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Oh! Edo Rocket: Season One, Part One
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 Oh! Edo 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.