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Joukamachi no Dandelion – Anime Family Done (Mostly) Right


Here’s the story, of a lovely family.

Family is so often mined for drama, and siblings relationships have unique challenges in the anime medium. Joukamachi no Dandelion ended up dodging most of those issues, to give us a story as built around the theme of family as Uchouten Kazoku, but with a much fluffier, sillier, and more idealistic bent. It’s a good little show, if a touch uneven.

I went into this show oddly hyped up. I blame Enzo; on the summer preview, he picked it out as a potential sleeper, and I’ve learned to pay attention to the shows Enzo gets hyped up on. Doesn’t mean they’ll always be good, but he has good instincts. But don’t tell him I said that, *tsuuuun*.

The premise is silly. A royal family, cameras everywhere, special powers, an election for the next king, and we’re expected to believe that royalty would live in a normal house, and the kids wouldn’t be spoiled rotten by power and privilege? You have to know going in that this isn’t trying to paint a terribly “realistic” view of the human condition. I use the word “realistic” there because I’ve always considered realists to be cynics who don’t want to admit it. Why not be optimistic, even idealistic? It’s better than being jaded, and idealism need not abandon prudence. But Joukamachi no Dandelion is far enough from how history would suggest that most royalty acts. You have to accept that going in. It’s the price of admission.

One in, the first few episode were … shaky, to be honest. Not bad, but nothing especially worth talking about. That’s why we didn’t end up publishing an intro post, though I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that “Not enough hours in the day for those who were watching it” wasn’t the more correct answer.

But as it went on, it got better. Part of that is because we got to know the characters better, and with a main cast of nine siblings, requiring an episode or three to nail everybody’s personality down is reasonable. Another part is the introduction of more characters—friends for princes and princesses of every age, though Teru and Shiori, as the youngest two, got less development there (and throughout). That not only opened up more avenues for comedy, it gave more opportunities for character development as well.

Character development was the key. The first few episode mainly consisted of gags. Once again, they weren’t bad, but I can only watch Akane get embarrassed about someone seeing her panties so many times before I grumble about putting some pants on and change the channel. When the storylines started really digging into how each character ticked, and what they wanted to do/be, the episodes got better. Of course, there was still variability—if you didn’t like a certain character that much, and they were the focus of two-thirds of an episode, it could be a real bummer. But even then, most episodes touched several characters’ stories. True, maybe I wanted twelve episodes of Shu and his new girlfriend Hana, who were weapon’s grade adorable together, but that’s because I’m a hopeless romantic. And they were adorable. Friggin’ adorable. Can not emphasize enough!

Not that all was peaches and cream. My biggest gripe: The incest undertones in several relationships. Now look, I have no problem with incest as a theme. I wrote an editorial about it! In real life it’s icky, sure, but do whatever you like in fiction. The forbidden fruit is fascinating for a reason. But I felt like this isn’t a story that benefited from it. Here’s where I get into telling the author how they should have done their job, and not in a storytelling sense (which could be considered an execution mistake), but in a decision that was likely deliberately made. I brushed on this in an Arslan Senki comment earlier, about how tricky it is to do that. It’s their story, not mine! That choice can’t be wrong, though it can certainly be something I didn’t like (wrong for me, if you will), and something that detracts from my enjoyment of the work.

But there it is. Were I to be advising the author, I would take out some of the incest subtext between the two pairs of twins, Kanade & Shu, and Misaki & Haruka (and occasionally Shu & Akane). And who knows, maybe those weren’t there in the manga, and maybe it only feels like they’re there because anime has trained us to look for love where other people wouldn’t. But I know that No Game No Life managed to portray siblings that were extremely close to one another, yet had almost no incest subtext. It’s possible, and it must be managed carefully if you’re working in the anime & manga realm. So I didn’t like that part so much.

Save for that, and for the shaky start, I ended up enjoying Joukamachi no Dandelion quite a bit. And as for who ended up becoming the next king (spoiler alert, watch the episode first…), I was surprised that it ended up being Shu. Surprised and pleased, mostly. Aoi’s withdrawal in the last episode took what seemed a won race and threw a wrench in the works, which I liked because it was so clearly what she needed to do for her own development. I quipped on twitter that Shu beating the former runner-up Kanade gave a sort of Obama/Hillary feeling, and he was still usually behind Akane as well, but in truth the citizens were voting largely by age, which is entirely reasonable when the oldest candidates are still in high school.

No, the only two characters that could have the come-from-behind victory and conceivably take the crown were Shu and Akane (or maybe Misaki, but she was pretty distant in the polls), and since Akane, as the main character, seemed the most obvious choice, I’m glad it wasn’t her. That wasn’t her arc. And everyone did have an arc (save for perhaps Shiori, and Teru and Haruka are both debatable), which is a pretty sweet trick for a twelve-episode series with nine main characters.

In the end, this was as good of a series as I expected going in. That is: Better than most people expected, but not the season-defining revelation that we’re usually hoping for when we call something a sleeper. Which means that you probably didn’t expect anything out of this series, and may not have watched it. Give it a shot! I felt it was worth it in the end.

My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: My morning routine, True Ends, Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals, and What are your two skills?

September 21, 2015 at 10:34 pm
20 comments »
  • September 21, 2015 at 10:53 pmZen

    My biggest gripe: The incest undertones in several relationships.

    Just like you, my problem with incestuous undertones here has nothing to to with moral outrage. Rather, I’m perplexed that these sorts of elements would be intentionally included in a story that’s all about what is otherwise an idealized, wholesome family. Thematically it’s simply out of place and jarring, sticking out like a sore thumb. It feels…unnatural…like something that would be infinitesimally unlikely given the probabilistic confines of Joukamachi’s overly idealized world. A sort of uncanny valley effect…

  • September 22, 2015 at 12:25 amPancakes

    Dandelion IMO is a show that had a good idea, but hurt its implementation by adding needless accessories. Overall I would liken the show to a bowl of ice cream, by itself it’s good enough and depending on taste could use some syrup or sprinkles. Dandelion though decided to add too much in the way of condiments, creating something that doesn’t taste good as a whole. If the show had removed just one or two of its toppings, it would have been a fun little family-based comedy in the vein of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei; those additions however served to enhance the flaws already present and introduce more on top of it.

    Beyond the incest undertones (which you’ve described perfectly Stilts), the main issue I had throughout was the presence of magic. Dandelion did not really need this mechanic to work right, each sibling (to a degree) was different enough that the show could have functioned fine just based upon character quirks without the need for “special abilities” on top of it. Others may disagree, but IMO Dandelion would have worked just as well (if not better) by keeping its idyllism on the this side of fantasy.

    Nevertheless though I enjoyed Dandelion as a comedy waster, a decent bit of fun for the week, but a series never able to show itself to be one worth uniquely remembering.

    • September 22, 2015 at 12:34 amStilts

      Dammit, Pancakes. DAMMIT.

      Now I want ice cream. With a bunch of sprinkles! Also, maybe some pancakes. *eyes*

      On a more substantive note: I didn’t mind the magic. In fact, I kinda liked it. It didn’t always work in every situation, but it was kinda fun. Though neither can I say that it especially added to the story. I just don’t happen to think it detracted either. Personal preference there, for sure.

      • September 27, 2015 at 7:56 amgunnerbloom

        Agree with you, I also don’t mind magic.
        But they seem unexplored in the story.

        No bad guys?
        Only royal family has magic?
        How their father got ability in first place?

        It seems the author added magics as second thought, which made it less and less important.

  • September 22, 2015 at 3:08 amstardf29

    Personally, this show was one of my favorites of the season (though this season had a lot of those). It had pretty much everything I could ask for in a single 12-episode series: fun characters, good character development, a strong focus on familial love, a complete story, and even a cute romance. There’s really not much more I could ask for.

    As for the incestuous subtexts, they’re nowhere near as bad as they could have been. Especially compared to Danchigai, another family-themed show (albeit a short) which has moments of genuinely sweet familial love but the incestuous subtexts could really get in the way of that. Honestly, and maybe this is just me being somewhat desensitized to this, but I don’t think anything in this show ever really got to the point where I thought there was anything beyond sibling love going on; I suppose Misaki might feel closer to Haruka than most sisters would toward their brother, but it’s kept restrained enough that I could still see it as sibling affection (her lustful persona notwithstanding). (Also, for the record, if anything, the anime toned down the subtext from the original manga, which had Shuu be much more of a siscon for Akane…)

    I also liked the whole superpower aspect. It was a nice way of indicating how these siblings were part of a royal family, with all the power and responsibility it came with, and it provided some fun moments but also played parts in various characters’ stories, particularly Aoi, Kanade, and Misaki.

    One thing that still gets me is how this was originally a Manga Time Kirara series, coming from the same magazine that gave us Sakura Trick and Koufuku Graffiti. Obviously, this show is different in many ways from those and most other Kirara series with anime adaptations; that said, with Koufuku Graffiti in winter, Hello! Kin-iro Mosaic in spring, this show (and Gakkou Gurashi, if you want to count Forward stuff) this season, and hopefully next season’s Gochiusa, this entire year could very well have one top-notch Kirara adaptation each season.

    • September 22, 2015 at 11:39 amArche

      You’ve summed up my thoughts perfectly.

      Kirara adaptations rarely aren’t my favorite show of the season and Dandelion was no exception. They successfully made a sizable cast grow on you in a single season. I also prefer shows end with a conclusion (Save for a split cour) and Dandelion pulled it off without taking the route many expected (Akane winning). It may have been idealistic but it was everything I wanted in a show that kicked off the weekend

  • September 22, 2015 at 4:23 amMistic

    Oh, yes, it was nice. I also support more of Shuu and Hana! They were endearing.

    Also, liked the conclusion. For all the things about idols and magical girls, the evolution of the votes was pretty much logical, and so was the ending.
    Show Spoiler ▼

  • September 22, 2015 at 5:35 am15FAN

    I enjoyed this show a lot ! Yes it had up and downs but showcased not onlt the family but their relationships with friends / and the public ! I said before the nicest family / like Summer Wars1

    Now for the implied incest / it was a shame that some people dropped this show because it was pretty much omitted after ! If anything the stong bonds were shown as caring silings !

    Now I can easily dimiss the Kanade / Shuu and Akane / Shuu because of what happened withe accident ! Kanade wanting to fix Shuu’s leg better!

    For Shuu I think their is some guilt from that day but he is the Prez of the Akane Fan Club but that also got tone-down ! If anything I think it goes back to protecting her ! Even in a family some siblings tend to hang together !

    Now Misaki / Haruka is another deal even though that was gone too later! But you could kinda dismmis that too asit was her clone Shaura / Lust that was doing in ! Misaki by herself ( Or Whole ) didnt do that ! Yes it was a bad idea but a special occurence ! Again it was gone !

    es the gags were hit or miss but I was ROFL when Soichiro warned Kanade not to conjure anything crazy to watch the house like the drones ( very much in the news ) but the Space Oydessy Monolith which is a mystery still ( waiting for the final move yet)

    But the reason wy the election was called because in the final EP Soichiro had only one path that was King but wanted his siblings to find their own Paths !

    A very good job of having all kinds of material and finishing it w/o feeling rushed ! Unlike a couple of other animes that have fallen !

    But that was great with Akane with the Dandelion at the end just like EP 1 ? when she wanted to disapperar but instead grew !

    • September 22, 2015 at 2:06 pmStilts

      I think the dandelion was both a reference to the title, and meant to symbolize that Akane has grown and blossomed. Not a lot, perhaps, but certainly some.

  • September 22, 2015 at 5:48 amamado

    no no, you guys got it all wrong.

    the anime has downplayed the incest tones. there’s actually quite a ton more in the manga, the source material.

    to make a full list of it:
    shuuXkanade
    shuuXakane
    akaneXkanade
    akaneXharuka
    harukaXmisaki
    teruXshiori

    of course none of those has really been gone in detail or reciprocated fully yet, but the author definitely had the intent to appeal those.

    also really? no game no life have the siblings close yet not quite incestuous? perhaps the anime didnt really showcase it well and lack some particular scenes, but there’s definitely something “more” than a sibling feeling in there, at least on shiro’s side.

    • September 22, 2015 at 12:44 pmStilts

      T-that’s good to hear then! (That the anime downplayed the incest.) Which goes to show what I was talking about—it’s hard to criticize a deliberate authorial choice as wrong, it just wasn’t for me.

      As for No Game No Life, it does benefit from them being step-siblings. But even then, it’s clear that while they’re very close, there are no suggestive blushing scenes (such as when Shiro gets stripped in the final contests of the anime), and when they first trick Steph onto their side, there’s no sign of jealousy from Shiro that her nii is interested in another girl.

      Yes, they’re close. VERY close. So close as to be codependent, which is why I named them both together (as Kuuhaku) my best characters of 2014. But it’s not a romantic feeling. They’re almost like one character split into two, in a way most twin characters (the ones in this show included) don’t feel like.

      Plus, YMMV.

  • September 22, 2015 at 7:24 amVsAllGaming

    I really wasnt expecting much from this show. When I read about it, it didnt catch my interest too much but a friend of mine convinced me to check it out and I did end up enjoying it. I wouldnt call it a sleeper of the season but it was good for what it was. Overall I give it about a 7/10.

  • September 22, 2015 at 8:37 amEl Goopo

    Frankly I have no idea where you guys are seeing all this incest. Even if I consider the most obvious brother/sister “pairing”, I saw no real signs of incestuous desires there, just an affection between siblings who are young enough to not know the difference between romantic and platonic/familial love. Kids do act this way sometimes; it doesn’t mean they want to bone-zone one another. In fact I saw nothing worse here than I saw in NGNL.

    • September 22, 2015 at 12:50 pmStilts

      And who knows, maybe those weren’t there in the manga, and maybe it only feels like they’re there because anime has trained us to look for love where other people wouldn’t.

      Though according to amado, the incest was actually MORE prevalent in the manga, you’re not without a point. If this were happening in a Western-produced cartoon (say, Avatar: The Last Airbender), I may look a touch askance at a few instances, but mostly I’d accept that some of these siblings are just close. Hell, I’ve seen some real life siblings who acted, in the words of their parents, “like an old married couple,” but that’s just because they had complimentary personalities.

      It’s just that anime has conditioned us to look for these things, so what might give a response of, “Hmm, that was a little odd,” in a book written by a non-Japanese author, here the mind immediately goes to “Wincest spotted!” Also, like I said above, YMMV.

      • September 22, 2015 at 1:51 pmEl Goopo

        Ah, yes, I see what you mean now. I’ve found that it’s way too easy to condition yourself for such things, so I tend to give stories the benefit of the doubt. If it’s clearly the intent of the story to present a given theme (incest) and they fail to explore it, or try to have their cake and eat it too, then I’ll get very annoyed. But if it’s just me reading into things a bit, then I give them the benefit of the doubt. Even amando’s comments could be construed as trying too hard to see incestuous overtones that aren’t really intended as such, but of course I couldn’t know for sure until I read the manga.

        At any rate, neat to have a discussion about this that doesn’t devolve into the usual junk, so kudos, and thanks for that!

      • September 22, 2015 at 2:11 pmStilts

        It sounds like amado has it on the nose, from some of the examples starqo gives below.

        Though in this case, it sounds like your chosen bias (because biases aren’t always a bad thing!) ended up giving you a slightly more enjoyable viewing experience, so you win this round! *shakes fist* :D Though even then, a few marginally “off” moments didn’t lessen my enjoyment much.

        Np! And thanks for coming by to chat :D

  • September 22, 2015 at 11:38 amstarqo

    My anime of the season, right here. As things are now, it would’ve been my anime of the year, if it weren’t for Fafner Exodus.

    About the supposed “incestuous subtext”…the original manga is actually more blatant. The anime tones down anything like that during scenes adapted from the manga (sometimes out of existence).

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Yeah, as El Goopo said, I didn’t see anything worse in this anime than in No Game No Life.

  • September 22, 2015 at 12:00 pms_w

    I enjoyed the series as it was, “A big bowl of ice cream” as Pancakes put it.

    The only bit that bugged me was that while all of the other kids developed and found something to do, Akane just became a little less shy… and that’s it. I got the impression that she was going to be our main heroine, but she really wasn’t, so by the end I was a little disappointed in the way she wound up with nothing really in the end.

    And then Shu gets the crown, although he doesn’t really do anything either. Akane works to overcome her problems and try to win the election on her own, but Shu has his GF do all of the planning… I dunno. Something about that bugs me on some level.

    I agree that beginning Akane would make a terrible ruler, but ending Akane is much better than that.

    Aoi abdicating was obvious. That was telegraphed from episode 1. She never wanted the job.

    Overall, it was better than about 80% of the summer anime, so it was well-done… I just felt the ending was a little forced.

    • September 22, 2015 at 12:53 pmStilts

      I dunno. I liked Akane’s modest progression. Sometimes a big change isn’t what’s needed. Sometimes a little change over time is what makes us grow. In fact, that’s usually what it is—big change comes seldom, but if you improve 1% every week, within a year you’re a changed person.

  • September 27, 2015 at 7:13 amgunnerbloom

    I really love this anime, it’s both funny and heartwarming.
    I feel it’s way too short to end in 12 episodes. There’s so many things left unexplored.