All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku has been a very popular commodity among the anime and manga crowd over the years. The show found its roots in an original short manga by Yuzo Takada (creator of 3x3 Eyes and Blue Seed), and soon had a short six episode OVA back in 1992. In the late 90s the concept also saw some reinvention with two other series, both twelve episodes. While the other remained more faithful to the original material, All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash was more of an alternate universe spin on the show.
The concept in Dash is essentially the same, though some of the roles have changed. The story about a cat's brain being implemented into a butt kicking android (called androbot here) is basically similar. Nuku Nuku has recently moved into the Natsume home with Kyusaku, Akiko, and their son Ryunosuke. She has some memory loss (mostly due to having a cat brain) and has been given the guise of being displaced after the death of her parents. She is also older in this series, with a fully matured body (IE: curvy), and is absolutely adored by the hormonal Ryunosuke.
In the original OVA, Nuku Nuku was created by Kyusaku, but in Dash, he is more of her caretaker or guardian. She is also a misplaced product of the Mishima corporation, who will go to any length to recapture (or destroy) her. Through a twist of fate, Akiko (who works at Mishima), is assigned to be the head of the task force in charge of finding the androbot. Even though they are living under the same roof, Nuku Nuku's real identity is kept secret thanks to latent powers and hidden costumes. Of course despite having the same face, hair and body, when people see her in "super form" they never put two and two together.
A lot of the show focuses on Ryunosuke's infatuation with Nuku Nuku, who at first seems oblivious to his feelings. Darn those unemotional robots. Eventually she seems to warm up to him, but things never get hot and heavy, or elevate beyond adolescent fawning. It's a tried and true formula with many anime, so chances are you have seen this type of storyline somewhere before, especially with an android learning what it means to be "human".
Really, it's this quiet romance that makes the show as entertaining as it is. I particularly love how Ryunosuke constantly gets unwanted relationship advice from the nosey kindergarten kid from next door. It's just funny seeing him get lectured by a little girl about how he has to be more mature, how Nuku Nuku is an older woman with needs, etc. Needless to say, the "love plot" is where the show finds its sense of humor and charm, but there are quite a few other things to love about it as well.
For one thing, you have a robot running around with the brain of a cat fighting mechanical monsters. What's not to love?
Throughout daily life in Maneki City, the citizens live in constant danger it seems. While everything appears to be your typical metropolis, the Mishima corporation essentially has free reign to do whatever it pleases. Unfortunately that also includes military actions in the streets, missiles being shot into buildings, and rocket wielding android flower girls running amuck. Most of these actions are for the purpose of tracking down Nuku Nuku, though even in that circumstance they seem a little, well, out there. There are a couple of sub plots that are brought up, but never find their way to fruition. Characters are introduced and conveniently swept aside and forgotten about, plus there's the whole Nuku Nuku secret identity thing.
I was a little worried that with this set up, things would deteriorate into a monster of the week syndrome. When a series is only twelve episodes, I personally want as much character and plot development as possible, not character A fighting monster B. Fortunately, even though there is a decent amount of action and baddies to beat up, things stay very consistent from episode to episode (aside from the forgotten about characters and plots). There is a ton of character development and a constant air of mystery surrounding Nuku Nuku's abilities and creation.
Things don't really start developing for the show until around the half way point, and even then no "big plot" surfaces. It isn't until the final handful of episodes that a larger picture starts to get painted, but the ending arc feels very rushed and not thought through properly. In particular, the actual last five minutes of the series are relatively disappointing and don't really make a lot of sense. I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but let's just leave it at, "What the?" and be done with it.
Another questionable point brings up some thoughts of a low production budget. There are tons of recycled animation frames in every episode, from flashbacks to Nuku Nuku's transformation. There are also some parts where the animation doesn't appear to be all that fluid either. It's not a bad looking show by any stretch of the imagination; it just comes across as either a victim of laziness or budget issues.
Overall though, I liked the show a lot despite its flaws and it definitely grew on me. The problem with shorter series is that they usually get lost along the way or try to rush things through. All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash never loses site of what it is, but some bits towards the end certainly feel poorly thought out.
Originally airing back in 1998, the individual releases for All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash didn't surface on DVD until 2003, but they have been compiled for this new thinpak collection. The show is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and there are a few issues with the transfer. With the given video quality, it appears as if the show was dated before 98, due to some washed out colors, speckle, and a fair amount of grain. It's not a horrible look, it's just surprising to watch it and realize it was produced in the late 90s.
For audio options, we are given 2.0 tracks for both English and Japanese. Both provide pretty much equal quality, though I much preferred the Japanese track over the English one due to some annoying dubs. I didn't encounter any fade out or real flaw, though I did catch a faint hiss at times. My biggest problem with the Japanese track however was with some awkwardly translated subtitles. It was passable, but there were a few times that the translation felt off as well as a few misspellings.
The thinpak collections pretty much are all barebones, aside from some ADV previews. That's the case with this one unfortunately, but considering even the individual releases only included textless opening and closing animations, I guess we aren't missing all too much.
As a whole, I really enjoyed All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash. The show was fresh enough, yet familiar, and for a reinvention of a concept it does very well. The characters definitely grow on you and the situational humor will tickle your funny bone. There's plenty of action as well, and things seem to be decently balanced. The ending is a tad disappointing, but I guess you can't have everything. The show offers some decent audio and video quality, though some artifacts pop up during the viewing and some of the translations are a little stiff.
Fans of the original Nuku Nuku anime or manga will want to take notice of the Dash series. Sure it's a reinvention of the concept, but it's very entertaining and faithful to the original in many ways. Recommended