Gokudo (Volume 3: Goddess Extraordinaire) Review
And so we come to the halfway point in the continuing saga of Gokudo, anti-hero 'extraordinaire'. This third volume (of six) down-shifts the instalments-per-DVD count from 5 to 4, which means the remaining 16 episodes (of 26 total) will be broken evenly across the last four discs. Considering how much ground was covered in the first two DVDs, this may come as good news to those of you who are finding the headlong rush of events in this show to be a bit too much to digest. (Though, seeing as the original Japanese title - Gokudo-kun Manyuuki - means something like 'Gokudo: Rambling Wanderer', it's not really surprising that this show really gets around.)
Although I've already explained the basic premise of Gokudo elsewhere, I suppose a quick recap of key info couldn't hurt...
- The central characters are currently Gokudo (a base rogue), Rubette (a tomboy princess) and Niari (Prince of the Magic World, but currently busted down to novice magic user rank by his mum).
- The supporting cast of sidekicks generally includes Djinn (a shapeshifting genie with male, female, and dragon forms), Pegasus (a flying horse currently disguised as a human) and Ikkyu (a cheerful demon who enjoys gobbling up souls, given half a chance).
- Everyone else comes and goes, though at the moment Lady Nano (a diminutive Sun Goddess) and her priest Nihi are tagging along and now and then the Queen of the Magic World shows up to check on the group's progress (and just as often thwart it).
- Gokudo and Rubette can each summon a magical weapon (a sword and a bow, respectively). Gokudo's sword has a mind of its own and can shoot flames if the need arises, while Rubette also possesses a magic ring that lets her speak with animals.
- Gokudo's currently on a mission to recover a magic sphere for the Dragon God (brother of Lady Nano), in exchange for which he'll be permanently cured of an aging curse (which will render him a feeble old geezer in less than a week's time should he fail).
- The Magic World, the Buddha World, and the Realm of the Gods are not precisely on cordial terms with one another, so our heroes need to tread carefully so as not to draw the wrath of the various factions. Of course, with Gokudo on the team, tact isn't precisely on the menu...
...so everyone with me so far?
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
11: 'The Destiny of the Hotoke and Magic Gods'
Still hoping to find the magic sphere in the capital of Inaho, the gang chance upon Niari at the seashore... who apparently escaped the clutches of Princess Otto (lovestruck daughter of the Dragon God; see episode nine), but at the cost of being turned into a merman. With a little help from Lady Nano, he gets his legs back (but not his clothes!) and the core party is once more assembled and ready for action. Clues indicate the magic sphere may be found at a shrine near the foot of the mountains, but when they arrive they find the place ransacked, and the White Fox (the shrine's occupant) clearly abducted. Giant footsteps leading away from the shrine suggest the involvement of the Buddha... which is a major problem since Niari, Djinn, and Pegasus are magical creatures and thus considered sworn enemies of the followers of the Buddha.
When a spectral projection of the White Fox (taking the form of a gorgeous girl) appears before our heroes, there's the usual - and predictable - split of reactions. While Rubette attempts to pump her for information on the whereabouts of the magic sphere, the lads (Gokudo and Niari, that is) instead seem more interested in chatting her up... until her shadowy image dissipates into nothingness once more. Lady Nano is convinced that White Fox is being held hostage in the capital, but while this sets Niari and Gokudo to arguing about who will save her, Djinn fears they may be walking into a trap set by the Buddha.
Rubette finds out (from a bird, no less) that there's a big ruckus going on in the capital, and one of the princes there is unwell. No doctor can figure out what's wrong with him and they think the White Fox has possessed him. Niari hatches a plan to pose as a super-doctor, but before the gang can put it into effect, two enormous beings (Ah and Ng) appear from the sky. Apparently they're flunkies for Indra (yet another god) and have a terrible taste in jokes, and one not appreciated by Gokudo, who whips out his magic sword...
12: 'Let's Play Doctor! Here Comes the Magic Sphere!'
Before the fight can really get going, Ah and Ng use their arms flapping in synchronisation to hypnotise Gokudo & Co. Upon waking up, they realise Lady Nano's been abducted, so Djinn and Pegasus revert to their true forms and fly off to locate her while the others continue on foot to the capital city. Through the usual fakery, they manage to convince the locals that Niari is an amazing physician, and the team gets invited up to the royal palace to have a look at the sick prince (Sukyo).
The gang is invited to stay the night, but of course, not all is as it seems. The healthy prince (Hanayo) takes Gokudo aside and explains that the Emperor is interested in Rubette and wants to broker a deal for her. Predictably, Gokudo OK's this plan and goes off to tell Rubette she's been summoned. Of course this only leads to Rubette having to wipe the walls with the Emperor when he tries to lay his greasy hands on her, followed directly by guards pouring in to defend him.
Only care of a distraction by the White Fox do they escape, so they acquiesce to the meeting she sets up between them and Prince Sukyo... who, yes, has the magic sphere and has been hiding it from the Buddha. When he hands it over to Gokudo for safe delivery back to the Dragon God, Prince Hanayo swans in and demands it instead. As things begin to get out of control, Nihi abruptly ditches his disguise and reveals himself to be the Dragon God. Not to be outdone, Prince Hanayo transforms into the god Indra, guardian of the Buddha people. Gokudo takes this opportunity to sneak off with the sphere...
13: 'World Shattering World! Which Way Is the Future of Inaho!?'
The capital city of Inaho burns as Indra and the Dragon God battle one another while searching for Gokudo, while Djinn and Pegasus finally manage to rescue Lady Nano. Meanwhile, our hapless 'hero' is having no luck finding his way out of Inaho, and after another brief run-in with the ineffectual Ah and Ng he gets cornered by Indra and (despite Niari's best efforts) soon thereafter by the Dragon God as well.
In the ensuing Mexican standoff, Djinn and Pegasus return with the Lady Nano, who tries to snatch the magic sphere away from Gokudo. Our lad is having none of this, however, and in the tussle the two of them accidentally tear it in half! This, as one might imagine, is a Bad Thing... primarily for the assembled immortals, however, as it means that gods can no longer live amongst humanity. The heavens crack open and hoovers up Lady Nano, Indra, and the Dragon God.
So this would seem something of a result for our heroes if it weren't for one pesky little detail... Gokudo is still ageing. Luckily for him, as the gods are sealed off from the mortal realm, so are their powers, and the curse lifts of its own accord.
14: 'Identity Crisis! I Am You But Who Are You?'
We next find the gang enjoying some rest and relaxation on a place called Demon Island (nice holiday spot, no doubt), but this is Gokudo after all, so don't expect much of a breather; the fourth major plot arc of the series is set to start... rather spectacularly, in fact, with the lot of them getting sucked into a strange magical vortex before losing consciousness.
Gokudo awakens to the concerned gaze of Ikkyu, doubly suprising as Ikkyu not only seems not to recognise him, but the little demon no longer appears to be evil, either! While taking tea with the priest (Master Tei) whose home he finds himself in, the true horror of the situation becomes apparent to Gokudo... he no longer looks like himself; in fact he's the spitting image of Rubette. Yes, we have come at last to the infamous 'body-switching' plot arc that may provoke snickers of appreciation or snorts of vexation in equal measure, depending upon which Gokudo fan you speak with. To give you the basic run-down, we soon learn that Rubette is now in Djinn's body, Djinn is in Niari's body, and Niari finds himself in a monkey's body... which means, yes, that a monkey currently occupies Gokudo's body (and from what Te reveals, it's apparently a monster that's been causing lots of chaos for the local villagers).
Fortunately for Gokudo, Te is apparently a renowned spiritual master, not to mention a professional monster-catcher and pacifier. This is what's happened to Ikkyu, who he turned good. (Oh, never fear; it won't last.) Rubette and Djinn have less luck in this regard. The former tries to use Djinn's magic to restore herself to her own body... but gets distracted by the 'change into dragon form' spell with disastrous results. Djinn, on the other hand, gets 'befriended' by two cute women who then proceed to drug his sake.
Cutting back to Gokudo, Te tries to enlist his help in fighting the monkey/monster, but the latter's more interested in trying to revert Ikkyu back to his usual evil self so that he'll help Gokudo recover his body. Things look bleak for our 'hero' when he's caught red-handed by Master Tei, but rescue arrives at the last moment in the (most unlikely) form of what appears to be the bastard offspring of an elephant, an egg, and a Furby... ah, yes, Rubette's attempt to turn into a dragon went very wrong indeed. She snatches up Gokudo and scarpers.
Picture, Sound, Menus & Extras
Although the picture quality on this third volume is pretty similar to what we saw on the first and second discs in the Gokudo set, the background grain is slightly more noticeable and I noticed a few minor bits of jagginess in the occasional camera pan. Nothing very serious, but enough to reduce the video score from 8 to 7.
The sound quality is still fine, and even seems to evince a bit of stereo directionality now and then during the fight sequences on this DVD... although I may be fooling myself. What definitely hasn't changed is the high-quality of the voice acting in both the original Japanese and the English dub. (There are, in fact, bits of Gokudo's dialogue that are funnier in the English version.)
Not much has changed on the menus front, particularly not when it comes to the clunkiness of the 'Scene Access' sub-menu. (Fortunately, Gokudo's so fast-paced and silly that you'll probably be marathoning episodes and won't even need to use the chapter selection screen.) However, Volume 3 adds a new wrinkle in the form of a bona fide 'Extras' sub-menu. Although there are only two items listed, it's still a step in the right direction. Special features on this disc include a gallery of 18 pages of production sketches as well as the original textless opening sequence for the series (free of English credits). It's true that this is the same extra that was included as an easter egg on the previous volume, but at least it's been made obvious for those who may have missed it the last time around. (And no, I played around with the menus on this third Gokudo DVD and couldn't locate any easter eggs. From here on out, it may be that any such bonuses will be relegated to this new 'Extras' section.)
I stand by my earlier comments for volumes 1 and 2; Gokudo's a great series. Although I didn't find the conclusion to this last plot arc (the magic sphere) to be quite as interesting as what came before, the antics of Gokudo and pals are always highly entertaining to watch and the 'body-switching' arc promises all sorts of amusing hijinks. And those of you out there who, like me, are fans of the show's adorable bunnygirl (who handles scene changes, montages, and so on) will be happy to hear that she gets a lot more air time on this DVD than on either of the previous two; my fave sequence is probably Bunnygirlzilla rampaging through the capital of Inaho.