The giant ball of suck that is Funimation finally decided to release Joukamachi no Dandelion, almost a week after it aired in Japan. I’m not sure just when Funi decided its calling was to make the lives of English-speaking anime fans generally and bloggers especially a living hell, but they’re doing a bangup job of it. Latecasts, hardsubs, horrendously bad encodes – they’re covering more bases than the grounds crew during a rain delay.
But OK, rant off… On to Castle Town Dandelion, a case where (unfortunately) the build-up to the show was probably more interesting than the show itself. I got a serious sleeper vibe from this one from the very beginning, and I have no idea why really – the manga isn’t especially exalted, and the studio and staff aren’t exceptional performers. Sleeper radar – who can explain it, really? I pride myself on mine being pretty good, and the last time I felt this strongly was probably Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Yes, that was based on novels by the excellent Tanaka Romeo, but (it’s true) I had no idea of that when I initially glommed onto it as a sleeper – I just liked the concept art and the premise.
So what was it about Dandelion? About the same thing, if I were to try and quantify a pure hunch – I liked the art, and the premise sounded so absurd that I thought it might just be clever (and maybe – I swear this just occurred to me – it reminds me a tiny bit of Kamisama Kazoku, which I thought was quite underrated). That premise: nine siblings (6 sisters, 3 brothers) live in a suburban house with their father, the king. Their every movement is monitored by surveillance cameras, and they have to appear on a reality TV “news” network dedicated to them. Each of them has a superpower, and their father has decided that in a few months, there will be an election to decide which sibling will succeed him as king. What, now?
OK, so sue me – there’s something in that absurdity that appeals to me. And there is potential here, believe me, though based on the premiere I’m not sure the writing (mangaka Kasuga Ayumu has never written a series before, only done art) is up to the challenge. There’s a mildly pleasing vibe to the premiere, a sort of warmth, and a few of the gags work decently. But the satire doesn’t have the bite it needs to, and the first episode is generally much too bogged down in formula and tropes. In anime form at least Joukamachi no Dandelion has heart, but it doesn’t have teeth.
My assumption is that we’re going to get rotating “chapters” based on the perspective of all nine siblings, with an update on poll results at the end (clearly the voters in this kingdom are otaku – the princesses monopolize the top six spots and the boys are mired in last). And that middle princess Akane (Hanazawa Kana) will be a sort of co-lead in all of them, as she’s clearly the P.O.V. character of choice. Her hook is that she’s absurdly shy, which makes the lifestyle she’s forced to lead horribly uncomfortable – she understandably has no interest in becoming king until mega-beloved senior sister Aoi (Kayano Ai) reminds her that if she did, she could ban the reality TV network and the security cameras and live in peace (I actually kind of doubt that, myself).
I can truthfully say that I’ve rarely wanted to like a show more than I want to like Castle Town Dandelion – I feel invested in it to an absurd and illogical degree. And formulaic as the premiere was, I certainly didn’t dislike it – as I said there is a likeable warmth to it (the siblings and the parents seem to genuinely love each other) and Kasuga-sensei’s lovely art seems to have survived the trip largely intact. I’ll give the series at least another couple of episodes, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed in the first one.