On Monday I wrote about how to write an anime review people will actually want to read. Today, I tried to take my own advice. Did I succeed? You be the judge!
You’ll notice that Nerima Daikon Brothers isn’t like any other anime you’ve seen before as soon as the characters open their mouths. It’s a musical! Full of catchy, upbeat tunes ranging from pop-jazz to pop-punk—with matching dance numbers—music carries most of the dialogue and all of the plot.
On the surface, Nerima Daikon Brothers is a character parody of Saturday Night Live’s Blues Brothers. Their slick costumes, propensity to break into song, and good natured but helpless inability to stay on the right side of the law all take cues from their Western inspiration.
But the similarities end there, replaced by a generous helping of Weird Japan. The anime is brought to you by Shinichi Watanabe, the director who both produced and appeared in Excel Saga as the afro-sporting Nabeshin. His absurd sense of humor is apparent in every episode.
Hardworking, guileless Hideki, easygoing prettyboy Ichiro, and avaricious minx Mako dream of being musicians and building a concert dome. But in the meantime, they get by in the Nerima ward of Tokyo by farming daikons—sweet white radishes—inexplicably in the middle of the city. Also inexplicably, they’re plagued by a plucky, daikon-stealing panda, Pandaikon.
Very little of the plot has anything to do with the brothers’ dreams of fame. They keep getting sidetracked by every farcical villain in town, from a corrupt chief of police to a fraudulent fortune teller. The brothers intend to steal from these fiends and fund their Daikon Dome, but their good hearts and values keep getting the best of them.
Each confrontation is full of slapstick and obscene sexual humor that has brothers and bad guys having laughable trysts with one another or, more frequently, Pandaikon. When the going gets tough, the brothers visit a shady character who looks a lot like Nabeshin and sing for their dinner… er, a rental item to give them an edge.
The songs are infectious and will stick in your head long after each of the show’s twelve thirty-minute episodes are over. Which is a good thing, because the plot—or what there is of it—won’t. Outrageous battles, crass sexual humor, and over-the-top depictions of corruption serve as a vehicle for commentary on Japan’s society and political structure.
Unfortunately, when anime takes its cues from real life, it gets dated quickly. Younger fans may not recognize the parodies of late pop star Michael Jackson or former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. And for Western fans, the English dub is a must. Director Chris Ayres took liberties with some of the less recognizable parodies of Japanese business people. (A word of warning—he also took liberties with the language, and the dub is rife with crass language.)
Visually, Nerima Daikon Brothers is sloppy. It looks like it was animated in a hurry, like even the creators couldn’t stop humming along to the show long enough to bother with it. Somehow, it’s the perfect depiction for this celebration of joy and wackiness. How can you care about clean lines when you’re holding your sides laughing at the Chief of Police and Yakuza boss trying to convince the brothers they’re devotedly in love, the better to avoid corruption charges?
Western reception of Nerima Daikon Brothers has been lukewarm. Anime News Network gave it a B-. The Fandom Post gave it a slightly higher B. To me, however, it’s the perfect anime. The songs are as catchy as commercial jingles. The humor is so over the top I don’t question it. The fact that it’s a musical gives me permission to suspend my disbelief. Whenever I am going through a really dark time, I put this on and almost instantly, things don’t seem so bad.
If you value plot in an anime, Nerima Daikon Brothers isn’t for you. But if you just want to turn off your brain, look no further than this.
Grade: 4/5 stars. Energetic musical numbers, wacky humor, a lacking and dated plot.