it’s more of a joke at first before taking it seriously. And then they all work to help protect Sora and to help her get on her way. While everything has a fairly predictable flow to it, once it gets the actual set pieces in place, it doesn’t manage to become more than the sum of its parts. With the focus split between either Gin and his adventures and that of Seikichi and Sora, neither gets the time to really stand strong. Seikichi’s story doesn’t have enough to manage it because it’s just about him getting closer to someone who has to leave while he works on making improbable fireworks for the time. And with Gin, he’s got enough of a story to make it work but it doesn’t have that something special to take it to the next level. Especially as the comedic elements of it only serve to undermine it, such as calling him Captain Bellybutton. The humor for much of the show simply falls flat for me. It works in that it hits all the right notes, but it’s just not all that funny. The combination of that with everything else ends up making it a passable show, but one that comes across as if it misses the mark by enough to be rather noticeable.
I went into Oh! Edo Rocket with no knowledge of what it was about other than it’s taken an age for FUNimation to get it out here after announcing it. The show has a rough start and if the comedy and style of it doesn’t work for you there, it may not pick up all that much more later on. It does improve as it progresses and as certain things fall into place, giving it a more concrete storyline, but the whole thing comes across as rather predictable and stretched out from what it should be. While it’s not just a comedy since it wants to do action and mild romance as well, it’s the comedy that feels the weakest. It’s very straightforward material, especially if you’ve gone through shows that delve into this period and row house life. Oh! Edo Rocket just went against me in a way that left me feeling apart from it. I didn’t care for or about any of the characters and the story didn’t grab me or entice me after the first half was over. It’s well put together and Madhouse did a good job with the visuals, but the story itself simply falls flat repeatedly.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 2nd, 2010
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.