Eriko MatsuiHitomi OhwadaAina SuzukiAkari Kageyama
Castle Town Dandelion
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2015: C
Also known as: Joukamachi no Dandelion
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2015
Director: Noriaki Akitaya
Original creator: Ayumu Kasuga
Actor: Ai Kayano, Kana Hanazawa, Kaori Ishihara, Aina Suzuki, Ayumu Murase, Dai Matsumoto, Eriko Matsui, M.A.O, Ryohei Kimura, Sachika Misawa, Saori Hayami, Satsuki Yukino, Shiori Katsuta, Yui Ogura, Yuka Aisaka, Akari Kageyama, Hitomi Ohwada, Kana Marutsuka, Kenichi Miya, Mari Misaki, Mariko Toribe, Marina Kitamura, Miho Ikezaki, Nichika Omori, Satoshi Nakao, Shizuku Fujita, Takanori Yagi, Yuka Morioka
Keywords: anime, superhero
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 11 November 2015
Joukamachi no Dandelion
It's fairly lightweight and it took a few episodes to regain my attention, but in the end I quite liked it. It's nice.
The set-up's endearingly eccentric. Akane is one of nine siblings who all live under constant surveillance from 2,000 security cameras and the odd bodyguard, because their father's the king. In addition dad's decided that the royal succession should be decided by an election in a year's time. No, he's not mortally ill. He just fancies the idea of abdication, living an ordinary life and putting his feet up. Similarly he insists on making his children go to school like anyone else and live in an ordinary house. He hasn't even allowed them an additional bathroom, which makes for a bit of chaos in the mornings.
Anyway, the Royal Election Candidates are... the king's nine children. Aged four to seventeen. Half of them can be as dozy as he is, by the way. There's a TV station that broadcasts security camera footage of the royal family all day, along with non-stop commentator analysis and discussion of how they're currently polling.
Oh, and royal blood gives you superpowers.
Theoretically this material is fascinating, but the show's hiding its sharp edges and instead is just trying to be funny and likeable. I don't think it's really trying to say anything about society. The nearest it gets is a mild, gentle deconstruction of superpowers. Much of the set-up's potential thus goes unexplored, but it would still be possible to look for parallels with reality shows, modern celebrity culture, vapid daytime TV and so on. You could start digging into the political angle too. Japan is a country where obviously frivolous candidates (e.g. porn stars, fashion models) are liable to get elected to parliament, which could perhaps be argued to add some well-hidden teeth to these episodes. (I think taking that argument too seriously would be a stretch, though. The superpowers detract from it, because these children are liable to go around saving people and doing good work.)
One thing the show does deceptively well, though, is to sustain a big cast. There are more than twenty main characters if you include Misaki's clones, even not counting best friends at school. (I think the seven clones count. Each has its own personality, being one of the Seven Deadly Sins. They're all friendly and helpful, though, and sometimes have council meetings with each other.)
That's a lot, but the show distinguishes them and brings them all alive. It would be easy not even to notice that the cast is big. The superpowers help enormously here, since it's easy to remember someone who can fly, teleport or control the growth of any living thing. The show also pairs people up intelligently, so Misaki and Haruka are inseparable (to a degree that's flirting with twincest), Shiori's determined to support her idiot brother Teru (despite otherwise being super-practical and level-headed), Shuu acquires a girlfriend and so on.
This is thus a series with lots of gently intertwined stories. They're generally heartwarming in a light, stress-free way.
Our protagonist Akane has crippling shyness issues, which is a problem for someone who's on TV every day. She decides to become king and get rid of all the cameras, which she thinks will let her live a quiet life. Her siblings point out that she hasn't thought that through. She also has a superpower that lets her fly ("gravity control") and hates showing her knickers, yet never thinks to wear trousers instead of a short skirt. Even worse, see the "Oh My God" of ep.4. She's a lovely girl, but not a deep thinker.
(We never see those knickers, by the way, although that might change for the DVD release. I hope it doesn't. The show's carefully preserved innocence is part of its charm.)
What the show does explore is its characters' motivations for getting elected and their attitude to their superpowers. One girl's ability is so powerful that she's afraid of it, wonders if she's been using it unconsciously and thinks she's too dangerous to be allowed to rule. Are her friends really her friends, or was she mentally dominating them? It's made her insecure. I rather liked where the show went with that character and her principled rejection of absolute power. Then there's attention-seeking Hikari, who makes herself an idol as a publicity stunt and hence gets into a close working relationship with a serious, royal-hating fellow idol who's had to claw her way up the hard way and resents people who just coast on talent or connections without having to work.
The superpowers themselves are a lot of fun, incidentally. Kanade, for instance, can create any object out of thin air, but an equivalent cost will be simultaneously deducted from her bank account. Misaki's clone-creation is a laugh. Shiori's superpower is perhaps the most entertaining, though, because it's so offbeat. She can talk to anything. This is far better than something dull like superstrength (which is Teru's power), because it gives us scenes of a four-year-old girl outsmarting everyone else in the room because she's been having a serious, concerned conversation with the table.
The worldbuilding is... odd. This is clearly modern civilisation, indistinguishable from Japan or the West, but it's an elected monarchy where the king appears to wield actual power and yet no one has a problem with him abdicating in favour of a child. Also, did I mention that royal blood gives you superpowers? That doesn't matter, though. Danger isn't really meant to feel dangerous. You're not meant to be taking it too seriously, with the security cameras and non-stop TV coverage taking us into a realm of parodically exaggerated reality from the beginning.
This is a fairly silly show if you give it any thought at all, but it's playing fairly by its characters' relationships and motivations. They're likeable. Its early episodes are fluffy and a bit throwaway, but the characters will grow on you as you get to know them and the show explores what makes them tick. I enjoyed it.