Andrew Osmond is feline groovy…
There are some publications which ban their writers from using the phrase, ‘Does what it says on the tin.’ However, when you’re faced with a series like Cat Planet Cuties (*), nothing else will do. Yes, it’s a harem show, and yes, it features a lot of buxom babes with furry ears and twitching tails, happily liberated from pruderies about undressing and mating. And yes, we’re told from the outset that these catty cuties are biologically compatible with humans, in all the important ways.
Don’t expect anything too racy. The show was made for late-night TV rather than adults-only video, and it has the kind of boy hero who’d need lots of diagrams and medication to… well, you know. Placed against a catwalk (sorry) of curvaceous girls, the lucky lad looks as gormlessly incongruous as the ten-year old middle-school teacher Negima in the harem franchise of that name. But if you really want to know, Cat Planet Cuties nudie quotient zooms to the max in the show’s final episode, which was made for DVD and presumably less inhibited.
Naughtiness aside, the show’s set-up is oddly reminiscent of Disney’s Lilo and Stitch (and its anime remake Stitch!) It’s a ‘funny aliens on a tropical island’ affair. This time, the island is Okinawa (the southernmost of Japan’s main island), where Kio, a cute and ordinary teen boy, encounters a strange and very friendly girl called Eris, who’s seemingly into feline cosplay. Soon, though, Kio discovers that Eris is a genuine feline alien from a super-advanced civilisation, making benign first contact with Earth. After the first few shocks (like the discovery that Eris has no idea of personal space), Kio begins taking this all in his stride. In contrast, his childhood friend – yes, you knew there was one, didn’t you? – is a tomboy girl called Minami, and she’s shocked by this new alien (and her physique…)
Naturally, there needs to be a third girl too. Meet Aoi, voiced by the seemingly omnipresent actress Kana Hanazawa, who seems to be a demure girl with glasses and geeky interests. In fact, one of the show’s best jokes is that both of the “everyday” girls are already far more than they seem (and no, they don’t turn out to be cats or Terminatrixes). Far from damsels in distress, Minami and Aoi are more likely to be wielding heavy artillery or donning skintight powersuits a la Bubblegum Crisis, though they sometimes get called into action when they’re not properly dressed. (Or dressed at all…) And naturally, Eris, Aoi and Minami are soon joined by more girls in the cast, both human and feline…
But what of the cute cartoon critters? In this case, it’s an army of Hello Kitties (well, close enough), always huggable, ever-faithful and great in a gunfight. Their cuteness is only upped by the fact they don’t speak, but communicate through ever-ready signboards. It’s a trick that they might have learned from Elizabeth, the warrior duck in Gintama.
Cat Planet Cuties covers maximum bases. Much of the series is as fluffy as you’d expect from the name, but it throws in “straight” action scenes and episodes to ginger things up. The start and finish are especially heavy on mayhem, mecha and girls with guns; there’s also a poignant standalone tale about an ancient android, with shades of Asimov and retro-anime. There’s also some local flavour; lots of proud references to Okinawa’s cuisine and wildlife, and a trip to Tokyo’s “Mandarake” manga megastore just to keep otaku happy.
You may not be surprised that “furry” fans get a major role in the plot, but there are less predictable in-jokes, apparently thrown in for the Western market. One sniggering alien heavy called “Mattrey” will look very familiar to anyone who remembers old TV cartoons by Hannah-Barbera. But the jaw-dropper is an affectionate homage to a certain British sci-fi series, theme tune and all, in one of the last episodes. Clue: think cats!
(*)For the record, Cat Planet Cuties is just the English title. The Japanese name was the enticing Asobi Ni Iku yo! or “Let’s Go Play!”
Cat Planet Cuties is out on 8th July on UK video from Manga Entertainment.