ADV Films // 2003 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // April 21st, 2005
"You can't get famous if you're normal. I mean, who would pay attention
-- Michael Hanagata
Fuse Josie and the Pussycats with anime wackiness and you have Wandaba Style. It's an anime show that moves at eighty miles an hour, going straight towards the lunar lunacy of a girl group and their larger-than-life manager launched into space by a teenage billionaire. It's not for anime fans looking for action. It is an entertaining show about a girl group launching their careers -- a little too literally -- by becoming cosmonauts just to get a hit record. You get tons of humor (some a little too Japanese for Western viewers to completely understand), and quite a bit of Japanese pop music flung at you. ADV does a brilliant job with the American voice-over, and also offers a surprising amount of extras on this first volume of the show.
The show centers on four girls who find themselves washed-up singers at a young age. They are then combined into a girl group called Mix Juice, in hopes they will become big stars. Their manager hooks them up with a teenage billionaire obsessed with sending people to the moon, and volunteers them for a ride on one of his environmentally friendly rockets (this is anime -- gotta have that nature conservation theme!) to the lunar surface for their first concert. Unfortunately, the kid genius uses a slide rule and an ancient Japanese measuring system, so his plans always get mucked up ,and it looks like the girls are never going to make it anywhere close to actually achieving their goal. On this disc we get the first four episodes of the show (there are 12 total, so expect two more reviews from me on this one). There are two launch attempts highlighted in this run: one where the girls are using carbonation as fuel on a plastic bottle rocket, and another where they hit the stratosphere in a helium powered blimp that looks like a space shuttle.
Here's a breakdown of the cast to make things easier:
Sakura Haruno (could be translated as Cherry Spring) -- a former nursery-song-singer child star whose sole income seems to be from auctioning her underwear on the Internet (the mandatory "creepy pedophile" subplot).
Himawari Natsuwa (could be translated as Sunflower Summer) -- a traditional Enka balladeer; now a construction worker with a great rack (the mandatory big eyes/big boobs element).
Ayame Akimo (could be translated as Iris Autumn) -- a ditsy sidewalk folk singer, she has an entourage of green fairies who look like they are green men with gym memberships as well as wings only she can see (the mandatory fanciful element).
Yuri Fuyude (could be translated as Lilly Winter) -- a former rock star who seems to freeze up into a catatonic state when scared, but still a tough chick (the mandatory looks-100%-American element).
Michael Hanagata -- the girls' loudmouth manager, who surfs and sports one wicked blonde afro and vampire teeth (he looks like Hollywood slime, and is totally disrespectful of everyone -- another mandatory stock character in anime).
Dr. Susumo Tsukumo -- the billionaire boy genius, determined to win the space race on eco-friendly terms (the mandatory completely androgynous/has a Japanese heritage/smartest guy on the show element).
Kiku#8 -- a solar powered satellite who looks like a Harajuku little girl with pink hair, and always laughs in the face of danger (you know what I'm going to say here).
I've looked up a lot of reviews for Wandaba Style Volume One: Rocket Stardom, and most anime fanbois seem down on the show. They say it's trite, trivial, and hardly a benchmark for animation. In a way, they are right. It's a colorful show, but it often uses that old trick of eliminating motion in shots to save money on production. It's loud and fast, but hardly anything happens in any of the shows. You get the requisite visual jokes, and the girls end up naked (or at least in their panties) at several crucial moments (another mandatory element in anime). I think parody is a really hard genre to translate from Japanese to here, and that's ultimately what Wandaba Style is shooting for. There are tons of in-jokes for Japanese viewers, which probably will slip by the average US fan. If you like sunny, up-beat, goofy anime, Wandaba Style might be your cup of tea. I was giggling at all the Thunderbirds references ("Wandaba Style Go!") and the mocking of show biz publicity stunts. I also found the girls much less irritating than most anime heroines. In the end, I was won over by Wandaba Style Volume One: Rocket Stardom, and look forward to the next couple of discs. Wandaba Style is light frothy fun that went down easy.
ADV did a wonderful job here. The translation of the lines for their English dub are pretty true to the original Japanese, but it also punches up the jokes to make them more accessible. As much of a purist as I am, I actually preferred the English dub to the original language track, because they went to great pains to cast good comic voice actors on this one. Also, they deliver radical extras that make the set worth a look for their sake alone. An "ADR outtakes reel," which shows you a sequence with the voice actor saying something else besides the script, is funnier than almost anything I've seen in anime. You have to see it, because it's worth it. There is a factoid section, where you get text describing some arcane points of the show that are purely Japanese weirdness. They have vocalized these, too, so they can be read to you. That's a good thing, since the words are sometimes blurry and hard to read. There is a voice cast commentary over the first episode that is hilarious as well. They engage in some good-natured goofing on each other and the show. ADV is really upping their game with every release. Good for them!
The only downside with the super-clean transfer is how the colors pop a little too much in some cases, and even look a little too enhanced so they shake now and then. Anime on DVD suffers from this a lot, and Wandaba Style is so bright it really gives the transfer some fits. You get a clear soundtrack in either English or Japanese, but, true to form, the Western devils at ADV have punched up their English track more and given it the 5.1 treatment, while keeping the truly divine Japanese track down to a stereo mix. Also I noticed they provide English translations for every Kanji sign is the show, but there is no option to turn them off. Often these translations are rough, and I like to see the original Japanese writing so I can judge whether they got it right. That's impossible sometimes, because the English covers it up. No respect.
But all in all, I had a good time with Wandaba Style Volume One: Rocket Stardom. It's super cute, with touches of Austin Powers, surfer culture, and traditional cartoon traditions (apart from the purely anime flourishes). ADV provides some solid extras and their usually competent ADR work. It's definitely worth a look if you're a Josie and The Pussycats fan. It fulfilled a personal fantasy of mine to see a girl group singing naked in zero gravity. Not bad...not bad. Wandaba style go!
Review content copyright © 2005 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing Animation
* Production Sketches
* Wandaba Factoids
* ADR Outtakes
* Audio Commentary on Episode 1 by American ADR Cast
* Official Site
* Anime Network Information