Nerima Daikon Brothers Vol. 1

Have you worn out your soundtrack from Avenue Q? Know every word to the tunes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Think that Wicked is too tame and Spamalot less crass than it ought to be? You want an anime musical with singing pandas, kissing cousins, the Stepford nurses, a pervert record producer, and refugees from a Korean pachinko parlor? Then Nerima Daikon Brothers should be right up your alley. Shinichi Watanabe, the director of Excel Saga and Puni Puni Poemy who's affectionately known as "Nabeshin" to his loyal fans, has crammed together a wild assortment of music, humor, and rampant sexual innuendo into this 12-episode series. Gleeful in its obscenity, much like a John Waters film, Nerima Daikon Brothers Vol. 1 attempts to put a smile on your face with cheerful filthiness. While I enjoyed a bit of the music and appreciated the clear talent that went into the show, it wasn't that funny...probably because Nabeshin and scriptwriter Yoshio Urasawa confused perversity with cleverness along the way.

Hideki is an ordinary radish farmer with a big dream.  He'd love to build a dome on his property and stage concerts for his band, Nerima Daikon Brothers - and yes, they look pretty much just like another set of Brothers from Chicago. The music group includes his friend Ichiro (who works at a comfort bar as a male companion) and his cousin Mako (on whom he has a huge crush). Of course, being a radish farmer doesn't bring in a ton of cash, and so he has to be content with a makeshift stage that's half made out of cardboard. But he and his friends aren't going to let the lack of available dough stop their plans, and in their uphill battle to make the big time, they run into all sorts of crazy scam artists, perverts, and general ne'er-do-wells that get in the way of stardom. Each time they play Robin Hood and steal from the rich, though, they wind up giving the money to the poor slobs who got scammed in the first place. But never doubt the power of a trio of starving musicians!

Nerima Daikon Brothers is a bright and shiny confection that a viewer passing by the screen without listening to the lyrics closely might think was a particularly well-made kids show. Far from it! The program has an obsession with sex that mimics the antics of a typical 13-year-old boy. Whether it's jokes about hot dogs and big radishes ('cause, you know, they look like, you know...) or Ichiro's ability to get turned on by the softness of a panda bear, the humor plays at the lowest possible level and sometimes sinks even under that. And when sex isn't enough to get a laugh, there's scatalogical gags too. But perhaps as expected from the maturity level of the show, there's no nudity and just a few peek-a-boo shots. It's got the horizontal mambo on the brain, but it's all a tease.

The first four episodes tend to repeat the same thematic structure each time, with the Brothers getting into a fix, borrowing a gadget from a seedy rental shop, and getting out of their scenario. It gets old pretty quick in and of itself, and there's nothing resembling character development (though I admit that the lead characters are all sweet and compelling in their own ways). What keeps the show lively is the music, which is catchy if repetitive. It's nowhere near the quality of what you'd hear even off-Broadway, but it's not a bad first attempt at something that's never been done before. The lyrics aren't very memorable, but the energy behind the performances makes them fun. I watched the show mostly in English, and though the dub is a little ruder than the Japanese, it's no more particularly shocking than the original version (which is really strong in terms of Japanese culture). The dub cast isn't made up of great singers, but they are excellent performers, and you can hear that they put in a huge effort. Even though it was ruder than my taste, props to the team ADV assembled.

Is it funny? This is where opinions get in the way. I didn't really think so. I was often amused and occasionally offended, but I didn't laugh a lot. Smile?  Yeah, sometimes. The goodnaturedness of the whole made it likable in general, but the crudeness got in the way of my enjoying it. My opinion of it is that it suffered from the same problems as Nabeshin's Puni Puni's just too obsessed with bodily humor and crude sexuality. The reason I can give Nerima Daikon Brothers a bit of a better grade is because it's mostly all talk. Nevertheless, I was uncomfortable with several bits, particularly in the first episode. There are big contrasts here; I liked the characters on the whole, but they would go from sweet and innocent to sex fiends and back in a matter of minutes. That didn't work for me.

While Nerima Daikon Brothers is a quality production, I find myself thinking about it in the same way as I do South Park. Both are rude and crude, and both are good for a few laughs. South Park, when it's on a strong episode, can have me howling. And yet I rarely watch the show because I find it crosses too many boundaries of good taste. I'm sure you know your own tolerance for this sort of thing. If you love the antics of Johnny Knoxville and Borat, this is probably the first anime musical you'll absolutely love. There's loads of talent on display, which is why it got the grade it did, but it could have been so much better if it hadn't gone for humor that would have made Mel Brooks blush.

Nerima Daikon Brothers Vol. 1 -- strongly sexual language and material throughout, profanity -- C+