ADV Films // 2004 // 135 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // October 7th, 2004
Shut Up! Dumbass!
In the topsy-turvy world of "Our Country," Milk-Chan a feisty adolescent with a horrible prepubescent potty mouth, along with her faithful companions -- a housekeeping robot named Tetsuko and a pet slug named Hanage -- play superhero for the goofy government, led by a pinheaded President. The leader of the free world is a smelly, fly-infested blob with a penchant for bad fashion and an even bigger proclivity for causing international crises. Milk's bubble-headed automaton is a romantic fool bent on finding the perfect mate (and her father/creator). And while he doesn't say very much out loud, our slime-trail leaving invertebrate is a deep thinker, prone to long internal monologues about fate and philosophy. In between sipping cold moo juice, worrying about her financial situation, screaming obscenities, demanding rent from her resident lawn insects, baffling creditors, and dodging her lunatic landlord (the highly effete Lalo), Milk uses her questionable "special" abilities to save the day. Sometimes she must rely on Our Country's main scientific stronghold, King Idea Laboratories, to provide some insight. There, its enigmatic leader, Dr. Eye Patch, has an instructional video just ready to rationalize a response. With the occasional assistance of Robo-Dog, a miscreant mecha with a tendency toward unwanted urination, and Milk's own spoiled rotten brattish attitude, she hopes to protect her homeland while figuring ways out of avoiding her fiduciary responsibilities.
The Super Milk-Chan Show is the dictionary definition of psychotic (which, by the way, is "suffering from a mental illness in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted"). Like combining Ren and Stimpy with Hello Kitty and sprinkling the whole insanity with layers of crack cocaine, this addictive irreverence is classic cartoon chaos at its most sublime. Reminiscent of when Ralph Bakshi reprogrammed Mighty Mouse into a more surreal superhero sensation back in the mid-'80s, Super Milk-Chan began life as a rather straightforward segment on the Japanese show Flyer TV. Running only a few episodes and focusing mostly on Milk, Tetsuko, and Hanage, the character had enough of a following that a subsequent series was envisioned. But instead of sticking to simple lessons and oddball humor, chief director/designer Hideyuki Tanaka (along with ancillary director Kiyohiro Ohmori and scripter Motoki Shiina) imagined a brand new world for the maniacal Milk, an outrageous domain of catchphrases, cutesy kid hijinks, and crude, crass humor. Toss in the occasional profanity and more transvestite gags and inside jokes than prevalent in most kid vid, and Oh! Super Milk-Chan was born. Sensing a potential cult classic, ADV bought the rights to the show soon after it aired overseas...and then proceeded to sit on it for three years, trying to figure out how to bring it to Western audiences. Their answer is as controversial as Super Milk-Chan is herself greedy.
Indeed, fans of the original Japanese series (who have shelled out the bucks for boots and fansubs of the show) may wince at what ADV has chosen to do in order to present this insane series to Americanized anime aficionados. Instead of providing a strict or exact translation of the show, they've Anglicized the jokes, played with some of the plot parameters, and added live action wrap-around and insert segments that supposedly provide a "behind the scenes" look at life at ADV. This comical soap opera, filled with tongue in cheek/wink at the world of anime satire may not sit right with some completists. While it may "capture" some of the churlish cheek offered in the Japanese version of Milk, the sudden shift from a spoiled brat superhero and her world of wackiness to the everyday personality clashes of egotistical actors could confuse, or even anger, two-dimensional purists. You can sense a desire on the part of ADV producer Steven Foster to re-imagine Super Milk-Chan as a hyperactive child with no social graces and very little emotional development, hoping her ADD dynamics click with an equally Ritalin-raised demographic.
But just like the boorish English vocal work of Gamera and Godzilla movies, loud and fast does not always equal funny. Fortunately, Super Milk-Chan has revamped scripts that manage to hang onto the basics of the Japanese storylines, but amp up the anarchy by incorporating hundreds of more "universal" pop culture references. Certainly unsophisticated sexual jokes about Condoleezza Rice are always welcome, and it is rare when the USA counterpart changes the context of the joke. Dick jokes remain dick jokes. Dirty words are repeated or made even more risqué. And some of the interpersonal pratfalls between the real life actors are indeed funny. Besides, if the live action elements and rewriting really bothers you, you can always wander over to Disc Two, where the original Japanese shows are offered with nice, simple translations.
ADV's antics should not dissuade you from partaking in this show's miscreant charms. One of the most phenomenal elements of Super Milk-Chan is the outrageous and outstanding character design. Reconfiguring the original look of Milk and her minions into a far more outlandish pop art poem, simultaneously simplifying and specializing the lines and look, each individual player here is a work of pen and ink genius. The most compelling entity, from both a graphics and personality perspective, is Dr. Eye Patch, a seemingly sinister answer man who broadcasts his iconographic image over a wavering TV signal that never allows us a truly detailed look at his persona. Part skeleton, part fascist dictator, he is primed for a position as A-#1 villain in the world of Milk. But just like all the other jerry rigging of the show, Dr. Eye Patch is a passive helper, not a mean mad scientist -- at least, not yet. The President is also a strange, suggestive being, a combination of monkey, man, and mollusk who appears malodorous and sweaty (a persistent fog of flies seems to circumvent his stench at all times) even when immobile. From the demonic Robo-dog who looks like he's part serial killer, to the goofy gay clown conceit of landlord Lalo, Super Milk-Chan gives us individual icons of amazing complexity and carnival kookiness that really leave a lasting impression in your brainpan.
The DVD presentation of this title is titanic in its undertaking. ADV has gone all out to provide a detailed overview of Milk-Chan, her initial incarnation, and her Western revamp. The two-disc set is filled with bonuses and necessary novelties. There is an entire second DVD filled with the original Milk-Chan episodes used here (including installments from the first Flyer TV series, referred to as "Vintage Milk") and you can enjoy them in either subtitled form, or with the English dub draped over the top. Close scrutiny will indicate just how little ADV swerved from the imaginative intent of these installments. One of the elements not present in the Americanized Milk-Chan are the "Video Haiku" breaks, tiny timeouts for bad poetry that are inserted into all these shows. We also get a chance to see the "Disco Milk" animation and the original opening and closing of the show (sadly, without any sound for some odd reason). Disc One presents the new Milk in a 90-minute movie format (complete with a "to be continued" tag over the end) with the narrative combining three episodes of the new series with four sequences from the first. There is also a cast commentary that comprises almost everyone associated with the show coming in and giving their twisted two cents. Some defend the decision to "reconfigure" the series, while others use the opportunity to work on their stand up comedy routines. The overall narrative has very little to do with the series itself, once the initial 15 minutes fly by, but it is still a nice bit of clarification on the reasons behind Milk's many pre-production problems.
As for the more technical qualities of the DVD, the audio and video are terrific. Presented in a 1.33:1 transfer that captures all the primary color cacophony of Super Milk-Chan, the image offered by ADV is amazing. There is no bleeding, flaring, or enjoyment hampering halos, and the contrasts are crisp and detailed. Sonically, the Dolby Digital Stereo does a wonderful job of keeping the video game like music in perfect sync with the surroundings and all the voices are pristine and understandable. Even the Japanese soundtrack is stellar as one of the aural attributes of this disc.
Perhaps the best way to gauge the success of ADV's version of The Super Milk-Chan Show is to realize how instantaneously this DVD wets your appetite for more faux-freaked out superhero mayhem. From the persistently perspiring President to the hot to trot Tetsuko, this series creates classic characters that you want to revisit again and again. While it may have messed with some of the original Japanese jests and added a little kitchen sink comedy to the mix, this is still an amazing show, in any formulation. Fans of anime, and animation in general, will get a kick out of this filthy-mouthed five year old. Got Milk? You better have!
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Commentary
* Character Q&A
* Original Japanese Super Milk Shows
* Original Video Haiku Breaks
* New Opening "Disco Milk" Animation
* Original Opening and Closing Animation
* ADV Previews