animefringe march 2003 / reviews

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
Format: bilingual DVD, 6 eps., 150 min.
Production: ADV / Yuzo Takada
Comments: A warm action-comedy with cuteness to spare.
Animefringe Reviews:
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku

When a poor innocent cat is fatally wounded as inventor Natsume Kyusaku and his son flee from his financiers, he's left with no choice but to transplant the cat's brain into his latest creation - an android with incredible combative potential. Feline charm and high technology combine to form Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, the product of Kyusaku and Ryunosuke's (his son) love. And if that doesn't sound out-there enough for you yet, just wait until you see the battle sequences!

Wackyness aside, this is a really heartwarming show. Nuku Nuku is extremely cute, and there are ample opportunities for the show to degrade into a fanservice festival. Just as a warning, there is the occasional panty-flash, and there is a tiny bit of female toplessness in the show, but every incident is so innocent, it's hard to consider it the slightest bit "adult." Cat Girl Nuku Nuku is not something to grab if you're looking for nothing more than T&A. Viewers will quickly realize that more than anything, this is a show about a kid coping with estranged parents. You see, Kyusaku's android project was funded entirely by his wife Akiko's company, Mishima Heavy Industries (MHI), and MHI was under the impression it was getting an incredible war machine. After considering his options, Kyusaku decided he didn't want his android to be sold to armies, and thus he took off quickly after completing it. Of course, he also didn't want to leave his son, so he grabbed Ryunosuke as well. The theft of MHI's android added to the simultaneous theft of Akiko's son left her enraged, and the show's opening battle scene displays her anger right off the bat. While the action in Cat Girl Nuku Nuku is exaggerated and practically every comedic opening is acted upon, this is a show with a strong core of love. It deals with the touchy issue of estrangement with a surprising amount of care -- even as androids whack each other through entire buildings.

A good portion of the story's heart comes from Hayashibara Megumi's excellent performance as Nuku Nuku on the Japanese track. Anime viewers have most likely heard her somewhere before, for she also plays the Japanese voice of Pai (3x3 Eyes), Amano Ai (Video Girl Ai), Faye Valentine (Cowboy Bebop), Lina Inverse (Slayers), Girl-Type Ranma (Ranma 1/2), Tira Misu (Sorcerer Hunters), Lime (Saber Marionette), and dozens of other major characters in various shows and movies. She also sings each of the four theme songs (two opening themes, two ending themes) for Cat Girl Nuku Nuku. She has a knack for being cute without becoming annoying, and she's a perfect fit for the naive but loving Nuku Nuku. Yet, she doesn't steal the entire show - I really enjoyed the banter between Akiko's hirelings, Arisa and Kyouko, and Kyusaku. The dub for the show is rather good, as well, though Nuku Nuku's voice actress sounds a bit older than she should. Still, the English actors do a good job of respecting the source material and don't sound like they're simply reading the script off of a teleprompter, which is a nice change from many poorer dubs.

The music for the show is appropriately upbeat, and the opening and ending songs may attract people simply because they're sung by Megumi. Stereo sound is used well, and the series employs sound effects skillfully.

Even though the show is about eleven years old (it was originally released in 1992), the animation quality is still rather high. Sure, there aren't fancy CG effects or even CG smoothing techniques used here, but so long as you're not expecting animation worthy of today's technology, you won't be disappointed. I think the visuals for this show stand up pretty well, despite their age. It's colorful, contains quite a bit of movement throughout and the character designs have been imitated consistently since it first came out. The show is based on the manga by Takada Yuzo, creator of 3x3 Eyes, and it's not hard to make comparisons between Kyusaku and Yakumo (both of them need a haircut!) and Nuku Nuku and Pai (both of them have that cute little single tooth showing!). Of course, this is a very different kind of show, and there are more than enough differences to keep the characters apart from each other, despite visual commonalties.

The menu loads quickly and operates well enough, with an interface very much inspired by Kyusaku's desktop Mac. The extras for this set include clean openings and closings, a picture gallery, and the original Japanese trailer. Of course, there's also ADV previews, but I have trouble considering those "extras" even if I do enjoy watching them. Though I believe ADV has one of the best trailer selection menus, for each trailer can be accessed directly as opposed to being forced to sit through all of the trailers at once. Considering the packed content on the disc (all six episodes are included), the extras are pretty good for the price.

I had a ton of fun watching Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, and I'm now looking forward to the day when the manga is finally published domestically. Even before I started watching anime regularly, this was a series that I was conscious of, and so it's always been something I wanted to see. I couldn't really afford VHS back in the day, and even now, buying all three VHS cassettes will cost you more than just picking up the DVD on its own. If you're looking for something amusing that isn't entirely mindless, then this is a great show to nab when you can spare the cash. It's a genre-defining series that truly deserves some new fans. It's about time we finally got it on DVD here!