Movie: Japanese animation, anime for short, often tells interesting stories that folks of all ages can appreciate. It doesn't matter if the show is about young lovers, science fiction, sword & sorcery fantasy or whatever else, there seems to be a market for all the sub-genres available. In general, the Japanese culture allows for a much broader range of entertainment with adult themes often mixed in with the cartoon shows that allow whole families to watch together. One example of this style of entertainment is a newly released on DVD show from ADV, Cultural Cat Nuku Nuku Dash!: Mode One.
The show is part of a twelve episode series that details the life of a female android with super senses and abilities that has lost her memory. She stays with a family in a small town in Japan, some 12 years in the future after a big war. While she doesn't have memories specific to her mission or purpose in life, she does have some automatic programming that takes over and puts her in auto drive when the necessity arises. The series is only slightly related to the original OVA and follow-up series that started in 1992, using some of the same concepts and characters but altering them to form a new continuity (much like the Tenchi series do). I never saw the original series so I can't honestly discuss the merits of one versus the other but this one was pretty good for it's technical limitations.
Episode One: The Happiness Came With Spring Breeze:
This was the episode that established the basic story premise and setting. Nuku Nuku is a young gal, about nineteen years old, who ends up working for the Natsume family as a domestic servant. The teenage son, Ryunosuke, falls in love with her after his father, Kyusaku, let's her stay with the family when she loses her memory. The mother of the family, Akiko, works for Mishima Industries, a local weapon company and the biggest employer of the area. Only dad knows Nuku's secret that she's really a highly advanced android that has been missing in action for a few days. Akiko gets an assignment to track down the missing android, not knowing the machine is right under her nose at home.
Episode Two: Midnight Cats:
Ryunosuke's parents go on vacation, leaving him with Nuku. When an emergency pops up, a neighbor's cat missing in this case, the young couple helps out with the search at night. While trying to find the cat, Nuku is approached by a duplicate of herself that promptly attacks her. When the missing cat is threatened by the android, Nuku goes into battle mode and the fight is on.
Episode Three: Distance In Between Two-Close And Far:
A new androbot is used to locate and capture Nuku. It is in the guise of a flower girl who finds the errant young gal and then starts tearing the town apart while trying to get her quarry. Can anything stop this new androbot or will the entire town crumble into a heap?
Episode Four: Akiko's Melancholy:
Akiko wants a big promotion but the only way she'll get it is if she can locate the missing androbot and destroy it for her employer, Mishima Industries. She gets a little help in this mission in the form of a team of fighter jocks, Arisa and Kyoko. Will they capture Nuku or simply continue wiping out large tracks of property?
Okay, the whole show seemed a little light in terms of depth of character and concept. It had only a bit of the jiggle that guys like and even less of the science fiction concept while emphasizing the romance angle and beat them up action that have been done to death by now. Further, the anime style looked much like some of the Pokemon series shown on Saturday morning television (you know, the rushed, ultra cheap looking series). That makes this a somewhat acquired taste and only worth a rating of Rent It from me. Later volumes may change my mind but unless this one gets better fast, I'm not all that excited about what comes next.
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. While the style of anime itself seemed much older than the usual style from 1998, the year of production for the original show, it was generally well made with a somewhat dulled finish to it. All the usual color palate was used, it just lacked the brightness and clarity I'd expect from a fairly modern anime show. The anime style was fairly low budget looking but again, it wasn't terrible, just limited.
Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital stereo with a choice of either English or Japanese with optional subtitles. The vocals seemed a bit hollow but the sound effects and music were fairly clear.
Extras: The best extra to the DVD was a paper insert that provided detailed character information, specifications for Atsuko, and background information of the city and world. It was done in 12-page booklet form and looked good. The other extras were trailers, a clean opening and close, and a double sided DVD cover.
Final Thoughts: If you like shows that appear to be much older than they really are, using concepts that have been done to death, with limited technical values, you'll like this one more than I did. In fairness, it's a limited series that was likely designed in order to cash in on the popularity of an earlier show but did it really have anything new to say or was there a point to changing the characters from their earlier incarnations (many anime fans cite this as a pet peeve).