In 10 Words or Less
T&A comedy from beyond the stars
Likes: Anime, T&A comedy
Dislikes: Weak puns, excessive plot
Hates: Sex-shy anime characters
Why am I drawn to anime series like Sekirei and Cat Planet Cuties? Basically the same reason why, as a young man, I was drawn to live-action American comedies like Hardbodies, Stewardess School, and Hamburger: The Motion Picture. As a heterosexual male with a preference for the curvier of the species, it's hard to not be attracted to a show that can titillate and make you laugh. Isn't that the dream for guys, to find a girl who is not only beautiful, but funny as well? The popularity of Sarah Silverman would certainly speak to it being the truth. So in that case, shows like Cat Planet Cuties are the animated equivalent of an Erinn Hayes.
Thankfully, Cat Planet Cuties (Asobi ni Ikuyo) brings more to the table than many sets of ample breasts (unlike other series that shall remain named earlier in this review.) Yet another harem anime, this show surrounds nerdy Kio with not only Aoi and Manami, a pair of girls who want him, yet can't let themselves show it, but a buxom alien cat woman named Eris, who is more than willing to make her affection for the guy known. Of course, as is par for the harem course, Kio is debilitated by his shyness regarding the girls, and freaks out any time there's a bit of contact or a flash of flesh. It may help drag out the tangled romances a bit, keeping him from pouncing on the first available girl, but it gets tired seeing a guy lose it whenever he sees a breast.
In this show, Eris arrives on Earth to gather info about the humans, and ends up staying with Kio, where she studies culture via the porno under his bed. Her people, the Catians, declare his home an embassy, from which they attempt diplomatic relations with Earth. Having a bunch of big-breasted aliens whose understanding of clothing and relationships is drawn from nudie mags doesn't sit well with Manami, Kio's lifelong best friend, or Aoi, a shy girl from school attempting to make a connection with him. However, there are bigger fish to fry, since the arrival of the Catians has caused conflict with the Dogishua, a dog-like alien race who have long established a base of power on this planet, and don't want the Catians around
The show bounces back and forth (pun intended) between the sex comedy of Kio's interactions with the girls, the romantic drama of the competition between Aoi, Manami and Eris, and the sci-fi action of the struggle between the Catians and Dogishua, building to a climactic battle with the fate of the Earth on the line. While the action is exciting and the romance gets plenty of play, the general tone of the series is comedic, and frequently quite silly. Each episode opens with a parody of an old TV show (keep your ears open for the Red Dwarf music), there's a subplot about a cult of kitty worshippers led by a Greek heiress that adds a bunch of new oddballs to the group, and the show includes lots of broad comedy, like a trip to the beach that illustrates the problems of sharing a swimsuit with a woman who has a tail. If anything clearly states where this sci-fi and T&A show is coming from, it would be a gun that can remove clothing.
It's such a light-hearted series that when it gets deep in episode nine, a reflective entry that focuses on the Catians' Assistroids, helper robots who once were designed to look like the Catians, it's a harsh speedbump that threatens to derail the series. There's also a bit of pile-on in terms of the plot, which can lead to some confusion, a mortal enemy of funny. The introduction of the Dogishua, done through shadowy cut-aways and small glimpses, is a bit off-balance and harshly integrated, while the addition of Ichika, a character who grows in importance as the series continues, is hardly explained at all, just showing up suddenly.
Though Eris is adorable and a cosplay dream with her kitty ears and tail, the real breakout stars of this series are the Assistroids, whose design makes them a perfect mascot for the series. Communicating via hand-held (and frequently misspelled) placards, they are always around in legion, and willing to lend a hand. While their looks, signs and sheer numbers make them fun, it's when the show's stars are assigned personal Assistroids that they become great, as they can be assigned personalities, like Manami's little Yun-Fat, named and styled after the movie star, complete with a flock of doves. Cutesy, yes, but take them out, and the show suffers.
If the end of the series' big build-up and sci-fi blow-out doesn't jive with the silliness of the rest of the series, that's OK, because it comes back with an OVA that's pure fan-service, centered around strip competitive gaming. That's right, all the main characters, locked in game combat, with nudity as the ultimate prize (and presumably the viewer being the big winner. It was hard to believe it when it was happening, but it's so ridiculous, you have to laugh.
Regarding the dialogue, though I am in no way a hardcore anime fan (watching a series here or there that catches my fancy) I generally stick to the original Japanese voices with English subtitles. However, this is one of the few series I've watched where I found the English voices to be more entertaining, perhaps in part because their more Americanized, fun spirit paired better with the tone of the series than the more formal translation. Though I certainly could have done without the cat and dog puns, which were definitely a state-side invention and are paws-itively terrible. See?
The packaging here leans to the excessive, as the Blu-ray/DVD combo set includes four discs (two of each format) in a pair of standard-width, dual-hubbed keepcases. These arrive in an impressively heavy cardboard slipcase (with an additional paper buffer on top to reach the height of a DVD case.) The discs feature animated anamorphic widescreen menus that offer an option to watch all the episodes, select shows, adjust the languages and check out the extras. Audio options include Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 soundtracks, while subtitles are available in English.
The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfers deliver gorgeous visuals that are packed with rich, bold color, a clean, well-defined image and outlines that don't suffer from pixelation (unless you get right on top of it.) The clarity does make the several CG shots inserted into the animation stand out more than they might otherwise, but it's a trade-off that's well worth it, as this is a great-looking series loaded with eye candy and nicely detailed settings, so seeing it all clearly is great. There are no digital distractions either (outside of some very minor artifacting in solid blocks of color (that's only evident if you're very up-close and looking for it.)
Considering all of the bombast this series offers up on-screen, the audio presentation is a bit of a disappointment. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English track is clean and distortion-free, there's not a lot for the surround speakers to do, with the exception of some of the outer-space scenes and the Catian's powers and technology. In fact, if you flip between the English 5.1 and the Japanese 2.0, you wouldn't notice a lot of difference depending on the scene you're watching (outside of the language of course.) Other than that, the mix is handled well, keeping the dialogue, score and sound effects neatly separate.
This set offers up a nice selection of extras for fans of the show, especially if you enjoy the music. Up first is a pair of audio commentaries, with ADR director Scott Sager and actresses Monica Rial (Aoi) and Tia Ballard (Eris) on the first episode, and voice director Christopher Bevins and actors Aaron Dismuke (Kio) and Brittney Karbowski (Manami) on episode nine. These are fun, lively tracks, benefiting from the friendship between the participants, as they joke and keep things light. Sanger's an effective host, questioning his track-mates about more general anime topics, and touching on the show at hand at points (including pointing out a creepy detail that probably goes unnoticed otherwise) while the other track sticks more closely to the episode, focusing on the show's musical elements. The series isn't the most serious of productions, and the participants in these commentaries treat it as such making for a good listen.
It's hard to explain what the next set of extras, 14 brief clips, is, because the title "Extra Bonus Features" doesn't really explain much. It seems like they are original bumpers from the end of the episodes (since they match up with the "next time on" theme) but they are completely wacky, with silly nonsensical dialogue. Now, these could be American outtakes, but there are English translation subtitles that include some of the odd topics as well, so it's not very clear. They are pretty funny though, as they What's Up Tiger Lily? the animation.
The show's opening and closing themes, seven in all, running a bit shy of 11 minutes, are presented without the credits over the animation (as well as without the insert recap animation on the closing themes.) This makes a lot of a sense for the opening sequence, as the great animation isn't covered up with words, but the end animation is just one of the female characters sitting in close-up in the sun (so the focus is on her body, with no face showing.) It's a chance to ogle a cartoon, but not much happens.
The Bottom Line
Approaching this series, the main appeal was as obvious as the lumps on Eris' chest, but after watching the set, it became clear that it offered more than T&A-powered laughs and titillation. Even if it was still silly harem anime at its core, at least it's funny. The set presents the show in beautiful quality, and throws in a few entertaining extras to boot, making it easy to recommend this set to anyone who enjoys curvy cartoons, male wish fulfillment, exciting action and fun comedy.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.