by Timothy Georgi

What would you do to become a big time pop music idol? Sing on street corners until someone paid attention to you? Play bartender at some swingin' night club until you could storm the stage and blow the audience away? Work odd jobs until the ultimate moment had arrived and the world would flock to you in droves? Or maybe you're just born into the life? If your manager is Michael Hanagada, well, you'll do anything. And I do mean anything. Extreme is the name of the game. And no matter how extreme the job, they'll do it with a smile.

Welcome to the world of Wandaba Style!, the latest smash comedy hit from ADV Films. Parodies, sight gags, cheesy singing and more high volume hi-jinks than should be legal in any anime series, and that's just the first episode.

Self-proclaimed "genius manager" Michael Hanagada is desperate for an instant success story. With his trusty green book in hand, he's figured out the ultimate way to insure that he'll get it. Television and radio executives beware, cause the hot new girl band, Mix Juice, is coming your way!

Hanagada's success story is dependent on the members of Mix Juice. Sakura Haruno is a former child star that has fallen from her prime. She's trying to get her "groove" back despite the fact that pre-pubescent fanboys are still going gaga over her former life. Himawari Natsuma is a construction worker by day and a traditional Japanese singer by night. Folk singer Ayami Akimo is a simple girl that sings her simple melodies on roadsides and walkways. She also has a group of imaginary, green faeries that only she can see and speak with. Then there's Yuri Fuyude, super tough rock star turned bar lounger.

All four members of the band are driven by the need to succeed in the music arena. No matter how impossible things get or how unattainable their stardom is, they refuse to give in to failure, even when things look like there's ready to completely fall apart.

But Hanagada needs something huge to catapult the girls' careers and his bank account into the stratosphere. Enter Dr. Susumo Tsukumo, a 13-year old scientific genius who is convinced that the lunar landing in the 1960s was a fake. Tsukumo and his trusty assistant, Kiku #8, a test satellite in the form of a young girl, will stop at nothing to be the first to make a successful landing on the moon. Of course, there's a twist to his aspirations. The main thrust (get it, thrust... yeah, I'm full of those) of Tsukumo's work is to find a way to get to the moon without harming the Earth's environment. When his first attempt goes wrong and Kiku #8 is stuck in orbit, Tsukumo resolves to find someone to replace her until she can be retrieved.

Just when Tsukumo thinks all is lost, who should fly in but, yes, you guessed it. Michael Hanagada! He signs up the girls to become the good Doctor's new astronauts, intending Mix Juice to be the first band to perform a concert on the surface of the Moon and making him millions! With Dr. Tsukumo's calculations and environmentally-friendly rocketships and Hanagada's drive for financial excellence, what could go wrong? Well, this is an anime series, so anything and everything! And all the while, the girls must find a way to work together to make the band a success! Wandaba Style!

It's been a really long time since I've had this much fun with an anime series. I watched this first DVD and was laughing so hard at the series that I almost had to stop for a bit to recover. The storyline, as insanely implausible as it is, makes this DVD something that you just have to watch over and over again. (As I'm typing this, I think I've watched it at least five times and I've watched it with several friends too, some of which aren't really into anime at all, but loved the DVD.)

The thing that made the series more fun was the parodies and references to various things, both in mainstream media and the anime world. Most of the characters can be paired up with characters from other anime series. Hanagada bears a striking resemblance to Nabeshin from Excel Saga. Yuri is very much like Priss from the original Bubblegum Crisis. Himawari could be Sakura from Sakura Taisen. Kiku #8 looks a lot like Sumomo from Chobits. Dr. Tsukumo looks remarkably like Misaki from Angelic Layer... Yes, you get the idea. Dr. Tsukumo's trademark line, "Wandaba Style is go!" is a nod to 1960s space adventure, The Thunderbirds. You can hear the influence of Austin Powers in some of the music throughout the episodes. There's even one point where one Wandaba ship runs through a Super Mario Bros. video game parody sequence, complete with the warp tubes and coins. The references can be blatantly obvious or something completely obscure, so you have to pay attention to catch them all.

ADV tapped some of its best voice actors for the production. I think the breakout star of the series is Jason Douglas, who plays the ever energetic Michael Hanagada. Jason is best known for characters like Lord Ilpalazzo from Excel Saga and Leon from Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, but he plays Hanagada masterfully. Even when there were funky things going on with lipflaps from the original Japanese (as he noted in the Commentary track), he kept the characterization true to Hanagada's unique nature. Tiffany Grant (Asuka, Neon Genesis Evangelion) plays eccentric 13-year old scientist Dr. Tsukumo. Hillary Haag (Menchi, Excel Saga) is Tsukumo's assistant, Kiku #8. Monica Rial (Kirika Yumura, Noir) plays feisty Himawari Natsuwa. Kira Vincent-Davis (Ruri, Martian Successor Nadesico) is rocker Yuri Fuyude. Relative newcomer Nancy Novotny (Yomi, Azumanga Daioh) plays folk singer Ayame Akimo. Rounding out the main cast is Luci Christian (Himeno Awayuki, Pretear) as former child star Sakura Haruno.

One of the best features on the disc is the ADR Outtakes. The crew gets to have a ton of fun with alternate lines for some key scenes. They're something that truly needs to be experienced for yourself. If you want to have even more fun with it, watch them before you actually watch the episodes. The lines will keep you in stitches for hours and then provide even more fun when you're watching the series itself. Another great feature on the disc is the commentary with Director John Swasey (in his directoral debut), and voice actors Jason Douglas, Tiffany Grant and Luci Christian. They give you some insight into the production and some of the fun you can have while working on the dub production for an anime series. The only thing that was a let down was the fact that the commentary was only on the first episode. Personally, I would have liked to have had the commentary on all four episodes, if only to hear the comments as the insanity builds up in the series.

ADV got themselves a great one with Wandaba Style. It's the kind of series that will appeal to a large variety of anime fans, from action fans to the hard core shoujo fanatics. Wandaba Style is going to be one of the HUGE hits of 2005. Even after just seeing the one DVD, it's one series that has made it onto my all-time favorite series list. Now I have to wait for Volume 2. Comedy fans, get out there and get this series. You won't regret it! Yes, Wandaba Style is go!

Wandaba Style Vol. 1: Rocket to Stardom
WonderFarm/Wandabastyle Project
Distributed by
ADV Films
Release Info
Volume 1
Bilingual DVD
Dolby Digital 5.1 Eng./2.0 Jap.
Run Time: 100 min

MSRP: $29.98
Street Date: Jan 25, 2005