By Andy Hanley
Given how much anime loves to jam music into its plots and story-telling, whether its playing a part in saving humanity in Macross or idols working hard to achieve their dreams in the likes of Love Live, it’s perhaps surprising that there aren’t more musicals. Sure, a show might occasionally break into song for a single episode to offer a change of pace (a great recent example being “The Transfer Student is Dandy, Baby” within the second series of Space Dandy) but to see an entire series play out in musical form? That’s not something you see every day.
There is one notable exception to this rule however, and that exception is Nerima Daikon Brothers, which is winging its way to the UK courtesy of Anime Limited. Directed by Shinichi Watanabe (aka “Nabeshin”), who may be familiar to some of you as the director of other madcap adaptations such as Excel Saga, this Blues Brothers influenced series tells the tale of its titular trio of super-successful musicians – at least, successful in the imagination of the group’s leader Hideki.
In truth, Hideki is merely the owner of a daikon radish patch in Tokyo’s Nerima ward (a district famous for hosting many of the industry’s anime studios), and although he dreams of turning his land into a stadium to exhibit his musical talents, there seems to be no chance of that happening any time soon. Between his musical ambitions, his love for his cousin and fellow band member Mako, and the travails of third member and part-time host club worker Ichiro, Hideki and company find themselves embroiled in an ever-growing series of unusual adventures, from some increasingly complicating relationships amongst which a panda eventually takes centre stage to a battle for the future of the daikon field against the Japanese Prime Minister and Michael Jackson. Yes, the Michael Jackson. Beat that.
If all of this isn’t unusual enough, the real hook of Nerima Daikon Brothers is that huge swathes of each episode are presented in song. When the group runs out of money, they’re offered a loan by a group of dancers with a cash machine; when they need a gizmo to save the day (and rob the object of their ire into the bargain), the trio have to sing for their proverbial supper to persuade a shady character to provide it to them; and of course when the day is saved the group will accompany their victorious actions with a little ditty.
All of this isn’t simply a song and dance over nothing however – dig a little deeper and you’ll find a sharp satirical take on pop culture and politics. Admittedly some of these references feel a little dated now (rest in peace, Prince of Pop), but the targets of the show’s humour are usually pretty overt even without a deep knowledge of mid-2000s Japan.
The series also isn’t afraid of going the below the belt with its humour, so there’s plenty of (often thinly-veiled) sexual innuendo on offer throughout the series – never before will you have heard so many references to “rock-hard daikon”, guaranteed! The English dub for the series, created by ADV Films prior to their demise, actually ramps this up a notch and switches much of this innuendo for more swearing and outright sexual references, while also clearly having a lot of fun localising the dialogue of the constantly emerging songs throughout the show. Sometimes their imagination runs dry – witness a Korean singing with a piece of meat in his mouth, to the accompanying line “I like to sing with meat in my piehole” – but that often only serves to add to its charm.
If you’re a fan of zany comedy with a side of innuendo, then Nerima Daikon Brothers certainly has you covered, and even beyond that its presentation is such that it simply can’t be ignored as something unique and decidedly out of the ordinary – not something that you can say about an anime comedy series very often.