The best thing about the anime series Nerima Daikon Brothers is that the dub track means you practically get two series for the price of one. As I mentioned when I reviewed the series back in 2009, the series is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen and that is totally not meant as an insult. The dub script for Nerima Daikon Brothers had to fabricate lyrics to match existing songs, figure out equivalents to jokes that a Japanese audience would catch, and sometimes create entirely new material when something didn’t or couldn’t translate well. You’ll see that at work right from the opening credits in the way the Japanese subtitle translation of the title song differs slightly from the English language version. The lyrics get funnier if you’ve watched the show — “A well-timed rental/From a guy who’s mental” is a fantastic turn of a lyric as well as being 100% accurate, and there’s still a certain transgressive thrill whenever you hear a naughty word tossed into a pop song as is done here.
The same thing happens even more visibly in the ending credits, where the Japanese track seems like little more than onomatopoeia nonsense, pulling in rhymes in Spanish and French to fill out the time, but the fact that it makes so little sense is why I find it amusing (at least as someone who doesn’t speak Japanese). However, the English version bypasses a straight translation and opts to shatter the fourth wall instead, as Luci Christian sings about buying beers while the whole cast sings their thanks to the audience and how they’re going off to work on the next episode. Greg Ayres’ goes even further, highlighting the fact that this is an import by singing, “In the show you see on TV/In Japan, originally,” which is a line that cracks me up every time I hear it.
Both of these credits sequences are samples of the powerfully fun soundtrack of Nerima Daikon Brothers, which only makes sense since the whole show centers on a trio of poor working slobs and their dreams of making it big in the music business. Admittedly, the show often recycled the same music over and over and just changed the lyrics, but all of the songs in the show have the same earworm infectiousness as the opening and closing credit themes. The opening is a rousing, Chicago jump blues/rock that sounds like it was played by a super-tight band on real instruments, overpowering us with energy and verve. The closing credits are sweet and almost wistful, which makes the nonsense lyrics in both English and Japanese that much funnier.
In some ways, I see Nerima Daikon Brothers as a throwback to old-school anime imports, where Peter Fernandez could import Mach Go Go Go as Speed Racer without speaking a word of Japanese and Sandy Frank Entertainment bowdlerized Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman to make Battle of the Planets. The difference is that those earlier products, as enjoyable as they might have been, were making their changes from a position of fundamental disrespect and ignorance for the source material. In contrast, I believe the translation crew at ADV fully understood that a lot of Nerima Daikon Brothers relies on humor targeted at the Japanese audience that can’t or won’t translate easily (if at all) to an English-speaking audience. Consequently, the wholesale changes, additions, and omissions in Nerima Daikon Brothers were made out of a fundamental respect for the source material, even if the translation and dub essentially craft an entirely new show out of the same material just as Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets did. The fact that the title was imported at all also indicates the fundamental shift in the sophistication of the audience. Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets were still working off the assumption that cartoons were for kids and needed to heavily edited so it would be appropriate for them. Nerima Daikon Brothers is not only targeted at a much older audience, but also assumes that a non-trivial portion of that audience can grasp and process the cultural differences in humor, if not understand the original language soundtrack. In the end, all of the above just goes to show that it takes a whole lot of smarts to do stupid really well.
Too long? I’m almost inclined to agree. Just watch the videos and groove to the music, then.
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