What Is It?
Yes, that Wonder Farm. The same Wonder Farm that unleashed Angel Tales and Cosplay Complex upon the world. No, they haven’t somehow been completely broken my spirit to the point that anything that isn’t Angel Tales looks amazing.
Wandaba Style is a tale of a two most unlikely dreams crossing paths to create the event that would define a generation… or just give animators to draw cute girls in adorable costumes. Jury’s still out on that one.
Dr. Susumu Tsukumo is a young man with a plan. He’s a born skeptic, who has his doubts that mankind even landed on the moon! I mean, really, in the ’60s? Technology was so primitive then!1 Rather than stand idly by and watch humanity lay waste to the planet, Tsukumo would instead like to help humanity spread across the universe like the spores of civilization they are. To do so, he’s devised a number of ingenius plans to propel humanity to the cosmos without the aid of fossil fuels. All he needs at this point, is a group of test pilots…
Michael Hanagata is the greatest manager that’s ever lived. He’s a genius, baby! If there’s an act, he can book it. If there’s talent, he’s there with his magnificent afro to find it! His latest challenge is probably his greatest, though. He’s pulled together a quartet of singers from various backgrounds, form enka to punk rock, to form the idol group Mix Juice. The talent is certainly there, but the will to work together? Eh… not quite. The girls fight, bite, and rarely regard each other with a tone higher than “catty bitch.” They can get past that, though! They’re idols, baby! They’ll do anything for fame! Now, they just need a hook… and whaddya know? A boy scientist is looking for test pilots!
Each episode, as you can expect, revolves around the four girls’ being roped into a new life as test pilots for a quirky boy genius. As they relentlessly pursue their dreams of stardom, the girls are hurled blasted, and linear-launched to the depths of deep space by all manner of Rube Goldbergian contraptions. But, hey! Nobody said that the road to success was easy, right?
1: Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 21, 1969 at 2:56 UTC. This is a fact.
Why Was It Passed Up?
Wandaba Style was a bit of an odd duck, even when it released. The first volume hit stores on January 18, 2005. This was long before the moe boom would be a thing in the US, and fell smack dab into the middle of the inflating interest bubble.
While data on the show’s debut month is spotty at best, the following titles can be confirmed to have released in (or around) January 2005:
- Ah! My Goddess TV Vol. #3
- Saiyuki: Requiem
- Samurai X: Director’s Cut Collection
- Bubblegum Crisis OVA Vol. #1
- Burn Up!
- Chobits Box Set 1
- Chobits Box Set 2
Basically, the show was a small fish, flanked by giant competitors. Major titles like Ah! My Goddess and Chobits dotted the late December through early February period, and served to pull potential viewers from the property.
At the same time, reviews for the show were lukewarm at best. Critics treated the show with the same level of excitement as one would a ticket to the global macrame exhibition. Anime on DVD called the show ” trite and unfunny,” Anime News Network called the series “mindless entertainment,” and so on.
Why This Show?
Wandaba Style is a comedy that gleefully dares to be stupid when it needs to be. The show’s characters are charming caricatures that, while endearing on their own, really come to life in the context of the show. Everybody, from the flamboyant Michael Hanagata, to the hilariously unhinged Ayame Akimo, just seems to work int his pastel-colored take on the modern world. The chemistry between characters is wonderful, and the premise itself is delightfully absurd.
The show’s sense of humor is a delightful blend of well-timed sight gags and genuinely funny jokes, that are flavored by a number of delightfully meta situations. The characters will acknowledge (and fear) the booming “Wandabadaba” background music that signals the start of a mission. They’ll both regard and interrupt the “end of series” countdown that Kiku cheerfully recites at the end of each installment. At the same time, Michael Hanagata will often point out blatant sight gags, as he tries to toss his girls to the curb for the next big thing.
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that the show’s music is an addictive mix of everything, from poppy vocal tunes to melodies that feel like they’re ripped from a Zombies album.
Wandaba Style is a show that’s just a joy to watch. It’s not the deepest experience out there, but it doesn’t try to be, either. Instead, the show focuses on the sheer fun of the experience. The over-the-top gadgets, the goofy slapstick, the buff fairies… it all just seems to mesh together to form an experience that’s light-hearted and refreshing.