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All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash: Proof that Ginger Nuku Nuku is best Nuku Nuku

I’ve talked about Nuku Nuku twice. The first time being the OVA, which was really good. The second time being the twelve episode series, which was still good stuff. This one is also by Ashi Productions, now called Production Reed, and was released the same year as the other TV series, 1998. So, does it hold up as well as the other two? Let’s start Dash and see.

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Story:

One day Ryuunosuke, fourteen years old, arrives at home to find his parents fighting in another room while an attractive young lady waits awkwardly. She introduces herself as Higuchi Atsuko, but prefers to be called Nuku Nuku. Due to family circumstances, she’ll be staying with his family for a while. At roughly the same time, Ryuunosuke’s mother, Akiko, is sent by Mishima Industries to find and recover an escaped weapon. Unbeknownst to her, that escaped weapon has just moved into her home. It’s a good thing that cameras don’t exist in this universe, otherwise Mishima might have a picture to show her and this would end in five minutes. But this is supposedly a comedy, right? So, we can excuse the narrative being a transparent excuse plot, right?

Well, that’s the biggest problem with this series. It wants to be a comedy, but it also wants to tell a more serious story that deals with death and loss and has tragic moments. As such, the comedy is frequently downplayed in favour of story. Except that the story is a complete and utter mess. It’s full of plot points that make no sense and the attempts at more serious scenes fall apart based on how ridiculous the underlying premise of a cat-brained android is. The premise works fine for the OVA and Nuku Nuku TV because they’re over the top, zany comedies. It doesn’t work when you try to be semi-serious with it. So, those moments fail, what about the comedy? I’m sorry to say it, but the comedy in this is really weak. A lot of the characters have one or two rather generic gags that they’re used for. Not only that, but the comedic moments themselves frequently lack any kind of actual pay off. Take Ryuunosuke’s big joke, he’s an awkward teenager who has a crush and doesn’t know how to handle it. He’ll get into situations where he’ll do something embarrassing that could potentially lead to a funny reaction, someone will catch him and then they just won’t react, thereby killing any chance at an actual joke. The attempts at romance in this are just wretched. It’s like they took elements from the world’s blandest romantic comedy, beat them with the proverbial idiot stick, used them to fill in gaps with no care for structure or context and called it good. At best it’s slightly cringe-worthy. At worst it’s downright painful.

To the series’ credit, there are some comedic scenes that do partially work. The stuff with the Red Riding Hood inspired character is actually pretty entertaining for the most part. I also have to give them credit for trying to do something different, even if they didn’t do it remotely well.

Characters:

The characters in this are pretty bad. Ryuunosuke is an annoyance. Nuku Nuku’s gone from a vivacious, high-energy and always entertaining character to an insipid one. Akiko and Kyusaku spend most of their time bickering, and not in a funny way. In a more uncomfortable and awkward way. The other parts of the franchise may not have had strong developed characters but at least they were entertaining and played off of each other well for comedic purposes. This series doesn’t even have that.

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Art:

The art in this one, like the other two, is really dated but, generally fine. It’s a bit odd that they give Nuku Nuku green hair in this instead of her usual red, but there’s nothing wrong with that change. The biggest problems are the gratuitous fan-service and the action sequences. In the other two instalments, the action sequences are lively, eye-catching and have a strong level of controlled chaos. They’re pretty well done. In this series, the action sequences are slow and boring. They involve a lot of standing still and talking. Because that’s what makes for a dynamic action sequence.

Sound:

To Dash’s credit, they did get a strong vocal cast. Hayashibara Megumi, Kamiya Akira, Ikura Kazue and the other actors all do fine. You won’t hear their best performances in this, given the material, but they’re fine. The music is the strongest part of the series. The themes in particular are really good, musically.

Ho-yay:

There’s a little bit. There’s a scene where Nuku Nuku treats one of Akiko’s wounds and the “joke” is that it looks like a yuri scene. The way the Red Riding Hood character talks about chasing her target, Nuku Nuku, sounds like she’s referring to a romantic interest. Of course, neither scene ultimately goes anywhere.

Final Thoughts:

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash is a disappointment. The comedy is weak, rarely getting so much as a chuckle. The attempts at being more serious really hurt it and the romance elements are terrible. The characters are boring. The art is weak and the voice acting is just passable. So, if you want to watch a series about a cat-brained android, watch one of the others. My final rating for this one is a 3/10. It’s just bad. Next week, to tie into the year I had yuri anime month in January, I’ll look at Yuru Yuri San Hai.

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All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku: Is that an evil washing machine?

Some of you may recall my review of the hilariously titled All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA. During that review I mentioned that, in addition to the OVA, there are multiple TV anime. The first was written by Yamaguchi Hiroshi based on the manga by Takada Yuzo. The Studio behind it was Ashi Productions, which was not the same studio behind the OVA, oddly enough. Let’s take a look and see if it’s as bizarre and humorous as the OVA.

Story:

There’s no over-arcing story. The premise is that our cat-brained android protagonist, Nuku Nuku, begins attending High school in order to learn what it means to be human. Complicating matters is the battle she has to wage against the evil Mishima industries. Naturally, this leads to whacky hijinks. Probably a good move since a more serious look at the basic premise would almost certainly be terrible.

Overall, the humour does work pretty well. There are a lot of running gags, but they almost all get enough variation in execution that they do stay consistently funny. I also like the way they handle Mishima, with the young president having everyone dress in ridiculous costumes and going into rants about ruling the world while his employees just kind of go along with it because it doesn’t interfere with them producing things too much and he’s in charge. The series has a good blend of outlandish elements and ordinary elements that lends itself very well to comedic situations.

That being said, there are some failings to it. The biggest one is the final episode. I won’t spoil it, but they try to have a more dramatic moment and it utterly fails. While it is possible to have a comedy with serious scenes, it doesn’t work when you have all of one such moment in a series comprised almost entirely of zany antics. There are also some jokes that aren’t really funny. For example, one of the reoccurring jokes is having twins declare the snobby rich girl to be correct. It’s funny because…. they’re minions, I guess? The opening narration is also repeated every episode. The first time, it is a funny moment, pointing out the discontinuity between the TV series and the previous OVA. The other eleven times, it just seems like needless padding.

Characters:

This is one of those comedic series where the characters are almost exclusively one-dimensional stereotypes. The series, oddly enough, elects to have captions telling you those traits, which they use multiple times. That being said, the specific character tropes that the series uses do mesh well together for comedic purposes. Even the twins manage to have some funny moments on those few occasions when they get more dialogue aside from their standard line.

Art:

The TV series has basically the same early 90s art style as the OVA, in spite of coming out five years later. It is a little smoother and more detailed, but not the marked improvement you would expect. Possibly because they wanted to emulate the look of the original OVA as much as they could. It doesn’t look bad, but it hasn’t exactly aged gracefully. This series also does a lot less with unnecessary fan-service. By which I mean it really doesn’t have any. About the closest you get is a beach scene but there’s really nothing sexualised about it so I would hesitate to call it fan-service.

Sound:

The voice acting is excellent. Hayashibara Megumi reprises her role as the titular cat-brained android. Ikura Kazue, Hiramatsu Akiko, Kamiya Akira, Shimazu Saeko and Hisakawa Aya all reprise their roles as well. The acting is surprisingly subtle for a zany comedy, occasionally moving into exaggeration but largely featuring realistic emotions and responses. Odd that a comedic series can have more varied and realistic emotional content than a certain serious series could manage.

There are multiple musical numbers within the episodes, including a karaoke episode and a musical episode. Most of the songs do sound, minimally, decent. Some are outright excellent, Hayashibara Megumi’s numbers in particular. Some are deliberately bad and used for comedic effect. Fortunately, those are in the minority so they never really get tiring.

Ho-Yay:

The closest thing you get to ho-yay in this series is the dynamic between Chieko and her minions. At least in the latter episodes when they start getting varied dialogue. There’s also one kind of gross joke involving possession and an alien mouse. The Ho-yay factor is a 2/10.

Final Thoughts:

Nuku Nuku TV is a fun little series. It has a good sense of humour, excellent acting & superb music. Where it falls a little short is that some of the jokes fall flat, it tries and fails at having a serious scene and most of the characters are pretty bland. Which isn’t a huge issue for a comedy, but it’s still a bit of a problem. All in all, the OVA was a little better but this is still good for some laughs. Final rating, 7/10. Next week, Serial Experiments Lain.

 

Reviews of Yesteryear: All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku (OVA)

Cat Girl Nuku Nuku originated as a Manga by Takada Yuzo, you may recognise him as the writer of supernatural works such as 3×3 eyes and Blue Seed. The manga originally spanned a single volume with three chapters, when serialised, but spawned three OVAs, the first two of which are generally combined, a TV anime and two sequels. How does a writer known for supernatural works do with comedic subject matter? Let’s take a look at All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, the combined OVAs. Not to be confused with the upcoming review which is going to cover the TV series. 

The story begins with a father and his son running away from a hovercraft Young Ryunosuke finds a kitten in an alley and decides to take it with them. They crash into a pile of junked cars which causes the hovercraft to lose sight of them. Frustrated, the pilot opens fire into the pile of cars. The father and son are both okay, but the injured kitten is dying. That’s when things move away from being serious and get really silly. The father transplants the cat’s brain into an android body. It turns out that they were being chased by employees of Ryunosuke’s mother who were trying to get him back from his father. The series launches into a group of loosely connected episodes dealing with Nuku Nuku’s difficulties fitting into a human society and the bickering between Ryunosuke’s parents which frequently involves giant robots. The overall story continually leads up to the two fighting less frequently and learning to understand each other which eventually culminates in them having to work together. If you’re wondering about the science facts just remind yourself of two things. One, it’s a comedy. Two, they never pretend that the science makes sense. As a comedy it actually holds up pretty well. The scenario has lots of good moments especially given its time limitations and the few serious moments generally work pretty well within the structure. The fight scenes are entertaining and most of them are pretty funny. It’s a high energy farce that’s fun for those old enough to appreciate the more mature humour used in certain parts. 

The characters are very well done. Both of Ryunosuke’s parents can be pretty terrible, but it makes them seem more genuine and human. The fact that they both have horrible and sympathetic moments makes them three dimensional characters. Ryunosuke can be a brat, but he’s also a character who’s usually very sensible. Nuku Nuku is just a very amusing character. Her extreme naivete and innocence make sense and they provide an interesting contrast when compared to the failings of the human characters. There are a few side characters who are somewhat developed, Eimi, Kyouko and Arisa, but, probably due largely to time restraints, they never get completely fleshed out.

The art is pretty dated. It’s a lot like the art of other works of the early 90s like Ranma 1/2. It’s fine in the context of its time, but it hasn’t aged particularly well and there are several moments where the art is used to exaggerate the emotions of the characters that don’t really work. My one big gripe is that there are a few too many fan-service moments.

The voice work is really good. Hayashibara Megumi, Shimazu Saeko, Ikura Kazue, and Kamiya Akira all do a good job. They all exaggerate on occasion, but it’s not like Baka to Test where lines get exaggerated indiscriminately, there’s always a reason for it. The music is excellent.

The yuri factor is a 3/10. Kyouko and Arisa get some pretty homoerotic moments, and they’re shown as living together but nothing is ever confirmed as being between them and those few moments aren’t really enough to judge.

My final rating for All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku is an 8/10. The plot is really used for setting more than an actual story, the art is dated, with too much fan-service and the science frequently doesn’t make sense but the humour works really well, the energy is good and the audio aspects are really strong. And isn’t that what’s really important from a comedy? If you find yourself in the mood for a good laugh, give it a try. All six episodes hold up really well.