|Title (English)||Earth Defense Family|
|Title (Japanese)||Chikyuu Bouei Kazoku||Art Sample
|Notes||January 9, 2001-, WoWoW.
See http://www.wowow.co.jp/drama_anime/index.html - ( look for the link on the index page )
|Synopsis|| An ordinary family is chosen to become high-tech fighters to defend the earth from an invasion of horrible alien monsters. The family consists of 8 year old Daiichi, his 14 year old big sister, his 34 year old Mom and his 40 year old Dad. But this isnt your ordinary Japanese family after all.
First of all, everyone is involved in this, not just the kids. All four have their own power suits, special weapons and roles. Daiichi and his sister have flying surf boards, the Moms car transforms into a flying car and the Dads suit doubles as a rocket suit. Everyone is initially enthusiastic about this turn of events, but things start to wear thin pretty quickly when they find out that they are charged for each super weapon that they use to defeat an alien, and the bounties that they get are being swamped by an ever growing debt. And they can't resign because the unknown agency that has chosen them will throw them into debtors prison if they don't pay off their bills.
First episode synopsis: What is the show about? Well this dysfunctional family is sitting around the breakfast table when a fax comes through and transforms into a glowing symbol that starts to talk to everyone. At the same time most of the "things" in the room start to move around and react too ( in an homage to many a horror or sci-fi film ). The family members are "volunteered" to become the "Earth Defense Force" and find themselves momentarily in space where they see an oncoming huge "something" that is coming down to destroy the Earth. Each family member gets a little "smart card", but when they wake up at the kitchen table, the Mother doesn't believe that anything has happened, despite the fact that they all had the same "dream".
|Review||I just got to watch the first episode of "Chikyu Bouei Kazoku"/"Earth Defense Family", the second anime series by Shoji Kawamori to be on TV this new season. While Kawamori's "Arujuna" is a fairly serious adventure show, "Earth Defense Family" is anything but - the first episode was a wild farce, with tons of rapid fire verbal and visual jokes, incredibly fast and detailed action and spectacular animation.
Now, from the ads I originally saw for "Earth Defense Family", I expected it to be just another kid's anime. If you take a quick glance at the illo at the top of the page for the show at the Wowow web site - http://www.wowow.co.jp/drama_anime/index.html - ( look for the link on the index page ) that's what the "poster" suggests. But if you look further down the page at the characters, you'll notice that things are a bit "strange". For example, this is not you "ordinary" anime family - look at the father for instance. But what doesn't show up in those character sketches are the Loony Toons -style transformations that the characters go through, nor the significantly better character animation ( including a very "nice" transformation of the Mom! ).
On top of everything else, the background music is very good, and it looks like there will be "mystery" characters too. I'm going to have to re-watch this episode, if only to try to follow all the animation details better and not miss parts due to laughing too hard. This is turning into quite a promising new season. Dave Baranyi
What quickly becomes the most intriguing part of this series is the interplay of the characters in the family. Daiichi is hyperactive and rather uncontrolled by his parents. He is basically a nice kid, with lots of bad habits ( flipping girls skirts, etc. ). His big sister is going through a moody teen phase, really doesnt want anything to do with her family, resents being forced to make the dinners and take care of the house, and is constantly upset that she has to spend her spare time saving the world instead of being with her friends. Dai's Mom is the real babe of the show, a hard drinker and runs a small ad agency. She is usually too tired at the end of the day to pay attention to Dai, who fights with her all the time, but at the same time adores her. Dai's Dad is an underachiever computer nerd who is immensely overweight and only wants to play computer games or join chat sessions on the web.
Warning - plot spoilers!
In order to try to pay back some of the ever increasing debt, Dai's Mom decides that the family must get in shape and learn to fight with minimum weapons, instead of the costly super weapons, so that their expenses will be less than the bounties. But these night time practices take their toll the big sister becomes even more resentful, the Father starts to fantasize about Dais young and pretty school teacher and even the Mom starts to get frustrated. Dai also starts to wonder if he is wanted, particularly after his mother forces him to give up his alien pet, Hen, and tells him a story about a dog that she wanted when she was young but couldnt have. The story backfires when Dai starts to think about the dogs name, Big One. Dai is no dummy he says, Big, means okii, also means dai one means ichi you named me after the dog!
The frustration leads the Mom to start to notice the attention that she is receiving at work from the younger and handsome photographer who works with her. The photographer keeps on asking her to join him for dinner and drinks after work. One evening when everyone else is waiting at a waterfront park for their hated practice, the Mom is stuck in a traffic jam and getting more and more frustrated. She then absentmindedly pulls at a hair from her bangs and realizes that it is a white hair. This pushes her over the edge and she drives her car over the median and races back into town to meet the photographer at a romantic skyline restaurant. This tryst eventually gets interrupted by the appearance of another alien, but the stage has been set.
A few days later the Mom and the photographer are in a restaurant after work when the photographer shows some photos he has shot of the mystery team that is fighting the aliens. The Mom panics and forces the photographer to drink more and more so that he doesnt notice the resemblance between her and one of the figures in the photos. This causes the photographer to get sick and eventually throw up over the Mom. She brings him to a nearby hotel to let him sleep off his upset stomach while she showers. But as she is sitting there in a hotel robe, another alien attack occurs and she transforms in the apartment. The alien is defeated and the family ends up at home, but when they transform out of their suits, the Mom is in the pink bathrobe, and wont answer when the Dad asks Why?.
Things start to get worse as Dai becomes more resentful of the fact that the family wont let him have Hen, who has returned on its own. Then the sister gets the idea to have a nice family dinner to celebrate the Moms 35th birthday. But everything goes wrong the Dad is threatened with being fired and goes off to a pachinko parlor instead of going home, Dai can't find anything to get his mom for her birthday and is searching all over town, and the Mom has gone off with the photographer again. Finally the sister leaves all the now cold food on the table and goes off to sing karaoke with her friends. Dai is out looking for his Mom to give her a garland of flowers that he made for her, when he sees her walking unsteadily on a bridge, arm-in-arm with the photographer. Dai is just overjoyed to see his mom, but when he calls out to her, she says to the photographer that she doesnt know the kid and they walk by the now totally devastated Dai.
So here we are, at a critical point, with the penultimate alien descending upon Tokyo, and the family at a seemingly irreparable point. The friendly aliens who have surreptitiously provided all the technology to the family now believe that all is lost, which leads into the finale. ( BTW I've deliberately left out tons of details and sub-plots, as well as the what, why and how of the resolution, so this isn't as much of a spoiler as it seems. )
So what is the ultimate message in the series? I think that the message is that despite changing roles, attitudes and expectations the family is still the focal point of society. Will Dais family solve their problems in the long run? I think that the series hints that it doesnt really matter, because thats the way life is families dont always get along, but that they can get by if they want to.
All-in-all, a memorable series. BTW the music was also quite memorable, particularly all the surf guitar music. Listening to the sound track is like being back in the Beach Cities of Southern California in the early 60s.
|Credits||by Shoji Kawamori|
|TV Showing||See the whole series for free? This series may be syndicated to regional cable, satellite or terrestial TV stations. For Europe click here.|
|Date||2001 January 9 -|
|References & Help||Look up the latest data on this title at:
Richard Llewellyn's Animated Divots, or
Anime News Network (see Encyclopedia section) ,
or in "The Anime Encyclopedia" (Clements & McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press, 2001).
Help & further information.