Wandaba Style

Since when could a show get away with repeating the same story four times and pretending it was new every time? I recently saw this tactic tried in the abysmal Cyber Team In Akihabara, and was amazed at the audacity the creators had in expecting viewers to sit through the same thing over and over again. Granted, Wandaba Style does have more going for it than Cyber Team, but it falls into the same boring trap. A few programs can get away with a repetitious story line--if they are hyper-spastic freak shows on crack like Super Milk-Chan, for example--but otherwise, originality is a must. Wandaba Style is definitely a sharp, snappy dresser, but there's very little going on here, except for some uncomfortable fan service from underage characters. Ironically, the only real thing the show has going for it is its retro-chic style.

Mix Juice is having a hard time getting started. A pop group made up of a cute but desperate idol, a folk balladeer, a rock singer, and a construction worker by day/musician by night, they can't get a break. Despite the best efforts of their afro-haired surfer wannabe Great Manager Michael, the gigs just aren't coming. Frantic for cash, Michael signs a contract with the crazy, youthful prodigy Dr. Susumo to let him use the Mix Juice girls however he wishes. The good doctor thinks they are just what he needs for the project of a lifetime...the first real trip to the moon! (Yes, he disbelieves the whole Neil Armstrong thing.) Of course, the girls can barely turn a microphone on, let alone pilot a spaceship, but that's no problem, as Susumo has created a satellite in feminine form that can handle all the details. There's one catch, of course...the spaceships have to get into space without using any means that would harm the environment, so any kind of propellant from slingshot to carbonation is up for grabs! The Juicers aren't at all pleased about the arrangement until they realize that they may just be the first pop singers to broadcast a concert from space...and who cares if you can hold a tune if you can do it on the moon!

Now if my grade for the first volume of Wandaba Style was based solely on the feel of the show, it'd be an easy A. Wandaba Style effortlessly slides back and forth between the '50s, '60s, and '70s in a retro panache of music, hairdos, and subtle parodies. The songs aren't incredibly memorable, but they do have a nice complementary feel. It's very reminiscent of the Austin Powers films groove, though without the raunch. Well, at least the same kind of raunch, but we'll get back to that in a minute. It certainly wins points for, well, style.

For enjoying the whole look and feel of the show, I came out of the experience disappointed. The show is just not that funny. Despite the crazy characters, the show plays out in a predictable way. But what's worse, the same plot happens over the four episodes. Each episode involves a new attempt at getting to the moon. Different ships, different methods, sure, but it's the same blasted thing over and over! Are there amusing bits? Sure. The fact that one ship can't get to the moon because Great Manager Michael can't actually tell the doctor the girls' real weight is amusing, for example, and that kind of chuckle is found here and there. But the repetition is staler than week-old bread.

The other major problem the show has is with its fan service. All of the characters here barely qualify as teenagers, at least by their looks. Yet we have not only jokes about nude photo shoots and selling undergarments on the Internet, we have lots of shots of the girls both in and out of said underwear. Although I've got a reputation for shooting down fan service, most nudity in anime passes me by with nary a comment. But this? This is just bad news. I know the Japanese have a severe Lolita complex, but this isn't what I want in my entertainment. It's all played pretty innocently, but in that "oh whoops, I'm not wearing clothes!" not-so-innocent way. ADV Films lists it as TV-PG, but that's just plain wrong. The fan service is blatant enough that it should be more in line with a strong TV-14 or TV-MA.

The funniest thing on the DVD is actually not a part of the show at all, but part of the extras. There's a segment of so-called outtakes, but they aren't mere line flub-ups. Instead, the five or so minutes of footage have the dub actors saying the lines that REALLY fit the scenes in the show. Many of them are off-color, but I was cracking up because they were right on target. They make fun of all the fan service in the show, as well as some of its more ridiculous aspects. I admit that I was howling at this. Too bad the actual program wasn't nearly as good.

I was looking forward to Wandaba Style, and I wound up disenchanted. Yes, it has some fun bits and some decent music, and the look is fun. But shouldn't a comedy be funny? Shouldn't it not repeat itself? Shouldn't it rely more on humor and less on naked bodies? Though it looks like a fine wave to ride, this one's sadly a wipeout.

Wandaba Style Vol. 1 -- nudity/fan service -- C