Oh! Edo Rocket
It's summer in Edo era Japan. The people are chafing under the harsh frugality laws imposed by a strict magistrate, and enforced by his peevish lieutenant Akai. All luxeries are banned, including the theatre, music, and fireworks. But that doesn't stop Seikichi from secretly launching fireworks- as secretly as fireworks can be launched, that is. His dream is to create the biggest, most impressive Edo fireworks, and no silly law or anal retentive lawman is going to stop him. Then a mysterious woman named Sora offers to pay him for a tougher job- to build a firework so powerful, it goes all the way to the moon.
The Chinese invented the iron plow some 2,000 years before the West. They also concocted the crossbow centuries earlier, and created the mariner's compass and paper more than a millennium earlier than the Western World. The fishing reel, chess, paper money, gunpowder, and the wheelbarrow are all only a small part of a long list of inventions the Chinese made before Europeans thought of them. All of this is very impressive, but pales in comparison to what was certainly the greatest achievement of the Eastern world- and it didn't even happen in China. According to a very reliable source- namely, this anime- Tokugawa-period Japan was the first civilization in the world to launch a rocket to the moon.
They had a little help, of course, because at that time the best thing the Japanese could think to use gunpowder for was fireworks. That help came from an alien princess who had crash landed on Earth. She was hunting for another alien who was a serial killer and was wanted, dead or alive, and even though she found that creature, she had no way to leave the planet. Then she saw Seikichi's fireworks, and realized that if this planet has the technology to launch fireworks, they may be able to build her a rocket to the moon.
Are you still getting this? Because things, it seemed, got even weirder. After persuading Seikichi to build the rocket by appealing to his (very, very) large ego, she moved in with Seikichi to his apartment in the ghettos of Edo, disguised as a petite, pretty young damsel. Things quickly got out of hand, though, when one of Seikichi's neighbors, the outlaw Ginjiro, discovered that he was a genetically wired superhuman, destined to serve in the magistrate's secret service against his will. Once the government shanghaied him into their service, they make him the leader of a police force searching for killer alien monsters who were roaming the streets of Edo, sucking out the blood of young maidens.
Oh! Edo Rocket has one of the nuttiest, most whimsical premises I've seen in an anime. It also gets off to a great start, with an engaging story that quickly grows more complex and involving. All of the characters are likeable, though Seikichi's narrowmindedness is a little stereotypical of shounen heroes. Who really shines, and not at the expense of the central characters, are the other residents of the Row Houses as terrific humor relief, not only because they are amusingly dense, but also because of their character designs. Take a look at Shinza, for example. His face is large, lopsided, and goofy; I chuckled before he even said anything. And if you think he looks silly, you should see his wife.
The writing for the series is detailed and well thought out, with several exciting twists that involves both the audience and the characters in a labyrinthine plot. The process from launching fireworks to launching a space rocket seems reasonably realistic. The gang develops the rocket using trial-and-error, with lots of error in places that only thorough research for the screenplay would show. If you've ever watched October Sky, it's exactly like Homer's experiments, except the gang not only has to build a rocket from scratch, they also have to piece together 300 years of scientific progress. Thankfully, there is an alien who will give them tips and hints right when they need them. It's one of the most fascinating parts of the anime.
It's too bad the series doesn't stay as exciting as the first twelve episodes. The series, you see, had started out with a few anachronisms, such as recapping previous episodes on 1930's television screens, its playful carabet soundtrack, and, well, the premise itself is rife with anachronisms. I found them mildly annoying, but they never got in the way of the story. At least, that's how it was at first. As the series moved into its second half, there were more anachronisms. Many, many previous anime and movies have used anachronisms before, from re-arranging the life of William Wallace for Braveheart, to blending hip-hop aesthetics with Edo Japan samarai drama in Samurai Champloo. The difference between those films and Oh! Edo Rocket! is that the anachronisms in Champloo et al. were organic, like it had never even heard of an "anachronism." It's obvious that Oh! Edo Rocket! knows what an anachronism is, and thinks they're hilarious. And things just go downhill from there.
The characters in the anime starts to reference other, modern anime, like Lucky Star and Death Note.
Then the anime makes odd, unfunny jokes at the wrong time that kill the suspense.
Then the anime starts to reference itself. A lot. And that was when it crossed the thin line from "entertaining" to "egotistical, boring crap." The anime makes references to its studio, its voice actors and actresses, and how many lines which characters get. The anime doesn't so much break the fourth wall. It gleefully pretends it doesn't even exist. It was painful for me to watch this series jump the shark so hard, and so ruthlessly.
After a false, faulty ending, the series finally slumped towards its conclusion, and I could not have cared less. "Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak," Kurt Vonnegut once wrote. Neither should anime.
Starts with a bang, but ends with a wimper. Despite some entertaining episodes in the beginning, I can't say I would recommend this. Borderline three stars. — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: This anime contains mild violence, language, and innuendo. Recommended for most teenagers and up.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Oh! Edo Rocket © 2007 Madhouse Studios,
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