What Is It?
In the past, anime series were mostly either original or based on manga. More recently, there have been more titles based on light novels (Haruhi Suzumiya being the most notable). Oh! Edo Rocket is based on, of all things, a stage play.
In it, the average people of Edo are being oppressed by the government’s prohibition on luxury items, but fireworks maker Seikichi Tamaya intends to keep honing his skills. The magistrate’s special agents chase after “sky beasts”–strange alien visitors–but it is a difficult task to say the least. Then, Seikichi is visited by a strange girl who wants him to make fireworks that can reach the moon.
Why’s It Awesome?
First of all, Oh! Edo Rocket has a very unique style. The character designs are strange, but very, very iconic. The backgrounds look like woodblock prints or calligraphy paintings. The background music is mostly big band jazz. The story moves at a hectic pace, and the absurdity of it all is counterbalanced by the brutal reality of society (such as how the local policeman beats Seikichi, who in turn can only prostrate himself and apologize), and the string of murders plaguing Edo.
The show also makes a very conscious and calculated effort to break certain rules. The characters relentlessly break the fourth wall, and anachronism is likewise constant. Not only is Seikichi trying to put Japanese fireworks into orbit, but televisions, vacuum cleaners, and so on pop up in iconic places, though the characters are quick to object that “This is supposed to be a period drama!”
Oh! Edo Rocket is a fast-paced action-adventure kind of story with lots of twists and turns, and many characters with dark secrets. To cover that angle, I would lean towards something awesomely cinematic, like Spirit of the Century, or character drama oriented like Prime Time Adventures, though the right group could do it just fine with something like BESM. A particularly whacked-out new Oracle might turn In A Wicked Age into the right tool for the job too (the show’s “Men In Black” have some interesting and Unique Particular Strengths).
Breaking the fourth wall in an RPG is a strange proposition, considering the fourth wall implies an audience. The characters of Oh! Edo Rocket make enough references to animation cels and such that it’s hard to imagine capturing the show’s charm without some equivalent. Granted, the characters can seldom use that to their advantage per se, so it could be a pure role-playing thing that the characters occasionally get to talking about their character sheets or dice rolls. Video games do that kind of thing all the time (“Van, what’s an inn?” “It’s a place where you restore HP and MP..”), albeit usually for a specific purpose. Create and useful foruth wall breakage–being aware of other scenes, peeking at someone’s character sheet, etc.–could fall under some kind of drama point mechanic too.
Next Time: Paul Robertson’s Animations