White Radish Perfect Collection Anime Review
The Item, The Apprentice, and The Evil at Tentacle High
US Release By
Action and Comedy
about 25 minutes total
The White Radish Perfect Collection consists of three of White Radish's shorts.
The Item: Three cute girls--a mage, a technophile, and a superpowered transforming sailor-suited girl--set off to infiltrate an evil looking castle, fight bad things, and take The Item from the Mighty Q'thulhu.
The Apprentice: A young man becomes the apprentice of a powerful sorceress in hopes of furthering his skills. But the sorceress is more interested in gaining power through dark rituals than the study of magic, and her new apprentice may be the key to her success or failure.
The Evil At Tentacle High: An SD poke at what never seems to happen when big, evil, tentacled things invade schools.
Cutethulu: An addition to a later edition, this is a little joke about what happens when two girls buy a Cthulhu doll.
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This collection of shorts by White Radish showcases a solid cross-section of fun anime; each captures some classic anime feel, boiling down a few simple plot elements and adding a little satirical twist. The stories are bare bones (cute, scantily-clad girls fighting monsters and young boys battling evil), but their simple anime-ness, though self-aware, seems earnest. The acting is a bit stiff, and there are some rough spots in the pacing, but overall the flow is pretty good.
An impressive feat for a one-man studio, these shorts are fun enough to be worth watching as a diversion on their own, and good enough to be of particular interest to fans or potential creators of indie anime.
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Since this perfect collection is made up of three individual shorts, I'll cover each briefly, but first some comments on the production in general: One common thread in White Radish's shorts is the way they capture the classic anime feel, boiling down a few simple plot elements and adding a little satirical twist. The stories are bare-bones (cute, scantily-clad girls fighting monsters and young boys battling evil), but their simple anime-ness, though self-aware, seems earnest, rather than feeling like a jaded parody or send-up.
These shorts' one other consistent (and consistently good) feature is their quality art; they have a traditional look (leaning toward chubby and cute), and though the production tools are digital (as with most modern professional Japanese animation), they are animated frame-by-frame from hand-drawn cels. The resulting product definitely has an anime feel to it--simple and rather fanservice-heavy, but still genuine. It's worth noting that of the various non-Japanese indie studios that have produced anime as of the mid-2000s, White Radish is the only one still in operation that uses cel-by-cel animation.
Now for some details on each individual production:
This is, depending on how you look at it, a distilled indie take on the "cute girls offering fanservice and action" class of anime, or a satire of it. I'll go with the middle ground, sort of a straightforward but slightly tongue-in-cheek presentation of all the required elements.
The timing in this piece is a little rough, showing a bit of an amateur air, but overall the action flows smoothly enough, and the various fight sequences came out well enough to be worthwhile. The chubby (not quite SD, but in that direction) character designs are certainly cute, and there's a very nicely done Sailor Moon-style transformation sequence. The voice cast is a tad stiff (some of the blame falling on the editing), but isn't all that bad.
Of the three shorts, this is the longest, most serious, and the closest to a filled-out story (it also has no mature content, unlike the other two). The plot is a simple one--bad sorceress versus idealistic young apprentice--but it actually flows pretty well after a somewhat abrupt start.
There are a couple of nice demon-summoning scenes (the demon even sounds reasonably impressive), and a few minutes are spent developing the characters--the gleefully evil sorceress is certainly fun, mostly because of her expressive face. The centerpiece is probably the climactic action sequence; it doesn't have the most punchy timing but it came out pretty well, and features some nice-looking magical special effects.
In all, The Apprentice shows a significant improvement over the earlier The Item, and demonstrates what White Radish is capable of; the timing is still a bit stiff, but it combines a decent voice cast, decent animation, and a simple but complete story to make an all-around worthy little bite-sized chunk of anime.
The Evil At Tentacle High
The Evil At Tentacle High is about as long as its title--it's really just a visual joke, though it is a pretty good one. The chibi characters are cute, and despite the tentacle porn jab, it's not serious enough to be particularly offensive.
This similar one-joke short replaces The Evil At Tentacle High on a later "Magic & Monsters" edition of the collection; it's also freely viewable online at Newsgrounds.
Cutethulu was produced several years after the other shorts, and it shows--the animation techniques have improved significantly, the art is clean and cute, and the timing is sharp. The voice acting for the handful of lines is perky and, frankly, better than a lot of older professional dubs. It's a nice-looking little gag, and I like the punchline, particularly if you're a Lovecraft fan.
Notably for those interested in production techniques, it's done in Flash, but that's clearly a tool, not a liability or limitation--the animation looks a lot more like modern cel work than "Flash animation." Even at only a minute and a half long, it's pretty impressive for the work of one guy.
Overall, as a collection, this is a nice package--some cheese at the beginning, something more solid in the middle, and a chuckle to finish up. None of the segments break any new ground, but in the end they're fun, which is worth plenty.
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Obviously the first things that come to mind are the variety of other indie shorts, with II: Prologue from Pseudome being the most similar in terms of feel. Project A-ko and Debutante Detective Corps come to mind as other schoolgirl parodies, although I can't think of any fantasy stories with quite the same focused scope--most are more grandiose.
Notes and Trivia
White Radish is currently working on an erotic sci-fi OAV series, Pink Lemonade. They also have a number of shorts (both personal and paid projects) available on their website, which show significant improvement in timing and execution over what's in this collection.
The music for the shows was composed by Vanilla Almond Creme; there was a soundtrack CD available at one point, and all the tracks are now available for free download from the VAC website. I'm actually very partial to the punchy techno instrumental The Disgruntled Postal Worker's Theme Song--it's worth the download if your tastes run in that direction.
US DVD Review
The DVD is a basic production, distributed as a DVD-R (shouldn't be any problem playing it in modern DVD players, but very old ones might not like the disc). The disc features each of the shorts, plus trailers for The Item, The Apprentice, and Pink Lemonade, accessible through the nice-looking animated menu. The video is taken from the digital masters, so it is progressive and looks reasonably good, and the stereo audio is crisp.
There is also a newer version, "White Radish: Magic & Monsters," that replaces The Evil At Tentacle High with a much newer but equally short little joke, Cutethulhu. It also adds multiple commentary tracks and a making-of featurette as extras.
The Apprentice is relatively clean, but The Item has a bit of nudity, and despite being short and SD, The Evil at Tentacle High does indeed feature evil tentacles doing bad things.
Violence: 2 - A bit of serious fighting.
Nudity: 2 - Some exposed skin.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Tentacle rape, but it's silly and short.
Language: 0 - Nothing that I noticed.
Available on DVD directly from White Radish; the alternate "Magic and Monsters" version is the "current" one, but at last check both versions were still for sale. The Apprentice and The Item were both also released on VHS, and are in fact still listed for sale on the website as tapes; those two shorts were also at one point available together on a VideoCD.