Cat's Eye

Tsukasa Hojo is a well-known manga creator in Japan, responsible for the long-running and highly influential series City Hunter. However, there's another story set within the same universe at Ryo Saeba's exploits. It's called Cat's Eye, and in some ways it's arguably better than its lecherous sibling. Despite a couple of live-action attempts to keep the franchise alive, it's been largely forgotten. In some ways, it's a shame, but time has not been kind to the show, which ran from 1983-1984. Whereas City Hunter has managed to adapt and survive well past its television run from 1987-1991, Cat's Eye is a little too mired in the '80s to be notable today.

Michael Heinz, a famous painter and art aficionado, has gone missing along with his immensely valuable collection of rare and precious works. Most of these collectables have wound up in the hands of various criminals. Heinz's three daughters, Ai, Hitomi, and Rui, determine that the artwork may just contain clues to their father's whereabouts, so they decide to steal the pieces back! The team always informs the victim of the theft with a calling card inscribed with the name "Cat's Eye". Amusingly enough, the girls also run a coffee shop of the same name right across the street from the police station. The lead inspector on the thefts, Toshio, also happens to be Hitomi's boyfriend. Since he suspects nothing, the girls get all sorts of leads on their burglaries before they ever occur. Ultimately, it's anybody's guess whether the girls will find their father before their disregard for the law catches up to them.

Cat's Eye has a lot of fun with its plots and its maneuverings, and overall it's a pretty entertaining show. Because its characters are more well-rounded, there's not the feeling of "been there, done that" that sometimes City Hunter exudes. It's also more of a dialogue-driven show, with lots of twists and turns that can be a blast if you understand them all. Fans who get through a lot of the series will be disappointed that it never comes to a real conclusion, but most will also read the manga and find out if the mysterious Michael Heinz is still alive and looking to rejoin his daughters.

Despite my praise, watching Cat's Eye now isn't dissimilar to going back and watching old episodes of All In The Family...they're more entertaining for the retro rewind fun than they are for their storylines. I mean, virtually everything about Cat's Eye screams "early '80s", from the girls doing all their crimes in tight leotards to the closing theme that belongs on a Richard Simmons workout tape. The artwork is also very dated. Since it was only a television program, the animation is very primitive in a lot of spots.

The other main problem with Cat's Eye is that nobody has seen fit to subtitle any but the first few episodes. Although a few fan distributors do have the entire series available for interested parties, unless you speak Japanese, you're out of luck. And, unlike many other shows, Cat's Eye often relies on dialogue in order to make any sense. Without a translation, it's often hopeless--or, even worse, boring. It wouldn't hurt somebody to do a fansub project of this show, but it appears that most of these groups are busy subtitling the latest shows out of Japan before they get picked up for American distribution. It's really unfortunate.

If you can find some episodes of the show subtitled, I encourage you to take a look, if for nothing else but to have a good laugh at what we all looked like twenty years ago. I can't recommend getting too attached, though, unless you actually like watching shows in raw Japanese.

Cat's Eye -- violence -- B-