Super Cat Girl Nuku Nuku

Welcome to Anime 101, class. I know that some of you here have been watching anime for years, and others of you...well, let's just say that you can't tell a Gundam from a Pokemon. In this class, though, we're going to be focusing on the broadest range of anime, the shows that you should know before going on to the classics of the art form. I don't expect you to be wowed by any of the shows here, but I think you'll like many of them anyway.

First up on the required watching list of Anime 101 is a little show called Super Cat Girl Nuku Nuku. This little title started off with a three-part story arc, which we're going to review in depth. Although there were more OVAs created, along with a TV show and a few other specials, they aren't nearly as important and wound up taking the show in directions many felt betrayed the spirit of the original OVA series. At any rate, Nuku Nuku is well known throughout the anime community, so you probably should know a little about it.

Kyusaku and Akiko are quite possibly the world's most disastrous married couple. They have a young son, Ryu, and when the two split up over an android creation that Kyusaku steals from Akiko's family factory, the sparks indeed fly. As Kyusaku and Ryu attempt to escape the blind rage of Akiko, Ryu finds a cat and tries to bring it along for the ride. The cat is accidentally killed in an accident, but Kyusaku thinks that he can help his distraught boy by combining the cat with the android--and thus Nuku Nuku is born. She's a sweet, playful teenager as designed by Kyusaku, and she has some special powers that come from being a robot under that cute skin. Ahem! You there, in the back row...stop giggling! Now, as I was saying, Nuku Nuku ultimately wants to help fulfill Ryu's dream that his parents will one day get back together. But how can that happen with these two nut cases for parents? Don't worry, it all gets resolved by the time the three episodes are over.

Are you still paying attention? There will be a quiz later...good. Let's continue...the animation itself is nothing special. You'll note that the artwork isn't bad, but it is standard for shows of this type created in the early 90s. The music is much the same way. There's no distraction caused by the production itself, but there's no draw from it, either. So what makes Nuku Nuku special? Well, for its comic basis and emphasis on cuteness over all, there's a surprising amount of drama and serious character development. For example, at first, Akiko seems like yet another evil woman bent on revenge. However, as the episodes progress, Akiko becomes less of a monster and more of a caring mother driven not only by her pride, but also her genuine concern for her son. In the same manner, Kyusaku starts off being the heroic father saving his son from a maniac's clutches. However, in the third episode, we see why his marriage had so many problems--he's a callous man in many ways, more interested in Akiko becoming a housewife than in pursuing her own dreams that could still include a family. For a show that only spans an hour and a half, there are some interesting statements made about family, realizing that there are gray areas in every relationship. It explores many of these areas in such a way that we can laugh, knowing that we somehow relate.

What was that question from the lady in the third row? Why is it just an entry-level anime? Well, there's a few reasons why this isn't something for a more advanced course. First off, for a comedy, it's really not that funny. Although the show is fun on the whole, there aren't many moments that make you laugh out loud. Sometimes, it appears that NUKU's creators thought that it could get by on being cute alone. And that does go a long way, don't get me wrong; it's just not the way of the best anime. Second, although it does delve into some relationships far better than other comedies, the basic premise is woefully unoriginal. Cute girls with special powers are a cliché; though it may be entertaining to those new to Japanese animation, Nuku Nuku is too derivative to impress anybody who's been watching anime for any significant length of time. Finally, the lack of any coherent logic behind the show's biggest points makes for choppy waters. How could Nuku Nuku actually exist? Does she have feelings about being a robot? How is it that she really is so little like a cat, yet is called a catgirl? The show simply doesn't get into these questions, and really neither do the sequels. If you start asking questions, the show falls apart.

Do these problems make it bad? No. There's still a lot of entertainment value here; it's still enjoyable even to jaded critics like myself, and it's got its charms. Simply, Super Cat Girl Nuku Nuku is the virtual definition of Anime 101. It's not complex, it's not ultimately an important show, but it's still good to bring a smile to your face. If some of you feel you're ready for the 401 section starting up this afternoon, you can skip this show without missing much. Meanwhile, for the rest of you, start boning up for our conversation on Ninja Scroll and EatMan '98 next week. Class dismissed!

Super Cat Girl Nuku Nuku (OVAs 1-3) -- comic mischief -- B