Nerima Daikon Brothers presents itself as a rare beast indeed; a postmodern, political, sexually progressive musical comedy anime. The unassuming characters tasked with upholding those ambitions are brash ‘n’ basic daikon farm boy Hideki, his charming but reserved brother Ichiro, and their cousin Mako, a self-styled “former idol” who left her country home to find her fantasy life of luxury. Together they are the Nerima Daikon Brothers, who dream of scraping together the cash for their own concert dome, and staking their claim as the Japanese Blues Brothers. They’ve got the soul, they’ve got the fire, so what have they got to lose?
Well, with so much potential in the premise, this show seems to set itself up for a fall before it starts. Our heroes find themselves dishing out vigilante justice to grab back the money they lost on the entry fee for a scam audition, yet in scrambling to stay out of the red, their story and its noble intentions get sluggish. It tries hard for a time, the first show-stopper about a rogue panda in the daikon patch making you take notice. But pretty soon, it gives a shrug and starts a relentless cycle of repeated tunes and animation that radiates vibes of losing the will.
Given that, there are a few tracks that manage to keep their comic timing and lustre through to the end. A dodgy personal loan company with an unnerving troupe of identical dancers bursts in with coaxing disco ditty ‘Money’, living easy on the assurance that at least one protagonist will need some extra cash every episode. Even director Shinichi Watanabe of Lupin III fame has his personal number, vending our heroes the McGuffins they need to defeat each money-grubbing villain. ‘Rental Please’ becomes the show’s runaway hit, its R&B jive blithely switching up lyrics and performers for the situation at hand.
It’s through the music that a direct line is formed between audience, characters and staff, a knowing touch that tempts you into sticking around for a closer look at the players. At first, musical monologues provide us with this insight. Mako is caught between homesickness and hunger for fame as Hideki plies her with his ‘forbidden’ longing (even though cousins can legally marry in Japan), and Ichiro hides his emergent panda fetish. But from then on, these initial set-ups are thrown out again and again, rather than taking their conflicts any deeper. Instead, new and increasingly ineffectual characters are lobbed into the story to try and shake things up. The most that glamorous and ditzy police officer Yukika Karakuri contributes is a redundant rivalry between Mako and the more ‘womanly’ newcomer. The dub is even worse for the flagrant “dumb slut bitch” talk, and even when the actors take a break to sing, the performances range from fair to irritating.
The niggly strains of sexism are a particular shame because of the moments that run decisively against this grain. Mako enjoys a slap from Ichiro, but this realisation doesn’t weaken or undermine her hot-headed determination. When Hideki pronounces his aversion to hitting women, he’s first in line for a smack himself. While the humour strikes in irresistibly filthy, however, it can only loop for a while before it gets tedious.
This show could have played with theatrical convention much more than it did, especially where the drama’s concerned, but sadly it just seems to run out of ideas. It had such a strong motif to run with too, in the evils of wealth and the futile chase for more. In the end the Brothers wind up with even less than they started with, but only through slapdash plotting rather than any intention of a logical denouement. It lacks the conviction to run with this moral in humour or character, and finally suffers from its laziness concealed as an aesthetic. As we all know, in the biz, that won’t get you anywhere.
English dub; clean opening/closing animation; promos/also available