Brains Base is a seriously underappreciated studio. They’ve done some outstanding work over the past few years, and real kudos to them for the variety of projects they’ve taken on. It’s a versatile studio with an adaptive style, and they’ve created something wonderful with this remake of Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera.
This series is the work of legendary manga-ka Go Nagai, who’s probably best known in the West for creating Cutie Honey. I confess to not knowing much about this 1973 series – in my mind it was something like “GeGeGe no Kitaro” but beyond that I wouldn’t have been able to say much. What BB and director Yoshitomo Yonetani have done here is created a product that still has the peculiar charm of 70’s cartoon, and given it a fresh coat of 2011 zip, snark and visual flair.
Set in the Showa era, the premise is vintage 70’s comic horror – bratty little Enma (nephew of the King of Hell) and his wacky band of servants are sent to Earth to round up the evil demons wreaking havoc there. He’s got a smart-mouthed kappa, an adorable Yuki-Onna (is there any other kind?) who wears no pantsu, and a lecherous old hat. Unfortunate human girl Harumi (also adorable) inadvertently gets mixed up in their affairs chasing after her four friends when they break into the school building (Youkai Elementary) and get their faces stolen. Hijinks ensue.
That doesn’t sound like anything much more than straightforward children’s fare, but this is more. What makes this work is the humor and the obvious love & care that the staff have for the material. Make no mistake, there’s edgy stuff here – an obaa-san who swings her floppy breasts in a manner that would give anyone nightmares, for starters. And how many kids’ series have a character shout “My dick broke off!”? There’s a real cleverness to the situations, and the timing of the comedy is spot-on. Feckless and straight-laced Harumi is a perfect foil for Enma and his ecchi, unpredictable squad of demon hunters. It may be an old formula, but it really works here.
In addition, the show really looks great – again, it still has that retro visual style, but updated – the colors are vibrant, the animation is smooth and fluid, and the backgrounds are whimsically amusing. The music is great as well – the OP and ED are both outstanding and the placement of the music in the ep itself is classic Saturday morning style. In short, there’s a ton to like here and nothing not to like – it’s all good. So far, this is my second favorite of the season after Hanasaku Iroha.