What They Say:
She’s as frisky as she is curvy – and kitty wants to play! The flirty fun begins when nice guy Kio has a close encounter with a sexy, alien cat-girl named Eris. She’s every nerd’s fantasy come true, and she and her fellow intergalactic felines are setting up base in Kio’s house. Unfortunately, Kio doesn’t have a lot of time for heavy petting. Secret agencies and enemy dog-aliens are sniffing around, hoping to get their paws on his pussycat pal’s tail! The guy’s definitely got his hands full – but with Eris jumping in his lap to purr in his ear, it’s likely Kio will land on his feet!
The release of this television series contains two language options with the Japanese track having a 2.0 mix while the English one gets a boost with a 5.1 mix. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is a solid representation of stereo tracks as it splits the dialogue and other sounds nicely in such a way as to give a decent illusion of depth and overall the track has a very nice balance to it. The track also works well to provide directionality as it also covers the low sounding effects, the more quiet ones as well as the higher pitched ones in a way that provides a nice balance and does so with the dialogue being clear even during some of the more action oriented sequences with no dropouts of distortions having been noticed during playback.
Also of note for those who use the subtitles, there is some obnoxious conflict between the large white credits and the subtitles on occasion.
Originally beginning its airing in mid 2010, Cat Planet Cuties is presented here in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The series is one that makes use of a wide range of colors with its cast often wearing bright (though not garish) clothing and events taking place both against the bright sunny weather of Okinawa but also dealing with some situations under the cover of night there is a pleasant palate of colors brought to the table that mix well for the majority of the episodes. Unfortunately there are a number of video issues that pop their head up on playback including some ghosting, grain-some interference at points, a fine level of noise, minor color bleed with strong red, some blending issues in places with colors, some occasional blocking, minor banding, and aliasing that appear to drag down the visuals a bit.
This review is of the DVDs only but the packaging was covered in Chris Beveridge’s review of the Blu Ray portion of the releases’ review.
The discs themselves each use an image of a character against a sky blue background along with some clouds with a curled against the curve of the disc image of Eris in her space outfit on the first disc while disc two uses an image of a jumping Manami Kinjou with her shirt and skirt bouncing up for its image. Both discs continue their symmetry of setup as they both place the series logo in yellow and with front with it being present just over the hub on the left side on the first disc and the same position but on the right on the second disc.
The menus use a fairly basic mechanic in that they use static images featuring different characters from the series as background images and the screens have a similar layout as the disc label where the bottom of the screen uses the sky blue with clouds backdrop with the top 1/3 of the screen getting a different and unique banner with a character in the foreground as the various options all present stacked horizontally in a light purple stacked to the side of them.
In addition to the almost industry standard clean open and closings the series introduces a bit of a wrinkle here as it produced six of the series closings, all of which FUNimation includes here. In addition to this, FUNimation provides a bevy of extras that start with episode commentaries by the English cast for episodes 1 and 9 as well as twelve very brief little “next episode” clips and one final one that are cute (but could seriously have used a “play all” feature) as well as the “Ichika Special” which serves as essentially a “play all” for these shorts but which creates new dialogue which has no connection to the previous material and which is closer to just the characters having a bit of fun.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One look at the history behind Cat Planet Cuties makes it easy to see how the concept was green lit for a television series. At the time the animated series aired the original light novel series had already published 14 volumes (under the original title Asobi ni Iku Yo!) and it had also produced 7 volumes of a spin off manga which pretty much is the kind of built in fanbase that many producers look for when deciding which series to develop for animation.
The story largely revolves around the characters of the young and mostly average teenager Kio Kakazu and the women in his life who are largely anything but. Probably the least average is the 16 year old Eris who happens to be an alien from a race descended from cats (and has the ears, tail and some other biological quirks to prove it) though the normally soft spoke and reserved Aoi Futaba who has a hidden special power and has worked for the government in a secret but highly dangerous position and Kio’s childhood friend and aspiring CIA agent Manami Kinjou may give Eris a run for her money in their own right.
Events get started when the world receives a strange message from space announcing that someone is going to be dropping by which has a number of people and governments in varying states of excitement and panic at this possibility of first contact while other people go about their strange and at times almost unbelievable activities as the affairs of space aren’t of the greatest importance at the moment. In the midst of one of these characters going about a very dangerous line of work for the Japanese government a UFO is spotted and the next day humanity makes first contact with Eris, a resident of the planet Catia who has shown up at a family gathering of the Kakazu family as she failed to prepare for her voyage properly by packing enough food and was told by a local cat that the family picnic was one that would be generous with their food.
Events spin though as not everyone on Earth is eager to make first contact with an alien race for reasons that vary from not liking the type of alien she turned out to be to reasons far more sinister and which have far more galactic implications than the majority of the planet is aware of and which question if this is really mankind’s first contact with any alien race. In order to help this girl that he just met Kio is going to find himself facing off against a large swath of different groups, some of which include people he knows very well but whose true motives and activities he had no clue about. As he pursues helping Eris his desires cause a major shakeup in the lives of those around him as they have to choose between their feelings for him and the loyalty they hold toward others.
But even with allies on his side life will still hold dangers as a large ship of Catians arrives with the intention of establishing formal relationship with Earth. With the cat out of the bag due to their very public appearance the various governments have to decide what to do with this new arrival, a decision not made any easier by the presence of a secret faction on Earth that the Catian’s know very well and have a long standing animosity with and who will be looking to make life as difficult as they can to try to drive the Catians off. While the governments decide what to do with the new visitors and how to react to their desire to open relationships Kio’s Okinawa home will become a temporary embassy and attract no small amount of attention (though not quite as much from the general public one might expect), some of which has some machinations in mind. With dangers all around Kio is going to have to be on his toes as there are those who wish harm to the new visitors and those who wishes aren’t exactly violent but which will create large waves in his circle of influence- but is even all of that going to pale in comparison to the dangers await Kio when it comes to the hazards he will have to navigate when it comes to the women in his life and the desires they have been hiding from him? In any case with the cats around the mice won’t be playing, but everyone else will be as they experience love, danger and comedy in this close encounter of the sexy kind.
Cat Planet Cuties is a series that has some incredible highs as it both romps with some of the science fiction tropes that have sprung up since the dawn of the genera in a mix of seriousness at times but also not overlooking some of the inherent silliness that can spring up as well as it mixes its dangers and teases to produce a series that has the ability to be sexy and smart while engaging the viewer on a number of fronts to provide some rather exemplary entertainment at times. It is also a series that knows a good deal about those it owes a debt that have blazed a trail and it packs in a number of references to these series at some surprising times, though most often this is seen in the before episode teases that many of the episodes have that help to show off some of the influences on the series in a loving way.
In addition the main characters are largely ones that come across as having some weight and depth behind them and who largely don’t come across as just one dimensional or cutouts lifted from what have become typical character traits in anime. Of course this isn’t a constant and there are a few secondary characters that don’t shine as well and this difference between the two tiers of character types highlights one of the disconnect that exists at times in the presentation. While the main cast gets their time in the light and even seems to get development stories to flush them out that might have served the series more by nixing them to give more time to the plot or filling holes not completely covered in their respective episodes other characters pop in and out for the sole purpose of convenience to the narrative which is more than a little disconcerting as it undercuts the attempt to tell a story with some rather decent structural supports to get the viewer to buy into the narrative.
This use of characters and plot play into the series greatest flaw in that it seems that the production team was placed into a bind as they wanted to make sure they didn’t abandon the original novels and the tale they weave as it builds to a climactic apex but it seems the animated adaption comes across as stilted at times with some major ideas that get presented along with some major dangers that seem to be well developed being discarded with few, if any, consequences when they become inconvenient but without even a minimum of time being used on resolving some of them or in one case a ridiculously simple dodge being presented. Maybe these things might not stand out so much in another series but given the attention to detail placed in many locations in relation to developing the story and its characters it feels like these hanging issues become more pronounced and take away from the whole of the story.
Also of note the series seems like it doesn’t completely trust the material to drag in an audience as it makes heavy use of fanservice, almost a tsunami worth at times, when a bit more of a delicate or subtle touch might have not caused the visuals to become a negative distraction to the story itself. In the end one can’t help but feel like they are watching a series that needed more time to breathe and let events play out with more episodes to do as well as a fine touch rather than the sledgehammer approach to fanservice being used which all work to combine and serve as shackles that bind and limit what looks to be a rather solid concept with some incredibly brilliant parts that might otherwise have stood out more.
Cat Planet Cuties brings a host of ideas to the table as it treats the viewer to a deluge of action and romance with a strong sci-fi background that isn’t afraid to try to be smart while also taking some good natured jabs at the series that have helped shape its sci-fi environment. With a strong main cast which include some strong women the series is one that feels comfortable exploring some vulnerabilities that exist among this odd combination of people and emotions but its sense of being rushed due to the episode count leads to a perception of the series using ham-handed approach to following through on all of its set up and additionally its the wielding of fanservice at times like a blunt force across the viewers sensibilities create a story that feels to be warring with itself and not coming out unscathed in the final tally. With a smart set up, a well created depth and a good deal of likeable (and attractive) characters it is a series that will entertain many but a more than surface level examination will reveal how deeply some of its flaws undercut the final product.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Special Episode Previews 1-12, “The End,” “Ichika Special!!!!,” Episode 1 Commentary, Episode 9 Commentary, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Songs
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 15th, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.