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Monday, January 20, 2014

Kochikame Selection 3: Dotabata-hen: Why Isn't the Police Station the Main Character?!

All right, so we've been shown that Kochikame can do serious stories & we've seen the introductions to some of its reoccurring characters...  So how about comedy?  I mean, that's the biggest reason why the manga has been running for so long, after all.  

Help!  The title splash has been taken over!!
The character roster essentially writes the comedy itself: A bumbling cop with a heart of gold, his partner who's also the son of a Zaibatsu head, the beautiful female cop who comes from a rich family, a pre-op transsexual officer who's in love with said bumbling cop, a motorcycle cop with a split personality, and a (relatively) normal station manager who has to deal with these people in one way or another...  And, trust me, the characters only get more & more ridiculous as we go on.  Fittingly, the last "Selection" by Bandai Visual has the perfect subtitle: Dotabata-hen, or Slapstick Chapter.


Episode 72: Burning Camp Spirit! (Aired 2/22/1998)
After viewing some ads for RVs Ryo-san thinks about going out on a camping trip with his co-workers.  Unfortunately, after local rich-man Reiji Shiratori comes by with a Porsche RV (do they even make those?) in an attempt to woo Reiko on a camping trip, and doesn't invite the others, Ryo-san gets Nakagawa to get a Ferrari RV (seriously, do they even make these?!).  The two RVs race their way to the camp, & then the mountain, but after Ryo-san & Shiratori up their energy usage and drain both RVs batteries everyone gets stuck on the mountain at night...  And a strong storm is coming.

This is a fairly enjoyable episode, mainly due to the silly one-upsmanship between Ryo-san & Shiratori.  The racing to the camp ground between the Porsche & Ferrari RVs, followed by the race to the mountain, & then the constant battling between how to enjoy nature in the least natural way is really what sells this episode.  Shiratori has a seemingly infinite amount of money & is ready and more than willing to simply toss it around, which becomes his downfall in the second half.  You see, when the storm comes & neither RV has power the gang ends up hiding in a cave, though Ryo-san manages to save some sardines for food.  Shiratori pays Ryo-san an absurd amount of cash for the fish, which Ryo-san then uses to buy all sorts of food after ditching everyone before returning (though he never tells anyone that they're all stuck on the mountain...).  Ryo-san then charges an even more absurd amount of money for all of the food, which Shiratori is all too eager to pay.  It's an entertaining showcase of how greedy both men are, and puts a nice little finish to an overall fine episode, though it certainly isn't the best of this DVD.


Episode 73: The Ridiculous Professor Appears! (Aired 3/1/1998)
While patrolling Akihabara Ryo-san & Nakagawa run across a strange Englishman (more like Ryo-san gets run over...).  Nakagawa identifies the man as Professor Korosuke Ezaki, one of his teachers during his time at Cambridge.  The two show Ezaki around Tokyo, but Ezaki's constant use of "foreign" English & unending comparing between England & Japan, with the intent of showing how England is better, angers Ryo-san to the point where Ezaki challenges Ryo-san in a race to the top of Tokyo Tower to see who's better.  Later, Ryo-san & Nakagwa go to a vehicle safety class which happens to be run by Ezaki, who decides to use Ryo-san as an unwilling assistant in testing out a new "smart car".

I was already familiar with Professor Ezaki before seeing this episode, since he was the guy responsible for the silliness of the body swap episode I had seen years ago, but it was certainly funny to see his debut.  The first half has a lot of linguistic jokes, like Ryo-san mishearing Ezaki's first name as "croquette", not to mention Ezaki messing up a lot himself, with the race up Tokyo Tower being a fitting finale for the half.  The second half, with the smart car, is entertaining on its own mainly because of how ridiculous the car ends up being; for example, it's so computer-focused that the windshield isn't a pane of glass, but rather a video screen than can go blank!  If anything, this episode probably is the closest I've seen to Kochikame being like an episode of The Simpsons, with a lot of word jokes, real life humor (the smart car jokes are actually kind of ahead of its time), and a heavy dose of physical slapstick.


Episode 90: Birth! Detective Hatopopo (Aired 7/26/1998)
Katsuhika's Special Detective Squad is adding a new member to their ranks, and they have decided to try out Ryo-san, giving him a highly-trained & smart pigeon that sits on a nest on his head and nicknaming him Detective Hatopopo.  At first Ryo-san is completely against it, but after becoming friendly with the pigeon Ryo-san realizes that he can essentially spy on anyone he wants...  Especially after he gets the pigeon to recruit a giant bunch of more pigeons, giving Ryo-san a literal squadron a spy pigeons at his disposal.

This is a great example of not just how silly Kochikame can get, but also how sly & "evil" Ryo-san can be.  I'll hold off on explaining the deal with the Special Detective Squad, as they will be a focus on the next DVD I'll be reviewing, but I will say that they are probably one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of in this series, so it's makes sense that they would think giving Ryo-san a pigeon partner & dubbing him "Hatopopo/Pigeon Popo" is a smart idea.  Still, Ryo-san & the pigeon do make an entertaining duo: The pigeon finds money for him, gives him good picks for horse racing, and even spies on Ryo-san's friends at the Kameari Park station.  The spying itself is funny, because Ryo-san goes as far as getting pictures of Ohara splitting his pants during a patrol, artificially coloring his hair, and looking at near-nude women in magazines all just for the sake of blackmail.  At times there's almost a sense that the episode might actually parody Hitchcock's The Birds, what with all of the birds flying around.  It doesn't, but the climax, where Ryo-san goes after a thief in a sky chase, is also very entertaining.  Overall, this is a perfectly silly & fun episode...  And once you understand who makes up the Special Detective Squad you'll see that Ryo-san got it easy.


Episode 100: I'm the Leading Role! Toden Hoshi (Aired 10/25/1998)
A robber is holding a building hostage and Ryo-san & Nakagawa are called in to help defuse the situation, but headquarters is also giving them a special partner: Toden Hoshi, a.k.a. the "Hardboiled Detective".  Unfortunately, Hoshi is so absolutely focused on getting his scenes correctly "hardboiled" in a comedy anime, and insists that he's the main character, that none of them might ever get to the scene of the crime, let alone do any police work!


I have found it...  I have found one of the absolute funniest episodes of anime ever created!  Forget the actual story that's established, because it isn't important.  Instead, the first half of the episode is about Hoshi's insistence on getting his scene's perfect & continually doing retakes and alterations each time.  And this isn't simply a character "flubbing a line" in character or anything like that, but rather Hoshi literally changes the entire look & feel of the show: A "realistic" gekiga style, a 40s sepia-toned style, & literally changing the camera size to widescreen (revealing that characters not on screen are simply hanging out & are shocked and ashamed when the widescreen reveals this) just for effect, all with a simple snap of his fingers.  Hell, Ohara gets so tired of the continual retakes that he outright leaves the episode and puts Honda in his place.  Hoshi, not caring, simply gives Honda Ohara's outfit & small mustache, cracking everyone up & forcing him to aim the camera at everyone's feet (which ends up being the perfect shot).


Then the drive to the scene isn't good enough, resulting in Hoshi wanting a night time setting & demanding music...  Which results in about five or six different Kochikame OPs & EDs being played, angering Hoshi every time.  Not even the scene of the crime is spared, with Hoshi getting jealous of Nakagawa being considered the pretty boy, so he reveals his multi-layered facial shadowing (3-fold! 4-fold! 5-fold! 6-fold!!!!), and even turns Nakagwa, Komachi, & Naoko into non-shadowed SD forms.  Without revealing everything, Ryo-san calls out Hoshi on wanting to be the main character, prompting Hoshi to tell Ryo-san that that very title of the anime should mean that the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward is the main character, complete with "footage" of Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kouen-mae Hashutsujo-kun, an anthropomorphic take on the police station itself!  Finally, the end of the episode is absolutely perfect, creating an episode ideally worthy of the status as the 100th.  Even greater is the fact that the episode is 100% understandable without subtitles, as every single joke is visual since it's poking fun at the very look & style of the anime.  Without a doubt, this is not only the best episode on this DVD, but it's the...


BEST...  EPISODE... IN... THIS... VERY... DVD... SERIES!!!!!


There are some new actors to cover here, mainly for the characters that are focused on in these episodes.  Shiratori is another one of those characters who had two different actors: Masato Sakai, followed by Satoshi Wada, both of which seem to be live-action actors.  I'm not sure which one voiced Shiratori in episode 72, though I'm guessing Sakai, but the actor delivers a perfectly entertaining rich & easily-agitated money spender.  Professor Ezaki is voiced by Takashi Matsuyama (Oro in Street Fighter III, Javert in Les Misérables - Shojo Cosette), who does a great foreigner voice, complete with odd inflections & a love for Engrish.  Finally, Hoshi is voiced by Shiro Shimomoto, another live-action actor, who absolutely steals the episode he's a part of; you almost want to see Hoshi become the main character due to Shomomoto's insane performance.  No new theme songs to talk about here, though; all episodes feature "Katsuhika Rhapsody" as the opening, while 72 is the last episode to use "Lady no Yume wa Mangekyou" as the ending and the rest use "Bue no Biabia".


Dotabata-hen is probably the best set of episodes in Bandai Visual's series of "Selections", perfectly showcasing why Kochikame has become such an iconic franchise in Japan.  The first three episodes here are all very enjoyable, but the last one involving Toden Hoshi is nothing short of sheer comedic bliss; easily one of the funniest things I have ever seen as a fan of anime.  If anything, I would seriously wish that that one episode was subbed into English, because I would easily try to get as many people to watch it as possible.  While I'm 100% positive that we'll never get Kochikame TV licensed & released in North America, these episodes would honestly make for a neat 12-episode "Best of" collection.  Still, there are another two DVDs I can talk about, so up next we'll take a look at what the Jump Super Heroes series calls the "Masterpiece Selection DVD" releases.

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