Aya HisakawaAkira KamiyaAkiko HiramatsuAll Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
Medium: OVA, series
Included in: Anime Christmas episodes 2014
Year: 1992
Director: Yoshio Ishiwata
Writer: Yuzo Takada
Original creator: Yuzo Takada
Actor: Kazue Ikura, Megumi Hayashibara, Akiko Hiramatsu, Akira Kamiya, Aya Hisakawa, Saeko Shimazu
Studio: ANIMATE, Studio Fantasia, MOVIC, Starchild Records
Keywords: anime, robot girl, action, comedy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 6 episodes
Series: All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=556
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 20 May 2006
Ryunosuke wants his divorced parents to get back together again, but that's never going to happen. His father Kyusaku is an amiable but mad scientist whose hobbies include building weapons of mass destruction, while his mother Akiko is the bitch queen in charge of a weapons conglomerate. Both of them sincerely want the best for Ryunosuke, but they also both think "the best" means keeping him the hell away from their ex-spouse and in both cases it must be admitted that they have a point.
Of course this is anime, so there are one or two complicating factors you didn't get with Kramer vs. Kramer... specifically explosions, property damage and an overenthusiastic cat girl android whose name could be translated as "Snuggly Wuggly".
It was inevitable that I would watch this, just for its title. It's a classic anime, which means that many Western anime fans of a certain generation hold it close to their hearts while others don't quite see what all the fuss is about. Personally I thought it was schizophrenic fun, but in a good way. You only get this kind of paradox in anime. Half the time it's goofy slapstick with cartoonish art and no apparent attempt at anything deeper... then the other half of the time, it's a surprisingly touching story with genuine emotion.
On first glance, it looks like pure fluff. The jolly art doesn't encourage you to take it seriously. "A fun story with fun art," is a friend of mine described it, though the DVD cover illustration of Nuku Nuku gave him slight pause. She's cute, yes, but fangs and sex appeal don't normally go together. Technically she has the brain of a stray cat that suffered an unfortunate fate in episode one, but Kyusaku must have wildly boosted its processing capacity since Nuku Nuku talks like a human and seems reasonably au fait with Japanese culture. She's cute and a little simple-minded, but in a good way. Oh, and she's also indestructible. If I've learned one thing from watching anime, it's that mankind's ultimate weapon would be an army of perkily buxom android schoolgirls.
"Are you the Terminator?" asks someone at one point. Nope, she's tougher than that. Nuku Nuku's strength is at Marvel superhero power levels, being capable of falling from airplanes without damage, getting punched through buildings and tossing around tanks and trees. Massive destruction is seen in every episode, although it's the kind of cartoon violence where no one really gets hurt. Of course throughout all this Nuku Nuku is sweet and playful, with sight gags like a googly facial expression on seeing a pet rodent. To her, giant killer robots are just cat toys, although she's protective of Kyusaku and Ryunosuke.
So on one level, it's just Tom and Jerry except that Tom's had a sex change and personality transplant. However the stuff with Ryunosuke's family is genuinely touching. They still care about each other and are willing to endure much for the others' happiness, with even Nuku Nuku eventually learning about human compassion (in addition to 101 Comedy Ways To Destroy A Bicycle). Akiko may be a fruitcake, but she puts herself through hell for her son's sake. It's obvious that she and Kyusaku don't belong together, but in each other's company they have a "squabbling siblings" relationship that can be endearing.
I've heard bad things about the English dub, but with this cast who wouldn't want to watch in Japanese? You can't go wrong with Akira Kamiya, Aya Hisakawa and fan favourite Megumi Hayashibara in what's practically one of her trademark roles. These days she's building a resume of quieter and more sardonic characters (Haruka Urashima in Love Hina, Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop), but she'll always be famous for having been the anime industry's number one choice for cute girls with too much energy (Lina Inverse in Slayers, Ranma Saotome in Ranma 1/2, Lime in Saber Marionette and many more). She also played Rei Ayanami in Neon Genesis Evangelion, incidentally. Here, of course, she's Nuku Nuku.
As the trailer says: "The heart-warming story of a boy and his cat... and a major military equipment manufacturer." It's lovely simple fun, with nothing objectionable or squirmworthy. There's no romance between the robot and the eight-year-old boy, for instance. (If you're surprised that this is something to be thankful for, you haven't watched enough anime.) This OVA series inspired two remakes, a twelve-part 1998 OVA and a twelve-part 2003 TV series, neither of which I've ever seen recommended by anyone even if I prefer Nuku Nuku Dash's theme music. The show has a slightly strange climax, but it's such a fun, cutesy anime that pretty much anything it did would feel like a happy ending. It's not deep, though it might surprise you with unexpected emotion from time to time, but it's loveable and always good for a laugh.