A Review of “Nerima Daikon Brothers” – An Unforgettable Vegetable Melody

“I’m Hideaki, I farm a sweet little farm…”
“I’m Mako. I’m nineteen. I’ve moddled…”
“My name’s Ichiro. Be gentle…”
– The Nerima Daikon Brothers

Stevie Wonder once said “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.” With regards to “Nerima Daikon Brothers“, that language is what I like to call “Nabe-nease”. It only comes from the creation of one of the first anime musicals by one of the outlandish anime directors of all time and can only be understood on some freakish mental level…or after watching it once or twice. What makes this show so addictive? Is it the story line which borrows certain aspects from an American phenomena? Or could it be the unique characters, which features parodies of popular and not-so-popular famous people? Maybe it’s the strange animation styling? Could it be the toe-taping music that is both unique yet repetitive? Or could it be the acting/singing on the part of the voice actors in both English and Japanese? Let’s dig into it and see.

Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content – This is another “oh boy…” moment. “Nerima Daikon Brothers” is a show for mature audiences, without a doubt. ESPECIALLY with regards to the American version, which ups the crudeness factor by roughly 50%. There are plenty of sexual jokes, gags and innuendo to go around. The language hits PG-13 level several times, even an “F” bomb being dropped twice in the entire series. There’s not much violence in this one, aside from your typical slap-stick fare. It should also be noted for those who have some sensitivity with regards to religion that the show sometimes uses the phrase “Christ on/in a _______”, for example, in one episode, Hideaki, one of our lead characters says about Mako, our female lead, “Christ in a racecar, look at her hop!”  While it’s ment to be a funny line, it could be offensive to some viewers. Your mileage may vary.

Series Availability – “Nerima Daikon Brothers” was initially released by then-ADV Films as a three-volume set. However, due to the issues mentioned earlier this year with licenses, Funimation Entertainment now has the franchise and has re-released it as a two-volume S.A.V.E Complete Collection. It’s availability in physical brick and mortar stores is hit-or-miss, while it’s availability for online purchase is quite healthy and inexpensive. One thing that should be noted is while the S.A.V.E collection is an inexpensive way to get the entire series on DVD, as with all S.A.V.E complete collection sets, there are NONE of the extras that came with the original ADV DVD release. I will touch on this later in “Lagniappe”, but for all intents and purposes, just know that “NDB”, in either the ADV or Funimation releases is plentiful and affordable.

Story Premise – “Nerima Daikon Brothers” is a twelve episode series based off a manga by Takamitsu Kondō and follows the misadventures of an aspiring singing group known as the Nerima Daikon Brothers. The trio, quite literally, lives on a stage that looks out on a large daikon field owned by group leader Hideaki. Their dream is to get enough money to build their own concert dome on the daikon field to both get them popular and provide a sense of joy and pride to the citizens of their hometown of Nerima. Because Nerima is such a small town, often seen as being out in the “sticks”, lots of money-hungry bad guys come in trying to swindle money from the townsfolk. Hideaki, Mako, Ichiro and team mascot Pandaikon take it upon themselves to defend the city and use the money from the evil folk for their own means. Naturally, of course, their plans fail spectacularly yet in some strange way, they wind up saving the day from the evil doers and all is content in Nerima…at least until the next episode. “Nerima Daikon Brothers” is a show that, while it may look episodic and repetitive in nature, it actually tells a connected story. Each character, each moment, each person encountered actually plays a part in the series, which culminates in the last few episodes. This is a trademark of the director; he throws a lot of crazy, crazy stuff at you, for countless episodes, but by the end of the whole thing, it all makes some sort of weird sense. The ending for “Nerima Daikon Brothers” proves no different. The ending, while good and satisfying on one level, leaves one a little confused about what just happened on another level. Overall, it’s a good story for twelve episodes, yet may take one or two watches to get the gist of it…also a passing knowledge of Japan’s political system. [24/25]

Characters – In my view, all of the characters in “Nerima Daikon Brothers” follow one simple philosophy; “Harmony in Discourse”. Let’s start at the top with Hideaki; the lead singer and owner of the daikon field. Hideaki has a personality that is larger than life and he wants a dome to fit it all in. He’s a brash guy who is quick to action and stays true to his emotions, especially when it comes to love. Enter his cousin [yes, cousin…Hideaki has a thing for “cousin love” and in Japan it is technically legal to marry your cousin…] Mako, a “southern belle” [I’ll explain in “Lagniappe”…] with literal Champagne Wishes, though she’s only nineteen. Finally, we have the straight man Ichiro, a pretty boy with a quiet disposition but a great singing voice, who woos ladies at Ouran High School a Host club. Together, this trio form Voltron the Nerima Daikon Brothers, a group who will go to any and all lengths to protect their town from the forces of “evil” [which takes many forms including but not limited to: a gay talent scout, a sketchy pachinko parlor owner, and a money-grubbing director of a hospital] and steal their illegally gotten monetary gains for their own means. Long story short, this cast of nuts is what makes the story worth watching. Because of all the over the top music and situations, you HAVE to have characters to match. fortunately, with this particular director at the helm, it’s almost guaranteed that you will get a group of characters that you can’t help but root for; even with the addition of Yukika [Detective Widget], who’s late addition to the series and her determination to arrest the Daikon Brothers for their brand of vigilante justice might make her an enemy in viewers eyes, in the end turns into someone you root for. [25/25]

Animation – The animation style used in “Nerima Daikon Brothers” is pretty typical of what you would expect from this particular director. The character designs are unique and in-your-face, especially with regards to front-man Hideaki. With that bright red shirt, puffy afro, and green scarf, he is the epitome of what a leading man. All the coordinated dance moves are fluid and nice to watch. At times the animation can look a little static and one-dimensional, with no real depth to the scenery or characters, but as a whole, it doesn’t get tiring to watch. [11/12.5]

Music – Much like with “Beck”, “K-On!” and other shows of this nature, “Nerima Daikon Brothers” relies heavily on its soundtrack beyond opening, closing and incidental songs. The songs in “NDB” are all very catchy and witty. Many of the songs, such as the “Money” song and “Hey There, Pops!” can get repetitive [on the slight cusp of being annoyingly so…], but because the lyrics are changed up each time it’s performed, and because they’re done with such energy and pride, it stays fresh and amusing. The opening theme, “Ma·Ji·Ya·Ba” is upbeat, fun and gets you psyched up for what’s to come. The ending song, “Very Ma..” leaves the viewer smiling and content for the next episode. It should be noted that both the opening and closing songs, and all other songs featured were done by the voice actors for the Nerima Daikon Brothers in both the US and in Japan, with alternate lyrics written in English [Something we will touch on…well…now actually.] [11/12.5]

Performances and Production – “Nerima Daikon Brothers” was directed in Japan by Shinichi Watanabe, AKA “Nabeshin”. Nabeshin has been known for creating some of the most in-your-face, off-the-wall series the anime community has ever seen. From “Excel Saga” to “Puni Puni Poemi”, Nabeshin has always given the viewer something to cock their heads to one side and ask themselves “What the hell am I watching and why the hell can’t I stop?” for better or worse. [We’ll cover the “Or Worse” portion when we cover the “Tenchi Muyo” Series…] This show is no different. His US counterpart, ADR director Chris Ayres, while not quite as elaborate or excentric as Nabeshin [And, let’s be honest, NOBODY can wear an afro and jacket quite like he can…], still manages to do great justice to the original while making it relatable and rolling on the ground funny to American audiences. Once again, as I did in my “Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad” review, I have to show mad props to Greg Ayres for his role as the main lead Hideaki. I honestly did NOT know it was him until I looked at the ending credits. It’s amazing how versatile his voice is both speaking and singing; I didn’t hear the familiar “squeaky raspy” sounds that I normally associate with his voice at all! He sounds NOTHING like the teenage Koyuki in “Beck”, and more like the original actor, Shigeru Matsuzaki in both a singing and speaking capacity. The same can be said regarding Luci Christian as Mako. She holds the southern accent perfectly, and she balances it well when singing. I know that many people don’t like it when Southern accents are used in anime, but personally, I like it, and I think it’s a unique way of showing someone who is an out of towner, and Luci does this voice justice. Chris Patton as straight-man boy-toy Ichiro [Art imitating life? Seriously, dude is popular among fangirls…] is amazing to listen to. He has a very strong yet gentle voice which stands out even against Greg and Luci. As a trio, the three harmonize FLAWLESSLY. The final episode confirms this as the trio sings the opening song A-Capella nearly bringing me to tears. Other actors, such as Brett Weaver as the Rental Shop Owner, Kira-Vincent Davis as Pandaikon, Monica Rial as Madame Gokutsobushi, Vic Mignogna as Katuhama the Lawyer, and Mike McFarland as Yukel Hakushon [And yes, it is who you think it is…and Mike plays this role to a “T”] are all as funny as their Japanese counterparts if not more so thanks to the excellent script writing and adaptation done by Philip Lehl. Long story short, “Nerima Daikon Brothers” is a winner no matter what language you listen to it in. [25/25]

Scoring Summary:

Story Breakdown – 24/25
Characters – 25/25
Animation – 11/12.5
Music – 11/12.5
Performance and Production – 25/25

Final Score – 96/100 – A

Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)

  • Obviously, the Nerima Daikon Brothers are a spoof of the American group and subsequent movie heros the Blues Brothers, as they share similar cues like clothing and some story elements.
  • Also, if you haven’t already noticed, real life brothers Chris and Greg Ayres were involved with this particular project, with Chris directing and younger brother Greg acting and singing. No word on whether or not the two cosplayed as Nerima Daikon Brothers…
  • The Rental Shop Owner is actually the animated version of the series director, Shinichi Watanabe [Nabeshin] in silhouette. This is one of many shows he has directed where the character is used. He also provides the voice for the character in the different shows he is featured in. In the English dub, the character has been consistently voiced by Brett Weaver, save for the rare occasions when a Nabeshin-directed series was not picked up by ADV. [Such as the anime “Tokyo Pig” when a chibi-sized Nabeshin was voiced in English by Jason Spisak.]
  • In the original Japanese version, Mako hails from a part of Japan where the natives have a distinct speaking pattern and accent [like Osaka in “Azumanga Daioh”]. For the English dub, this was translated into a southern accent.
  • Many of the enemies in “Nerima Daikon Brothers” are parodied off real-life infamous people such as the fortune-teller Madame Gokutsobushi, who is based on fortune-teller and frequent “Iron Chef” judge Kazuko Hosoki. [Yeah, I don’t know either what a FORTUNE TELLER has to do with a COOKING COMPETITION…and there’s one more MAJOR infamous person in the series that is given the parody treatment, but I’m not spoiling it for you!]
  • In the English dub for “Nerima Daikon Brothers”, Hideaki often refers to Officer Yukika Karakuri as “Inspector Widget”. This could be a nod to another famous animated detective with multiple gadgets at his disposal, Inspector Gadget. Also, the term “widget” is used in computing parlance for small tools or applications, which Yukika seems to have no shortage of.
  • According to the commentary track, Shigeru Matsuzaki, the voice of Hideaki in the Japanese, has been divorced three times, and each time has had a “divorce party” where he and his ex-wife got their friends together and wished each other well in their separate lives. [It’s not 100% related to the show, I know, but I found that to be a very cool bit of trivia…] In addition, at the time of recording, this was his first animated voice over role in 24 years.
  • As originally written, Ichiro was supposed to work in a convince store instead of a host club, but this was changed as to increase the “moe factor” of the series.
  • Speaking of the Ouran High School Host Club where Ichiro works, the painting in the club [behind the couch where Ichiro and other hosts entertain guests] changes each time we see it. In addition, the paintings show different sexual positions. This was edited when the show aired on TV in Japan.
  • Contrary to Mako’s exclamations, cousins can actually get married in Japan. Ichiro says this several times in the series in sotto voice and once, point-blank in a microphone, before singing “Hey There Pops!” song in episode seven.
  • Speaking of the “Pops” song, Whenever one of the Nerima Daikon Brothers was missing and/or unavailable, puppets with hand-drawn faces would stand in their place. On some rare occasions, Inspector Widget even had the opportunity to stand in.
  • In episode seven, after the Rental Shop Owner asks the group to sing again, Mako goes on a rampage and breaks the fourth wall when she complains about one of the lyrics stating “If you want my advice, follow the gull dang English dub writers!” The fourth wall also falls when Hideaki questions who wrote the lyrics during a chase sequence.
  • Once again, “Obi Frostips” makes an appearance in the end credits. This is, once again, Vic Mignogna working under a pseudonym. As near as I can gather, Obi is either a reference to Obe-Wan Kenobi from “Star Wars” [Ugh…] or the sash worn around the waist with a kimono. As for “Frostips”…well…I guess because he’s blonde? [Take it how you want to, fans! I only speak truth!]
  • Series “Technician” Haruka, at Nabeshin’s request, choreographed ALL of the dances in the series, so as to get the appropriate movements down for animation.
  • In episode seven, during Hideaki’s song, he sings a lyric that goes “Love me, Kiss me, This is a pen!” The sentence, “This is a Pen” is often said to be the first sentence in English a Japanese person learns. [The second and third being “Spare me my life!” and “I was robbed by two men.”]
  • One of the extras on the ADV-Released DVD’s was a live action performance of the opening song, “Ma·Ji·Ya·Ba”, as performed by Shigeru Matsuzaki, Shotaro Morikubo and Ayano Matsumoto [AKA, the Nerima Daikon Brothers] on a replica of the infamous stage come daikon field.
  • In the English version of the end theme, the Nerima Daikon Brothers sing their thanks for purchasing the DVD as they now have jobs and thus can buy beer. [So congrats to those who buy the official DVD release; you’ve just contributed to alcoholism among American voice actors!]
  • Speaking of DVD’s, when ADV Films initially released the series, each volume was jammed with extras including commentary tracks for all twelve episodes with Nabeshin and other cast members, ADV-notes which gave the viewer pop-up style cultural notes during the show, and karaoke lyrics in both English and Japanese during songs. When the series was re-released by Funimation as part of its S.A.V.E complete collection, all of these extras went bye-bye. [Crying shame, really…]

So where does that leave us? Well, that’s simple: “Nerima Daikon Brothers” is a show unlike any other; a TRUE anime musical. With a fun and interesting story line, funny and inspiring characters, good animation styling, and awesome acting and singing in both languages thanks to the respective directors in charge, “Nerima Daikon Brothers” has gone where no anime has gone before…and kept us singing along the whole trip.

Well, that’s it for the “NDB” and that’s one more review down for Music March! To wrap things up, myself and OtakuAndrain will have a discussion on our favorite anime openings/endings, I’ll award a new “Drew Threw it to You” Award, and to wrap things up, the Otaku will be reviewing a newcomer to the world of musical anime…

Senki Zesshō Symphogear [Swansong of the Valkyries: Symphogear]

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