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Case Number 10615: Small Claims Court

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Nerima Daikon Brothers: Speak Softly But Carry A Big Daikon (Volume 1)

ADV Films // 2006 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Geoffrey Miller (Retired) // January 12th, 2007

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All Rise...

Super Mario Bros.? Yeah, Judge Geoffrey Miller can get with that. The Brothers Karamazov? Sure, but pick up the Cliff Notes first. Nerima Daikon Brothers? No thanks.

The Charge

Something was lost in translation here…

The Case

It's easy to figure out that the "Brothers" in Nerima Daikon Brothers represents the two main characters, a pair that is the spiting image of the Blues Brothers. Exactly what "Nerima" and "Daikon" mean requires a slightly more complex explanation. Nerima is a district in Tokyo, famous for its daikons. Which begs the question, "What the hell's a daikon?" Well, it's a giant phallus-shaped radish, usually white. Hideki and Ichiro (not actual brothers) live (and occasionally even work) on a daikon field in Nerima, along with Mako, Hideki's greedy cousin, and a baby panda named Pandaikon. In the middle of the field is a stage with musical instruments; they're a band, trying to make it big. The band's name is, of course, Nerima Daikon Brothers (despite being neither brothers nor all male), lending the show its name as well.

Nerima Daikon Brothers is something that hasn't been attempted in anime before: a musical comedy. Even though the band rarely ever actually performs, they (and most other characters) are constantly breaking into song. The humor is highly parodic in nature, in the vein of Project A-Ko and Excel Saga (which has a director, Shinichi "Nabeshin" Watanabe, in common with Nerima Daikon Brothers). It's also full of dirty jokes, with a never-ending barrage of sexual and scatological imagery.

Nerima Daikon Brothers, Vol. 1: Speak Softly But Carry a Big Daikon contains the first four episodes (out of a total of twelve):

1. "Please Touch My Nerima Daikon"
2. "Sa Rang Hey Yo With My Balls"
3. "My Shot Will Crash Into Your Backside"
4. "My Gadget (Detective) Is Huge, Huh?"

Here's the problem with Nerima Daikon Brothers (and it's a doozy): It's way too steeped in Japanese culture to be comprehensible to even the most hardcore Nipponophile. We aren't talking the typical references to salarymen, public baths, or tea ceremonies here; this is the sort of minutiae that only an actual resident of Japan would be familiar with.

Don't believe me? See if you can follow this: In the second episode, middle-aged housewives are inexplicably rushing to dump all their money at a pachinko parlor. It turns out it's because the parlors are run by a bunch of guys who look like famous Korean actors (who have recently experienced a surge of popularity in Japan in what's been dubbed the "Korean Wave"), led by a look-a-like of Korean heartthrob Bae Yong Joon. Since many pachinko parlors in Japan are run by Koreans (specifically North Koreans who are funneling money back to the Kim Jong-il government), it's also a commentary on the Korean-Japanese relations (which continue to be strained) and the shady, grey market nature of pachinko. It took the supplied liner notes and some additional research to find this all out, and even after that, it's really not that funny. If I have to consult Wikipedia to understand a joke, it kind of ruins the point.

Each episode is little more than a string of gags, broken up by the occasional song, and held together with the loosest of plots. The songs, which are very much the defining aspect of the show, are repeated and recycled ad nauseam. The first time a troupe of singing bunny girls dances with an ATM offering money it's worth a chuckle; when it starts showing up in every episode, it's worth hurling your remote at the TV. It's not the only joke that wears thin: Once you strip out the Japanese cultural commentary, Nerima Daikon Brothers has a very small bag of tricks.

I imagine this must be what it's like for someone outside of America to watch a show laden with references to American pop culture and current events, like The Simpsons or South Park. Except it's clear even to an outsider that Nerima Daikon Brothers isn't nearly as witty and clever as those shows. So maybe it could be more accurately described as a Japanese Drawn Together.

The best way to enjoy Nekima Daikon Brothers is to simply ignore the dialogue completely—watch it in Japanese and turn off the subtitles. The surreal and chaotic visual gags are pretty funny, especially if you make up your own reasons for them instead of trying to follow some esoteric reference to Japanese pop culture. The language barrier, combined with all the risqué references, gives it an appeal akin to watching the bumblebee man on Telemundo.

One thing you definitely won't want to do is listen to the English dub, which fails in the face of the unenviable challenge of localizing a very Japanese show. Decisions such as giving a Southern/Cajun accent to Mako, a character who speaks in an unusual Japanese dialect in the original language track, are awkward and annoying. The disc is well done besides that, with commentary tracks, a music video, and clean opening and ending animations. There are also "ADVidnotes," which explain some of the cultural references in the form of Pop-up Video-style thought balloons. They're fairly useless in practice, however, since they often come in overwhelming speed and number, and block out too much of the screen.

What you take out of Nerima Daikon Brothers depends greatly on the size of your anime fandom. There's sure to be some otaku contingent out there that embraces it. (Maybe the scant few who actually follow through on getting their B.A. in Japanese?) For anyone else, anime fan or not, it's at best a curiosity and at worst a waste of money.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Anime
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals

Distinguishing Marks

• Clean Opening and Closing Animation
• Music Video
• Sing-Along With the Daikon Brothers
• ADVidnotes
• Commentaries with Nabeshin and Guests

Accomplices

• Official Site








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