Cacao is a high school boy (apparently orphaned since he has no parents) who lives at a candy store maintained by a robot alien named Ham-Ham. He has a voracious appetite that lands him into trouble when he gets hungry while watching a demonstration of magic by Professor Guana (Ganache in the dub). He devours a bar of spoiled magic chocolate that makes him drunk, and he calls forth the spirit of a tree fairy who possesses a marionette that Guana/Ganache borrowed from the puppet club in order to brighten up his classroom. Now the puppet/fairy, Hinano, has come to live with her dear Cacao, and she wants nothing more than to be by his side and cook for him for all her days. But there are rivals who wish to disturb their happiness, such as the rich boy Truffle and the wild child Almond. Meanwhile, the city is being threatened by alien monsters which take the form of trading cards that are packaged into chocolate bars. They show up at random times for the school defense force S.M.A.T. to battle and ... ahhh I give up!
Okay, now I know why Viz didn't even bother to write a synopsis for Trouble Chocolate on the back of the DVD box. I've only described HALF of what goes on in the first couple of episodes! I've not even mentioned Deborah and Murakata-sempai, the lovey-dovey popular kids, or Matcha and Azuki, the random martial artist twins, or even the basic premise of the show! That's because Trouble Chocolate has got to be the most mixed-up schizo jumbled mess of an anime I have ever seen.
Which makes me disappointed. Trouble Chocolate has been very popular on the fansub circuit for a long time, and I've heard nothing but good things about it. According to word of mouth, ToroChoco is a funny blend of Urusei Yatsura and Saber Marionette J (two series which I adore). Instead, I saw a show that desperately tried to be both at the same time, yet it was confused as to which one it wanted to be more, and as a result, packed in WAY more than a TV series of this length can handle.
Is it a trading card collectible Monster-Of-The-Week show? Is it a high school version of Harry Potter? Is it a wacky teenage supernatural love comedy? Is it a sci-fi "save the Earth from invaders a la Power Rangers" show? Well...it's ALL of those and more! Needless to say, I couldn't keep up with this show for one minute. The 'comedy' was forced, even more so in the English dub than the Japanese. While the Japanese actors came across as very dry (easily the worst Tange Sakura performance I've ever heard as Hinano), the English cast tried to do the best with what they had and actually surpassed the Japanese voice track. There are more puns in the English track, but they don't make the show any better. You do have to give the English-language cast credit for trying.
Murakata-Sempai and Deborah seem to be in the show specifically to be the comic relief, but their bizarre mating rituals only kill what little momentum the show manages to have. I must give bonus points to Truffle. Out of all the so-called zaniness in the show, he is the one who comes up with the only line in the entire first DVD that I laughed out loud at. I'd spoil it, but it's not funny when taken out of context (which I think still says something about the lack of genuine comedy).
In fact, ALL of the characters are simply hollow archetypes of anime (and non-anime) icons. Cacao is a tame wannabe Carrot Glace (Sorcerer Hunters), Hinano is a catchphrase-dropping wannabe Lime (Saber Marionette J), Professor Guana/Ganache is a surfer dude wannabe Gilderoy Lockheart (Harry Potter), and Truffle is a wishy-washy wannabe Mendou Shuutarou (Urusei Yatsura). The ONLY original character in this whole mess is Professor Big Bang, the bipolar transsexual Frankenstein monster. (Which in and of itself is a great big WHAT THE HELL!?!)
The animation is average for modern TV anime, with crisp computer coloring and animation. The character designs are cute and appealing, and would make for some great cosplay. However, pretty packaging can't cover up the fact that the rest of the show is lackluster. The music (aside from the beautiful ending song "Nee Nande") is HORRID. The background music sounds like the piano riff from the Monkee's "Daydream Believer" played over and over and OVER. It drove me NUTS! The opening is stock J-pop, and not worth mentioning except to make fun of the way they spell 'Choco' (shi-ecchi-oh-shi-oh!). Not that it really matters because the DVD doesn't include the song translations except in the creditless versions in the Extras menu. Come on, Viz! You know better!
Trouble Chocolate is not the worst anime I've ever seen – I didn't totally hate it. I have seen far, far worse anime. But it is also nowhere near as good as I was led to believe, and it won't be on my favorites list any time soon. I don't regret buying the DVD, but that's because I got it on sale for really cheap. The box art encourages the viewer to "Collect all 5 DVDs!" I *may* feel compelled to continue collecting ToroChoco if it were $10 cheaper per box. At its normal price of $25 for 4 episodes, it's way overpriced for what you get.
This troubled Chocolate is spoiled, indeed.
Sad, considering that it looked like it had so much promise. At best, worth a rental, but only if you've seen everything else at Blockbuster. Remove one star for the unbearable Japanese track – the English dub is better. — Christina Carpenter
Recommended Audience: The box says 13+. Personally, I say 7+ since it comes across more as a kids show. The only nudity I've seen so far is of Hinano in the first episode, and she doesn't have anything to show. You see more naked wooden puppets in Disney's "Pinocchio" than you do of her. There is a bit of crude language, but that's only in the dub. My guess is they gave it that rating because it shows minors engaging in sugar intoxication that makes them very destructive in a very cartoony 'Warner Brothers' sort of way.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (4/20)
Trouble Chocolate © 1999 Trouble Chocolate Production Committee
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