Some of you already know that on occasion I take time out from my busy schedule to watch Japanese cartoons. There are many reasons for the rise of animated series in Japan, and at the top of the list is the same reason there are so many reality shows in the US: They’re cheap to produce. The similarity ends there, however, as some (not all) anime can be watched without first cauterizing the pain centers in your brain. (It’s like comparing levels of hell, but Czech reality shows are, from my limited exposure, even worse than the American versions, and even more popular.)
Sometimes I come across a title that says “watch me”. That happened this week, when I stumbled across a 14-episode series called All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku. Sometimes you have to ignore the warning bells in your head and remind yourself that cat girls are generally pretty hot, even in cartoons.
The story is a familiar one. A super-genius scientist has created a super-strong androbot, using a cat brain. Naturally he crafted his super-robot to look like a schoolgirl, and enrolled her at the local academy, so she could learn to have human emotions. The scientist created her to combat the evil cabal intent on taking over the world. Said cabal supports Nuku Nuku’s school in exchange for being allowed to use it as a place to test their evil inventions.
I’m told that Japanese are cliquish and hostile toward outsiders. Judging by the fact that it is nearly certain any “transfer student” arriving at a school will almost always lead to untold destruction, I can’t say as I blame them for being a little slow to accept outsiders. (I am now imagining a story in which an American student transfers to a school in japan, but much like in Galaxy Quest, this is a world where all the stereotypes are all true. American has no idea. On the first day he will be detained and arrive to class late, after everyone else is seated. “Class,” the clueless teacher says, “meet our new transfer student…” Pandemonium breaks out as half the class dives for cover while the other half point to the empty desks next to theirs. (Good things happen to the first person to befriend the transfer student/unstable superweapon.))
Where was I? Oh yes. Nuku Nuku. I watched episode one, and found myself laughing out loud. This was a show that didn’t take itself too seriously, and had fun with the same stereotypes I enjoy commenting on. In each episode, when a character comes on, the action goes to letterbox to allow room for the subtext: “Snobby Rich Girl” or “Nihilistic heart throb”. The show is oddly lacking, it occurs to me as I write this, in a Ninja Girl. All I can figure is she transferred to another school to raise some hell of her own.
It is silly, but they use the silliness to create a couple of nice twists. When we are first introcuced to the evil cabal we see employees of Mishima corporation receiving the message “Secret Call.” in various funny ways. (One employee is sitting on the john and when he pulls out the paper, there is the message. The bathroom stall, conveniently, is an elevator, and down he goes to the prominently-labeled “Evil Meeting Room.” Eventually all the members rise through the floor, dressed in outlandish evil outfits. Hell Mishima appears and addresses his troops.
Some of the troops are more enthusiastic than others. Many in the Evil Meeting Room would prefer that company staff meetings were run in a more traditional fashion, they way they had been when Hell Mishima’s father was in charge. In the end, all the evil plans, while convoluted and doomed to failure as all evil plans are, lack one key ingredient. Evil. Mishima Industries is just another multinational out to increase market share, or as Hell Mishima says, “Take over the WORLD! Bwa ha ha ha!”
“I hope he grows out of this,” one employee mutters to another.
There are a lot of jokes going past that I know enough to spot, but not to get. Nuku Nuku continuously calls the snobby girl by the wrong name, a different one every time, and I’m pretty sure all those misnomers mean things. Not flattering things.
They say that “well begun is half done,” (Ben Franklin is oft credited as being one them) and in the case of this series, I think that’s about right. After the first episode, with thirteen more to go, they’d used at least half of the jokes. Some jokes get funnier with repetition — to a point. Nuku Nuku reached the last of those points around episode three, when the Evil Women (aka marketing department) flashed back to the the laundry machine run amok landing on them — just before the microwave oven run amok landed on them.
Nuku Nuku had one flaw, that I noticed right away but have waited to mention. The opening theme is most decidedly not ridiculous. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to name the show All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, you damn well better have lyrics that match Cutey Honey or Club-To-Death Angel Dokuro-chan.