Review/discussion about: Joukamachi no Dandelion
Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
Thanksgiving means the succulent taste of an oven roasted turkey. Thanksgiving means exactly that: giving thanks. Thanksgiving means getting ready for Christmas. But what Thanksgiving means the most, like most holidays, is family. Getting to reminisce with Aunt Lisa while munching on her famous home-cooked bread. Letting Mary use her signature purple lipstick to leave the perfect kiss mark on everyone’s cheeks. Wishing that the grandparents would have stuck around instead of scurrying off to Florida.
In our family (and by family, I mean uncles, cousins, etc.) tradition is key. Thanksgiving is where we choose out of a hat the name of our Secret Santa, leaving us all plenty of time to agonize over what gifts to purchase. There is also the customary Apples to Apples card battle, trickery a must. And of course one cannot do without the chocolate milk speech just before the main meal.
This is a time for food and games and repetitive radio music. However it is family that makes the occasion not just a random gathering but a special, memorable event. Joukamachi no Dandelion likewise places family on a pedestal yet, metaphorically speaking, the stuffing is missing.
Joukamachi no Dandelion falls under the broad category of “nothing more than a small comedy”. Jokes, heartfelt moments, and a dash of romance fill the majority of the plot, realistically leaving little to discuss besides the usual quips on comedy and connection.
At the minimum, the construction of Joukamachi no Dandelion’s narrative (if it can be called as much) takes a smart approach. Most episodes are comprised of two – sometimes three – different tales rather than a whole arc. This slicing carves the show into manageable pieces, causing the slice-of-life scenarios to feel like they should: singular sections that get right to the point. Nothing ever feels prolonged since the snapshot direction keeps the action moving and the jokes flying. The comedy itself is not aimless, too. An overarching plot involving the royal election keeps the comedy focused enough to prevent meandering into random territory. For instance, Akane flying around as the “masked” heroine Scarlet Bloom seems random but in fact her stunts are designed to boost her numbers in the polls. The same can be said for their family “beach” outing (there is a lot of masquerading that goes on…) that is secluded due to their royal status. So at the minimum Joukamachi no Dandelion’s micro and macro approach leaves the narrative in a seemingly comfortable position.
The anime starts to falter when the content of these segmented tales are investigated. Joukamachi no Dandelion has a clear theme on family. Family is supposed to stick together, family implies equal fairness, and so on. But in the show, this does not happen. Understandably Akane garners a lot of the attention – she is the main protagonist – however the rest of the cast is proportionally unequal in terms of screen-time. Hikari the idol arguably has too much time relegated for her, whereas Haruka the probability master, Teru the strength kid, and Shiori the cute-yet-possibly-psychotic object whisperer each receive considerably less time compared to their brothers and sisters.
To be fair, these characters are not that interesting, but they are as uninteresting as they are because the anime refused to work with them. A paradox. Still, not using the characters, regardless of how interesting they happen to be, is not a smart move for a few reasons. One, they are a part of the main cast, so leaving them on the wayside is counterintuitive to including them in the series in the first place. Two, they add variety to the festivities. Akane is cute when she blushes and Hikari has a nice singing voice, but relying on their same shticks time and again – especially when other siblings are ready and waiting to have a moment in the spotlight – induces avoidable repetition. And three, their inclusion fits this family theme. They are the royal family, not the royal individuals-who-occasionally-do-stuff-together. This is a huge misstep that the anime makes semi-regularly; Shuu, Kanade, and Aoi are other siblings that take up the middle ground, meaning Joukamachi no Dandelion is not always focusing on the cute girl and the singer. But the anime foregoes its own characters enough to become a noticeable negative.
Another negative is the anime’s attempts at sentimentality. Particular members of the cast have troubling pasts. For example, Kanade ruined Shuu’s soccer career when she caused an accident as a child, Akane had a run-in with a couple of burglars that spawned her anxiety, and so on. Simply having these parts around detracts from the comedy that the anime strives for. That is, Joukamachi no Dandelion tries to add depth to its narrative that ultimately takes away from its more important comedic elements. Even worse is that these dramatic moments are taken care of way too quickly. Akane’s in particular – her complete inability to handle public outings – is a crutch the anime leans on for every episode, yet she is cured in the span of a few minutes (and accidentally at that). Doing this demonstrates how little the anime cares for these segments and consequently how useless they are to the narrative as a whole.
Uselessness continues in Joukamachi no Dandelion’s main familial theme. The theme itself is already on thin ice since the disproportioned character focus goes against the sense of fairness family brings. The ice starts to crack further when the anime fails to make its own family feel like a family. Hints of this do exist. Haruka supporting Misaki when she feels sad, Kanade taking care of Shiori while the parents are away, and Akane setting up a surprise birthday party for Aoi are instances of brotherly and sisterly love. But the comedic and sappy moments get in the way of the family moments that expound on this family theme. Like the drama scenarios, these familial scenarios zoom in and then zoom out, pushing away the construction of the relationships and the dynamic of the family to make room for a gluttonous clone or a menacing phone call. In essence, its shallow exploration of its theme served as little more than a hindrance.
At this point the anime makes it clear that it does not know, exactly, what it wants to be. When the anime is not trying to make the viewer laugh, drama ensues. When the drama dies down, the family idea is brought up again. Then when the family idea has been touched on, comedy appears once more, and the cycle never ends. The show is forever in a loop, tugging itself in multiple directions without ever settling down on one path, causing the anime to feel directionless in its presentation.
Nowhere is this directionless behavior more evident than in the conclusion. Joukamachi no Dandelion highlights the need for an ending speech from each character which makes logical sense. There is an election going on so having the cast give their personal take on how the previous year went and what they have learned would (even if heavy-handedly) let the audience understand the meaning behind the whole season. Instead, some calamity occurs, the election – like many parts of the anime – happens in a few seconds despite this conflict being the string that tugged everything along, and their speeches are forgotten. The anime was trying to wrap everything up as best as it could, but the final episode ends up too all-over-the-place, mirroring the narrative’s direction throughout the entire season.
So while Joukamachi no Dandelion might keep its slice-of-life and overarching plots in tandem, the dance they perform from start to finish is one muddled with missteps and poor choreography.
Joukamachi no Dandelion surprisingly has a lot of opportunities for action sequences. The characters’ powers make this an obvious statement. Akane flying around, Shuu teleporting everywhere, and Teru digging furiously elevate the amount of actual animation the anime employs. The quick nature of the comedy also makes the hasty transitions and character movements a welcome sight. Characters will often exaggerate their actions, such as jumping up-and-down on their bed or the explosion of dust when someone starts running. Hair and eye details are not extreme but they are around to a reasonable extent, making sure the people on screen do not act like lifeless husks. As a whole, the anime does not have an extensive amount of actual animation but what amount the show does provide is nothing to scoff at.
Scoffing can be done with the art style, though. For the most part, Joukamachi no Dandelion sticks to a minor set of areas: the school, the Sakurada household, and the idol studio are the most prominent locations. This rapidly induces blandness since the anime does not dabble in quirky camera handling or nuanced lighting. To be more specific, the camera- and light-work is as par for the course as one can get, the byproduct being further accentuation of the bland artistic direction. The show does try to switch up its presentation slightly when its characters adopt reaction faces or the city landscape is replaced with colorful backgrounds, but here the quickness of the comedy works against itself, making these deviations from the norm a rarity. The result is the anime constantly mired in the same, boring art, making the action on-screen an obstacle to sit through rather than another part of the experience.
For the character designs, they sit somewhere between the actual animation and the art, between being a satisfaction and an obstacle. Besides the avant-garde colorings for some of the characters’ hair – Aoi’s blue, Haruka’s purple, and so on – the designs are decidedly plain. Shuu and Kanade in particular are strangely similar, their black hair and casual clothes coinciding with their dull personas. Symbolism does exist in the colorings – Akane’s tendency for red matches her embarrassed and blushing attitude, Misaki’s use of pink goes with her girly behavior, and so on – though beyond the different hues not many other symbols are found. Nobody has distinct accessories, nobody dons intricate outfits (arguably, Akane’s Scarlet Bloom gothic dress is a contender), and their faces are almost identical to each other (granted, they are siblings). Collectively the cast’s designs are suited for Joukamachi no Dandelion, however they are not as involved as they could have been.
As it was with the story, the characters of Joukamachi no Dandelion leave next to no room for discussion because hardly anything is provided.
The cast is large, so characters are rarely given adequate time to shine. And as was previously mentioned, when the characters do have that opportunity to develop, the moment either happens too quickly or the moment is too worthless. Either way, that particular person is left stranded on a rough patch of mediocrity writing-wise. At the minimum, each character does have their own set of characterizations that differentiate themselves from each other. Aoi is a natural leader, Shuu is often impractical, Kanade cares immensely for the safety of her family. Akane is incredibly shy, Haruka keeps to himself, Misaki is plainly average. Hikari wants to prove herself, Teru has a huge heart, and Shiori lets her actions talk for her. Standard fare for any cast.
Alongside their base characterizations are the unique abilities that each character holds. Going through the list once more makes this easy to spot. Aoi can force anyone to do her bidding, Shuu can teleport anywhere, Kanade can create anything out of thin air so long as she has the reserves in her bank account. Akane can manipulate gravity, Haruka sees the probabilities for every action, Misaki can split herself up into several people with their own personalities. Hikari can increase or decrease the age of anything, Teru has super-strength, and Shiori can speak with inanimate objects. Again, standard stuff, but these types of features stop the cast from being totally bland.
A discernible oddity can be found when the characters’ base traits are juxtaposed with these special abilities they tout. The characters’ abilities are the opposite of how they normally portray themselves. To put it differently, their powers symbolically reflect their individual strengths. Aoi could forcibly lead if she chose but her affability and kindness inherently cause people to look up to her. Shuu has the most practical power of the group but somehow always comes to the most impractical solutions. Kanade can literally buy anything she could ever want but she knows that “money cannot buy happiness.” For her, that happiness is her family. Akane feels the overbearing pressure of eyes and cameras, and coincidentally her flight capabilities create further embarrassing moments. Haruka can technically make every correct decision for the rest of his life but instead he is content with letting events proceed normally. Misaki’s averageness compared to her clones actually makes her perfect for specific roles. Hikari can cheat aging but never cheats when she has to prove her prowess. Teru’s heart is bigger than the strength he wields. As for Shiori, she might be able to talk with random objects, but “actions speak louder than words”. Thus the characters’ powers are not just for show but rather extensions of themselves, adding complexity where much is needed.
Unfortunately, Joukamachi no Dandelion does little else with its characters. A tiny comedy does not require insanely complex characters but a comedy (and to be honest, any type of anime) does at least need characters who leave a lasting impression. These characters fail to do this. The symbolism of their powers is definitely interesting but that is not enough. Their personalities are lacking, their character growth is stunted, and their interpersonal relationships – caused by the anime’s narrative direction – are shaky at best. In the end, the cast simply does not have enough clout to noticeably influence the audience, immensely reducing the overall execution of the characters.
The opening theme is very upbeat, not just in the lyrics but in the tempo of the piece itself. Varying the vocalists also helps to align itself with the familial theme of the show, improving the purpose of the piece. While the track does not try anything new in terms of instruments or sound, the catchiness of the beginning and the final bits make the song not outright forgettable. The ending theme is a bit too similar to its OP counterpart, the middle section a chorus of sound that goes in one ear and out the other. Again the happy beat follows the format of Joukamachi no Dandelion. And instead of changing vocalists the ED makes use of repetition to make the track easy to follow, the trade-off being this sense of looping that reduces the power of the piece. And while the lyrical triplets, loud lead-in, and the clapping each try to bring that power back up, the track is just not strong enough to stand on its own.
One of the best tracks of the soundtrack is technically not even a complete song. The transitions between the A, B, and C parts – the six note-or-so onomatopoeia – was a charming little effect that segued nicely from one story and into the next. The remainder of the soundtrack is not as notable, the pieces sticking mostly to common, slice-of-life compositions. Once again, due to the elated feeling of the anime, a lot of the tracks are happy or silly in design. But other, more relevant music – such as drum numbers and dainty or ominous piano pieces – help to offset the wacky fun the majority of the OST maintains. In the end, though, the OST is a lackluster offering, one that does not try to be anything more than what it barely has to.
As for the voice acting, the cast of Joukamachi no Dandelion provide an overall average performance. Kana Hanazawa as Akane uses a cute and flustered voice for the equally cute and equally flustered girl. Aina Suzuki as Shiori does not quite capture a childlike voice, making Shiori sound out of place whenever she said anything. This is one of her first (and biggest) roles in the medium, though, meaning one can expect Ms. Suzuki to hone her craft the more roles she takes on. And Yui Ogura as Hikari uses a nice singing voice during her idol moments while simultaneously using a tone that fits the younger sister well enough. The rest of the cast does not stick out in either a positive or negative light, the net result being the aforementioned average outing.
I have some beef with this anime. Petty beef, no doubt, but beef all the same.
The show had a spectacular opportunity to poll its audience throughout the season in order to determine who would be crowned the king or queen. An interactive experience rather than an arbitrary decision. A way to get the community involved that was not cheap or forced but a clever direction. But no. The show not only chooses the winner but the show also chooses the most boring candidate. Shuu taking the crown is literally how succession has worked for a millennia – the first born son is next in line. The anime was all about these quirky characters, their crazy abilities and personalities instantly recognizable to anyone in the city. How hilarious would the whole ending have been if Shiori won? Or if Haruka, who did nothing the whole time, actually had a secret weapon up his sleeve? Or maybe Akane does win, her easy handling of the position signifying her newfound vigor? Shuu is such an uninteresting choice to make, and coupled with the fact that he is not the smartest fellow on the planet, the decision almost seems illogical. Were the audience given the chance, the eldest brother would not have reigned.
More beef. I was not sure if I should put this here or in the “Story” section, but why dandelions? The anime is called, in English, Castle Town Dandelion. “Castle” makes sense since there is a castle and the people in the show come from royalty. “Town” likewise makes sense since everything happens within one town. But “dandelion”? There are almost zero references to dandelions throughout the show. Dandelions are not the crest for the family, none of the characters declare their love for dandelions. There is a dandelion shown as the final shot of the anime just to remind everyone that dandelions are somehow related. Disregarding their nonexistence, why dandelions at all? Dandelions are technically a weed, a plant that puts a blemish on gardens. Am I meant to interpret the powers as weeds? The show certainly did not take that direction. In fact, without their abilities, many people (including themselves) would have perished. Are the characters weeds? Again, their presence is not an evil or an unwanted one, so this interpretation fails as well.
Most likely the dandelion is supposed to represent change (evidenced by Akane’s final monologue), as in a flower blooming. But there are better, more distinguished flowers for this purpose, such as roses, tulips, and daises. The dandelion might also have to do with making ones dreams come true. Wishes are often made on fully-bloomed dandelions, the scattering of the seeds symbolizing the multiple chances at future success (the OP uses a lyric similar to this). Contextually, the characters were also hoping for future success in becoming the next successor. This makes the most logical sense, although it is a bit of stretch, and even then there is the counterargument that the show was not about the election (the future) and more about family, love, and determination (the present, the latter of which is the opposite of dreaming).
The beef goes from petty to filet when the romance portions kick in. They are few and far between but they are quite satisfying to watch unfold. Shuu and Sato’s relationship was cute, the affectionate words and love between them placing a smile on my face with ease. But my favorite story was about the parents in their younger days. Their own romantic beginning and their love of family dynamics was awesome to watch.
The mother and father were definitely not what the anime was centered on, but thankfully the non-romance sections were a nice bout of fun, too. They were usually silly and adorable, such as when the watermelon sacrificed itself for Shiori or when Akane obliviously walked around the school with no pants on (more specifically, the reaction of the student body and her best friend). These scenes pale in comparison to the romantic ones, but they at least got a chuckle or two out of me while watching. And although the lame dramatic detours and the anime’s irksome choices dampened my experience, I was still entertained nicely enough.
Joukamachi no Dandelion is filled with family, royalty, and comedy. But beyond this thin veil is a smattering of problems – from the weak cast of characters to the unmemorable music selection – that collectively hurt the show. Suffice it to say that watching this one is a Thanksgiving tradition that nobody will be embarking on anytime soon.
Story: Bad, slice-of-life and overarching material work together, but the disproportioned screen-time, the unnecessary sentimental moments, and the unexplored theme on family lead to a directionless presentation
Animation: Fine, average actual animation, boring art style, okay character designs
Characters: Bad, nice symbolism for each child of the royal family, but dull personalities, little growth, and shaky relationships do not let the cast leave a lasting impression
Sound: Bad, fine OP, bad ED, bad OST, average VA performances
Enjoyment: Fine, peeved by no real-world election, no dandelions, but the romance and comedy still made me giddy
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3