Oh! Edo Rocket is one of those series that a portion of otaku will glorify to the
moon and another portion will loathe with every fiber of their being. The show's
hyperactive randomness will definitely attract its fair share of fans. If shows
like Excel Saga and My Bride is a Mermaid are not your cup of sake, then this show
is not likely to win your hard-earned dollar.
Seikichi Tamaya is a young fireworks maker who strives to be the best and stay the
best at his profession. One day, Sora, a young, mysterious, blue-haired woman with
stars in her eyes, asks Seikichi to build her a rocket that will travel to the moon.
If that task was not daunting enough, the story takes place in 19th century Edo,
Japan. In a show that mixes in helicopters, transmutating machines, and teabagging
references, perhaps launching a firework to the moon isn't out of the realm of
possibilities. Unfortunately for our young hero, the Senior Counselor of Edo,
Lord Mizuno, has banned all things fun, especially fireworks. So, Seikichi must
defy the law and test his creations in secret to accomplish his mission of sending a rocket
to the moon. On top of all this, there are giant white and blue skybeasts that battle
in the woods, a meddling old man, a purple-lipped rival, and a vampire-like villain
lady on the prowl. And all Seikichi wants to do is make things go boom.
The supporting cast is filled with wild and zany characters that you would
expect from a show of this nature. Sora serves as something of a love interest
although Seikichi's motivation for helping for building her rocket has more to
do with pride than lust, if we're choosing sins. Ginjuro plays one of the most
interesting roles as both an ally of Seikichi and the captain of the Men In
Black (Captain Belly Button), a supercop team that hunts down skybeasts and
also nefarious firework makers. Ginjuro, more than once, aids Sora and Seikichi,
playing something of a double-agent.
Seikichi quickly runs into a rival fireworks designer, Tetsuju The Fuse, a muscle-bound
man who wears bright, purple lipstick and constantly challenges Seikichi to anything
dealing with fireworks--including sending Sora to the moon. Tetsuju would normally
be considered an annoying character. But when compared to the South Park-looking
secondary characters that serve no purpose but to chew up space and time, Tetsuju's
scenes were usually a welcome sight and several even brought some laughs.
Oh! Edo Rocket is actually based on a play written by Kazuki Nakashima, who also produced several anime scripts such Cutie Honey and Gurenn Lagann. For such
an insane comedy, the core storyline goes above and beyond the call of duty. The
show begins about how you would expect with weird, anachronistic, self-aware jokes
and scenes that go on random, crazy tangents. Unlike other shows that are similar
in tone, the story is much more than a device to connect sight gags for 23 minutes
at a time. The eighth episode, "Love, Murder...He Does it All," really highlights
the great potential of this series. Much information is revealed about Sora's past and the story exhibits a shocking amount of depth and planning. Not
that Oh! Edo Rocket focuses on this fine plot--if it did, then I would probably have
loved this set.
It's a shame that Oh! Edo Rocket does not just play it straight
because the slapstick portions, more often than not, just fall flat. This pleasantly
unique story is mired by the necessity of appearing wild and zany. This style of
show appeals to many anime fans. I usually am not a fan of hyper, caffeine-fueled,
random insanity comedies, but when they are done well, I enjoy the good times and
laughs. I loved My Bride is a Mermaid which is the best show that I have ever seen
use this comedy template. In Oh! Edo Rocket, however, most of the random slapstick
falls flat; these scenes tend to derail the story leading to more exasperation
than guffaws. The main story is strong, fun, and attention-grabbing. Then the show
goes off on self-aware tangents, trying a little too hard to be funny, and it becomes
frustrating to watch. That said, the Meow-Meow song in the tenth episode, "Madhouseincarnations,"
had me in stitches.
Audio: The set features 5.1 Dolby Digital English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks.
The English track is loud, clear and very active. The dub cast has a great time
with this series and its madcap sequences; they seem to truly enjoy making the craziest
voices they can conjure for these scenes. The opening theme, "Oh Edo Nagareboshi
IV" by PUFFY is pretty catchy. It's poppy and upbeat--it's one of those tunes that
invariably sticks in your head for a few hours. That's called an earworm. The opening
theme is bookended by a horrible ending theme that sounds out of tune and immediately
grates on your spinal cord. My love-hate relationship with the theme music, oddly
enough, parallels my experience with the entire series.
Video: Oh! Edo Rocket is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The visual quality
of this show is stunning. The image is free of any noticeable artifacting and the
colors pop off the screen. The art is a mixed bag. The character designs are vibrant
and simplistic--a perfect match for the tone of the series. Some of the secondary
characters, however, look absolutely ridiculous. One character has a five-tooth
mouth that is twice as wide as his face and is always open. Another character also
has a mouth that never closes, but has rounded teeth that encircle the entire opening.
The beautifully designed backgrounds have a watercolored, storybook appearance,
which I love seeing in anime shows when it fits. Unfortunately, while both the character
designs and the backgrounds look phenomenal, when combined, the result is bizarre
and unappealing. This mismatch is probably by design, considering the awkwardness
exhibited by all other facets of Oh! Edo Rocket.
Extras: Included are clean opening and closing themes and some trailers.
Bottom Line: After watching the 13 episodes contained in this first set of
Rocket, I am still not sure whether I like it or hate it. I guess that makes me
indifferent. The comedy mostly falls flat, but the story of a fireworks maker who
wants to build a rocket that can fly to the Moon--in the 19th century, no less--shines
with its simplicity and uniqueness. There is enough enjoyable content here that
I really want to like this series and see how it progresses. This show is equal
parts engrossing and infuriating, but if you love insane comedies such as My Bride
is a Mermaid and Excel Saga, then you are much more likely to find enjoyment out
of this Oh! Edo Rocket. Rent It and see if it's for you.
Bobby is a programmer by trade and a wannabe writer. Check out his other reviews here. You can also check out his blog about harmless nonsense or follow him on Twitter