In the world of musicals, there are the essentials. From Rent and Phantom of the Opera, to Mamma Mia! and The Producers, everybody has their own favorites. This is no exception across the pond, where musical theater is alive, well, and thriving, with the renowned Takarazuka Revue calling Tokyo their home. Japanese musical theater is no exception to anime adaptations, as Black Jack, Rose of Versailles, and even Sakura Taisen received musical adaptations. However, nobody really tried to make invert the trend, and make an anime based on the musical theater format, until 2006, when Nerima Daikon Brothers hit the scene.
What is it?
Nerima Daikon is a musical comedy from Shinichi Watanabe. Hideki, Mako, and Ichiro are member of the up and not quite coming musical group, the Nerima Daikon Brothers. Their dream is to build a dome in the middle of Hideki’s daikon field and perform for millions of cheering fans. Unfortunately, reality sucks and money doesn’t grow on trees. So, to cut out the whole “working hard and being honest” part, the three decide to turn to a life of crime… or at least brutal vigilantism.
Through their adventures, the trio faces off against swindling Koreans, meddling policewomen, and even the King of Pop himself. Of course, they won’t be doing it alone. As they belt out catchy tunes and cause massive property damage, a mysterious afro-sporting chap looms in the shadows to deliver just what is needed to save the day. However, will even he be enough to save the day when things become most dire?
Why Was It Passed Up?
The first and biggest reason would have to be that this is a musical. That’s pretty much a kiss of death for any form of entertainment, due to the many stigmas attached to the genre.
Outside of the obvious genre choice, there’s a lot going against the show. The humor often goes well beyond good taste, and firmly into “offensive” territory. Phallus jokes (most involving daikon radishes), rape humor, and stereotyes run rampant, which can turn off a lot of the easily-bothered. Then there’s the banked animation.
Most of the major musical sequences, from the Rental, Please song, to Gadget’s numbers make heavy use of recycled animation sequences. It gets to the point that even the show’s writers begin to poke fun at the absurdity. On top of that, the show had a reputation for being weird from the get-to. I can recall Dave Williams stating that the show was “weird” at an Anime Boston panel.
Why This Show?
While it’s not for everybody, Nerima Daikon will provide the funny for those that enjoy musicals and Avenue Q-esque humor. The writing, when not focused on wanker jokes, is often clever and surprisingly funny. The writing is helped further by an excellent presentation that fills each frame with gaggles of visual jokes, and clever set pieces.
And, to say it bluntly, the songs are catchy. Pieces like Rental, Please! and Bad Money are fun to listen to, and have melodies that will have viewers humming along, or at least smiling in enjoyment
Nerima Daikon nabbed my attention as a very pleasant surprise last fall. While it’s definitely not for everybody, I quickly fell in love with the show’s outlandish take on everything and the charming melodies. It doesn’t do everything perfectly, and it does have it share of downsides, but the show still has that distinct Nabeshin charm that pushed Excel Saga to stratospheric heights. Also, the idea of a musical anime is a fairly unique concept that does deserve a look from enthusiasts who enjoy a good experiment. I’d absolutely recommend at least giving the show a glance, now that it’s in the sub-$20 range at most retailers.
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