When it comes to any form of media, originality is generally welcome. Anime in particular has suffered quite a bit from overdone plot lines and stereotypical characters. Unfortunately, just being original doesn’t automatically mean a show will turn out well, or even decent. Oh! Edo Rocket Season 1 Part 1 has the right idea, but ultimately gets squashed under its awful humor and large number of useless characters. The plot is pretty silly and out there; perhaps with the right execution it would have been entertaining, but the show lacks a clear sense of direction, leaving the viewer frustrated as the comedy destroys the story.
Oh! Edo Rocket tells the tale of a boy named Seikechi Tayama whose dream is to launch the highest firework in Edo. The government, however, has put a ban on luxuries throughout the city, strictly prohibiting any form of entertainment, including fireworks. Naturally Tayama doesn’t follow this ban, causing him to get in trouble with the authorities, and specifically with a policeman constantly giving the residents of Edo a hard time, Nishinosuke Akai. After a night of shooting fireworks, Tayama is approached the next day by a blue-haired girl named Sora, requesting he make her a firework that will shoot to the moon. Tayama accepts the request after some pressure from members of the Furai row-house. And so launches the story. Additionally, Edo has also been through a string of murders related to blue and white creatures known as sky beasts, and a group known as the ‘Men in Black’ has been formed to deal with them.
Oh! Edo Rocket is at its best when it sticks to the sky beast storyline. This is mainly due to the mystery, which is slowly (and I mean slowly) revealed throughout the course of the first thirteen episodes. It is hinted early on in the series that Sora is actually the white sky beast, sent on a mission from her planet to capture an escaped fugitive (the blue sky beast). As far as the Men in Black are concerned, though, both beasts are responsible for the deaths in Edo and subsequently hunt both of them, even though Sora is innocent. This makes for an interesting story and, if it were explored more, might have made a solid plot. Instead Oh! Edo Rocket constantly resorts to gag relief comedic moments. The problem here is that most of these scenes aren’t funny, and most are downright obnoxious. The show wastes times with episodes featuring giant machines thrashing the city, characters being turned into cats, and odd subway rides in the sky. My biggest complaint with the humor (aside from the fact that it isn’t funny) is that it depends too much on character stupidity or absurdity rather than actually being intelligently placed to enhance the story. Oh! Edo Rocket also relies heavily on breaking the fourth wall and explaining things to the viewer, but instead of coming across as unique, it is kind of pathetic. This is especially the case when the characters come right out and admit the plot needs a kick in the right direction.
The series also suffers from a large cast, most of whom do little but serve as plot-obstructing comic relief. Very few are developed, and most are stagnant throughout. Even Tayama, the main character, remains the same; he is continually learning how to make a firework that will shoot higher and higher (eventually changing it into a rocket). Aside from him and Sora, there are several members of the Furai row-house, the Men in Black, other firework makers, and government officials. But there are just too many to take in and it results in screen time being taken away from those moments that deserve more attention, such as the sky beasts. The main exception is a member of the row-house named Ginjiro, who has the ability unlock anything with his fingers. In addition to being a row-house member, he is also the Captain of the Men in Black, being recruited due to his special abilities. He is a man with an interesting past and filled with mystery, easily making him a great character. Of course, this makes for an exciting conflict as he soon finds out the girl they have taken in is actually his target. Sora and the blue sky beast also add a bit of depth to the series, each having such polar opposite personalities and intentions as they try and make their way off of Earth.
At least the music in Oh! Edo Rocket is pretty great. It has this funky upbeat tune that actually fits well with the quirky atmosphere. The opening and ending are also positives, both being a lot of fun to listen to and watch, and the ending does a nice job showing off some of the pretty animation the show boasts (albeit in a somewhat odd way). It also offers up a wide range of character designs, from a cute, starry-eyed (literally) Sora to a fairly normal looking Tayama and Shunpei to even a cartoony look in some of the other secondary characters. So if one design isn’t your favorite, don’t worry because there are several others to look at. While none of the voice work is particularly amazing, I had no problem with the cast, and even tolerated most of the yelling and screaming Greg Ayres did as Tayama (which is usually something I can’t stand).
I can’t say I have watched too many shows about guys shooting fireworks to the moon for an unknown girl, so Oh! Edo Rocket at least makes an attempt to try something new. But there are too few serious moments to redeem the lame comedy, and it is painful to watch a show with potential be such a letdown.