Oh boy, this is sure a nostalgia trip. Way back in 2008, I was barely even alive based on my recollection, and I ended up watching an odd little late 1990’s fantasy anime about a massive prick of an adventurer. I watched the subtitled version, because I felt like it. When I was bored back in late June and wanted a new manga to read, I looked this forgotten series up and decided to give its dub a whirl. But is this a treasure worth remembering, or just a piece of crap that deserved to be forgotten by everyone? Hit the jump and leap elbow first!
Gokudo (Dub) Review
Length: 26 Episodes
Release Year: 1999
Studio: Trans Arts/Media Blasters
The show’s title is referring to the main character, Gokudo Yuccot Kikansky, a total jerk. He is a self absorbed, womanizing, greedy, impatient, and pretty much represents all seven Sins. But I would not have him any other way. As for Gokudo’s design, it looks a bit bland, just some guy with a wonderfully sneary face, long messy blonde hair, a red cape, and black leather-ish outfit. This youth begins his story by tricking a mysterious old woman who he forces to pay for his dinner, robs her, and goes back to his room at an inn to avoid her talk about his destiny. These might seem like the traits of an awful individual, but Gokudo is so expressive and his sheer lack of consideration is damn near admirable. Just in the way people can find a badass character to be enjoyable, it is also fun to see a ponce get his kamuffin, often by a very unfavorable margin.
After searching his stolen goods, all he comes up with is a magical rock that summons a Djinn named Djinn. Djinn himself has the appearance of an fat, bearded Indian or Middle Eastern man, with big striped trousers and an open vest. It is generic, but what I find to be odd is how he is actually only seen like that about half the time, since he’s also a shapeshifter. Now before I can praise the brilliance of his name, or the fact that he is a bit of a drunk, since Gin is a type of alcoholic beverage, this is where we learn about our hero- well, anti-hero’s goals. Which are to get all the babes and all the monies. This is about as one dimensional of a motivation that you can grant a character, but it really just becomes pure greed by the end.
Every time Gokudo sees something that he wants, he throws a fit until he gets it, but only comes off as immature and amusing, rather than just a whiner. Well, except for the few times he just throws a tantrum and acts like a literal baby. After Djinn talks out red caped protagonist’s ears with how material possessions are not important, our anti-hero’s mystical guide transforms his gender to become something that looks like a darker skinned and less well endowed Shantae, but with a hat that looks like the stretched out head of NiGHTS. It looks distinct at least, but Gokudo finds it to be as attractive as possible, but before he can get much further, we follow a standard fantasy trope of a daughter and lord’s daughter getting kidnapped, and his goons attacking our protagonist. It is here where we learn about Gokudo’s combat prowess, and the fact that he is a pretty good swordsman, but that does not matter much, since he gets a magical sword that shoots a beam of fire with the diameter of a meter or so.
While I am not against magical weapons, this is pretty early to give the protagonist one, and he never adopts another one, since he can also summon this magical blade, and shoots fire instead of actually swinging it. I know that this show has a budget, but come one, there is hardly any actual fighting, when the first arc has a good chunk of it. If your main character is a swordsman, I expect him to actually do some on-screen sword fighting.
Moving on, Djinn ends up getting drunk, since his new body lacks the beer belly he had as a man, and ends up turning Gokudo into a skanky looking girl in a glossy red dress. His voice doesn’t change, so people just assume that the transvestite with an awful hairstyle that has multiple bending blonde braids. It is hard to describe, but it makes our anti-hero look even worse, as if selling his teleporting weapon and teleporting it back to make endless money was not bad enough. But as they are about to become table dancers, our two gender bent heroes get captured to become sacrifices.
From here, Gokudo goes on a quest to become king of this land, and to meet his boring brother, who is the white to Gokudo’s black, to defeat the devious magic king who took over this fair kingdom. But that only lasts a few episodes, he becomes king, gets everything he wanted, but loses his freedom, oddly enough, and decides that he will do it his own way. But as he leaves, he meets up with Rubbette, someone who was also captured by the magic king, and is a very nice solid neutral compared to the neutral good and chaotic evil of our two other characters, if you’ll forgive the nerdy analogy.
Rubbette serves as the action girl character, being independent, despite the sexist pigs who like to swarm around her, but I’ll get to the other one in a bit. She is actually pretty enjoyable, if a bit bland at times, but that could be due to how pronounced Gokudo is, but I really hate her character design. She has oddly shorter hairstyle that is similar to Gokudo’s, topped with a green headband, and he has a necklace of rubies, because she’s going on an adventure. A sleeveless green tunic with flimsy white straps going across her forearms, an orange cloth for her belt, red gloves and shoes, and blue tights. It just looks too all over the place, Gokudo is just some guy with a red cape and headband with a dark navy and light blue suit of some sort. I consider myself to be an awful character designer, because I always love throwing in a bunch of colors, and this is why, it often looks like a rainbow mismatch. Oh, and she has purple eyes, so she is a full rainbow.
Moving back to the plot, the story is divided into 5 arcs, the standard fantasy, the egypt based one, the one where the main characters encounter the Gods, Buddha, and learn of their conflicts with the magic world. And if that sounds confusing, it is. They never establish what a Buddha is, and how there are two sun gods, what exactly makes magic in this world, where monsters come from, how religion works, and it all came out to be a big mess if you really look at it. I believe that this is due to the fact that the creators attempted to take 13 light novels and turn them into a 26 episode series, so they lost a lot of exposition. Gokudo is a treat, and the environments he is placed in are very interesting, but him and his crew are not very good at explaining this world’s lore.
Speaking of characters, we get a new two in the second arc, Ikkyu, who is the devil, or a demon, the show never gets that straight, who looks like a black version of Krillin from Dragon Ball. He is not a big player, but he pops in often enough to become a part of the main cast, and I guess that he is fun enough, since he is as big of a prick as our titular character. But he does not have much of a point, which I’ll get to in a bit. The other charter introduced in the second arc is Niari, the prince of the magic world, and son of the old woman who serves as a puppet master for a few things, but never really does anything that visible, probably due to the fact that she has Gokudo and co at her command.
But back to Niari, I first thought he would be a kind of dark Gokudo, due to his darker skin, black hair, teal headband, but no, he is really just another mouth to feed with screentime. Also, he’s a Prince, I appreciate the timeliness of purple part of his desert dweller outfit, representing high wealth due to its rarity, but why is a Prince from a magical kingdom dressed very plainly? Incognito, I would understand, but they never mention it. Also, he is willing to have intercourse with nearly any girl he can find, so he serves as a failing Romeo, since his magic is mostly restricted. But he does have one very, very odd power, to summon a giant robot!
Now, despite the fourth wall shattering in the final episode, and cartoons bit in the first episode, this show kept a pretty solid sense of realism in its world, except for one bit I’ll get to. But a giant robot that looks like a six year old red haired girl in a red dress, with bunny ears? Granted, it is a role for the little bunny girl who makes several transitions, is in nearly every “to be continued” card, but I fail to see her purpose, I adopted her as a pimping angel bunny as my current avatar on Twitter, but why is she here?
Moving back to the story, the fourth arc, which lasts 10 episodes, has all the character, and a monkey king, swap bodies. This leads to two things, one being Gokudo having another appearance for over 40% of this series, which just seems like an odd decision, since he’s this show’s main character. And while his personality and expressions are always there, it just seems foolish to do this for the only season they have. But then they introduced so many characters, had Gokudo and Rubbette join two witches to form a pop idol group, because that is how you do a fantasy story! The most jumbled part comes in during episode 19.
While avoiding the deserts of hell and looking for a woman in a white tiger pelt, Gokudo, along with Djinn, Rubbette, Prince, and a monkey king known as Goku area all body swapped. But they are also accompanied by two snake witches who lived in a magical turnip. An immortal sage who is really a turtle, a devil, a male Panda who is giving birth after he at an odd egg, and the Night Magic Prince, who is driving a cloud carriage containing the crew. Are all being attacked by the other Prince’s father, a demon king, and the carriage is filled with merchandise of Gokudo in Rubbette’s body, during the bit where he, Rubbette in the transformed body of Djinn, and the two snake witches all formed a pop idol group. Oh, and there is this Master Sanzo guy who is trying to kill them as well and sent them to hell in the first place. That might sound jumbled and confusing, but that is due to the poor execution of the whole thing.
I you could even follow that, congratulations, most of those new characters serve little to no purpose. This plot seriously gets its head stuck up its own ass by the end, even though it started out pretty simple. And the final arc does not add much either, it also does not bring with any real conclusions, and just makes every character in the story a lot more powerful. It is a shame, since the ideas themselves are not bad at a face value, just not explained very well, since the show would rather focus on humor.
But jumping back to a page, I noticed that this show follows what is known as, the Dragon Age II plotline. In Dragon Age II, the game shifts between three loosely connected plots, with a big gap between the three. It removes any real sense of an ultimate goal, and since none of the plots really lead into one and other, and the show does not place a lot of emphasis on the powers that a god would have, or how important they are. It is really just a collection of short series involving the same adventurers, but without anything to work towards, other than some loot, but that is flimsy at best. There is an unseen puppet master, but they did not have an ultimate goal either. It is like a bunch of side quests, with no main campaign in sight.
Moving onto the voicework, Gokudo’s voice actor, Daniel Kevin Harrison, does a fantastic job at portraying his snarky and energetic personality, which makes me wonder why the man disappeared off the face of the Earth after a role in 2005. Djinn’s voice disappointed me, since I would expect a guy named Chunky Mon, to have a thick accent of some kind, and not have a calm and soft voice. He does a good job, most of the actors do, but I guess I was just hoping for him to sound like a Jamaican bear. Rubbette’s actress has done a good amount of roles, but she came off with a bit of a too high pitched at times for my tastes. I got used to it, and it was not as bad as the bit I watched with Asuka’s voice in the Neon Genesis Evangelion dub.
While Prince Niari is voiced by Ted Lewis, who I best remember as the announcer of the Pokemon Stadium games, but he feels underused, since the Prince doesn’t do a lot in the show, he is absent for a good chunk of every arc past the second one, which seems dumb to me. Why not use a character with the biggest voice actor you have? And I know that it was translated and everything, but it just seems like a wasted potential, since his performance is very downplayed, but I blame the director. Speaking of translations, who thought it was smart to have Gokudo, Goku, and Gokuda as two characters, it gets confusing when you never really understand who Gokuda is. They also switch between calling the character Sanzo, Master Sanzo and Monk Sanzo. THese are minor, and the humor ranges to some flat jokes, to actually decent , but dumb humor, so I don’t think that the translators were not trying, but their efforts were not the best optimized.
As for the animation, it looks alright. The actual designs are a bit uncreative, and the locations mirror that, but everything moves smooth enough, and the expressions are wonderful. And this might just be a trope with older anime, but there seems to be a subtle grey filter over everything. The colors in this series feel like they should be a bit brighter, which I’m pretty sure could be fixed if you have some good editing software and a few minutes. But things look decent enough, and it only borders insubstantial. There is little wrong with it, but little good about the visuals besides some great expressions. Oh, and Pimp Angel Bunny transition, what the hell were they thinking with this wonderful idea?
As a summary for busy people, Gokudo is a bit bland, and gets very confusing near the halfway mark. But it is enjoyable and pretty fun to watch, with one of the most enjoyable pricks in anime as the protagonist. From solid voicework, and decent animation, it is not the best production on any front, but it is a fun little romp that I do not feel guilty about streaming, since it is over 12 years old and only some studio head would get your money, not the creators.