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Cat’s Eye Season 1 Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Cat's Eye
Cat’s Eye
Three sisters run a coffee shop/café by day and abscond with art under cover of night. All are eagerly sought by the police, but only one thief, as her more mild-mannered self, has managed to steal the heart of one of their persecutors.

What They Say:
Cat’s Eye is the most notorious group of art thieves in Japan. No one knows their identities, but for most of Tokyo, the mystery only heightens their allure. To bumbling detective Utsumi Toshio, Cat’s Eye is a colossal pain in the neck. They outwit him and the rest of the police at every turn, making them look ridiculous. He would never dream of being in love with someone in Cat’s Eye. Except he already is.

Toshio has no idea that Cat’s Eye is actually his girlfriend, Hitomi Kisugi, and her sisters Rui and Ai. Running the Cat’s Eye Cafe next door to the police station, they bring “hiding in plain sight” to a whole new level. But thievery and romance are difficult to balance. Hitomi will need all the help she can get to stop Toshio from discovering her identity – especially when he starts having feelings for her alter-ego!

The Review:
Audio:
Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, the Japanese language track carries voices, sound effects, and (will wonders never cease) music! The show is a goodly mix of dialog and natural (read: indoor and outdoor) ambience. From the chirp of cicadas and swoosh of the sea to the screeching of tires and electric office hum, everything seems right at home. While nothing memorable, Kazuo Otani’s score is perfectly spy/thief appropriate and even (at times) inventive. The odd exception goes to the occasional, now anachronistic, 80’s OP/ED theme reprises.

Video:
The first season of Cat’s Eye aired on NTV from July 1983 to March 1984. Presented here via MPEG-2 codec in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, the 36 episodes which comprise the first season are evenly divided among 6 discs.

Packaging:
While an art box is available to holds both seasons, the item reviewed came in a standard keep case with two double-sided inserts that hold two discs each. A comment card covers up the first disc held on a hub on the left hand side. (So don’t worry, you’ve not been shorted episodes 1–6.) A non-reversible insert features front cover art with the three Kisugi sisters in their Cat’s Eye leotards. Back cover art on the same insert has 3 panels individually dedicated to featuring Rui, Hiomi, and Ai, each holding a Cat’s Eye card.

Menu:
Featuring the same static art as the keep case front cover insert, the main (and only) menu is the same for almost every disc. Apart from showing which disc it is, the menus offer show the same options: Play All, Episodes, and Trailers. Episodes are listed solely by number, not title, and the music from OP, “Cat’s Eye” by Anri, loops in the background.

Extras:
Aside from the Clean OP and ED bonus features on Disc 1, all discs feature Nozomi trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yoshio Takeuchi, who served as director on Rose of Versailles and animation director on Akira, directs the anime adaptation of Tsukasa Hojo’s shonen manga Cat’s Eye. The story centers around Cat’s Eye café proprietors Rui, Hitomi, and Ai, who are also sisters and also thieves. Slowly but surely, and much to the mounting frustration of the local police department, the Kisugi sisters hunt down and walk/run/fly/swim away with paintings and sculptures and other works of art. While quickly defined as a succession of self-contained, heist-of-the-week jobs thinly threaded together by one weak plot point and shallow dramatic irony, the series manages to make each episode enjoyable through the use of color, setup, and, admittedly, a couple of soapy, cheeseburger, will-they-won’t-they scenarios. But first, a little about why Cat’s Eye is not all it could be.

The refusal to commit to comedy or carry through with drama in Season 1 tries to attain the best of all worlds but ends up weakening almost every single episode (especially if watching two or more in a row) within the context of the whole, and the execution’s not the only culprit. The spo-radically interjected wah-wah comedy comes across as hokey and forced and not up to par with the rest of the show. The blatant, punch line-heavy humor is particularly sad, because it takes away from the legitimate tension so tenaciously built by and portrayed within the cat-and-mouse game played between Cat’s Eye and Inunari Station’s anti-art theft team. (Granted, that alloca-tion’s humorous in itself.) There’s also just too much convenience present not to laugh at Cat’s Eye despite its legitimate (if never fully explored) dramatic elements.

Cat’s Eye, the sisters’ home, business, and HQ, is conveniently positioned across the street (lit-erally) from the police station. Why? So Rui, who can also conveniently read lips, can spy on the officer in charge of Cat’s Eye cases, Toshio Utsumi, as he reports to the chief of police course! And as if the lip reading wasn’t good enough, loose-lipped Toshi has a tendency to conveniently spill every single detail about otherwise undisclosed, ongoing investigations to the café owners. The series does eventually call itself on the latter, but not quickly enough to erase my headdesk welt. Also, the continued use of Toshio’s babbling just comes across as insulting and lazy; can’t Cat’s Eye do some actual research/investigation every once in a while? The answer, sadly, is no; there’s a mastermind of sorts, a family friend, who conveniently helps Cat’s Eye locate the more elusive gems. At least the sisters are responsible for planning the actual heists.

The tension, which is mild enough to make viewers lean forward in their seats a bit but not bite their nails, is appropriate for the flow and tone of the show. Each episode does a decent job focusing on the dual lives of the Kisugi sisters. Doing so divides the tensions between daytime and nighttime activities, eliminating the need for any other sort of comedic relief. This comes around again, however, to expose the gratuitousness of the previously mentioned injected comedy. Not to say all the humor in the series is in that vein. There’s a lot of decent banter and situations that lend humor very naturally to the script. It’s just that the wah-wah moments completely arrest any scene they barge in on and make a mockery out of the pacing. And while the script is decent, it’s sadly nowhere near a Dirty Pair level of writing. The sisters consistently feel as stiff with each other as Toshi does with Hitomi, whereas the mechanical relationships, such as the chief and Toshi and the internal coordinations during the Cat’s Eye heists, feel most fluid.

Also contributing to its natural flow, Cat’s Eye should be commended for its mature, non-teen character designs as well as the use of shadow and color. Heck, even the teenage sister, Ai, ap-pears older than the usual teens depicted as 8 year-olds in most contemporary anime). Though our anti-heroines wear Leotards, they are far from superheroes, and the series makes use of all of the above to build tension during heists. Rui and Hitomi, who are responsible for most of the hands-on thievery, respectively wear dark purple and blue for blending in with the dark of night, under which most of their heists take place. They do don brightly colored waist sashes, which serve as a taunt to those who get close enough to give chase. Doing so is a tease, a dare that complements Cat’s Eye’s M.O. of announcing the time and place of their heist directly to the victim prior to the operation. Ai wears bright orange, which speaks to the impetuousness of youth. Realistically, she’s also the one usually behind the scenes, remotely controlling gadgets and such, so she can afford to be a little more visible. And because each of the sisters is not a superhero (although they do have some tremendous ground-to-tree-limb leaping abilities), there are situations where Cat’s Eye gets trapped in some pretty tight corners.

Will Cat’s Eye get caught? Of course they won’t. There are 36 episodes to fill in this season alone, with another of equal length to follow, so narrow escapes are the order of the day (or ra-ther night). That’s what builds solidly watchable, stand-alone episodes time after time. That’s why it takes the police 34 almost identical heists to 1) bring gas masks to counter thieves who regularly use sleeping/knockout gas, and 2) recognize a connection between the heists that would’ve helped in figuring out the thieves’ identities long ago. Heck, even when Toshi makes progress by putting forth a plausible theory as to who the thieves are, it’s shot down (within an episode) so that the show can continue its usual tack. This is all for the purpose of building tension, but not whether Cat’s Eye will or will or will not be apprehended. After all, that’s just an extension of the principle drive behind this series: will Hitomi ever be “caught” by Toshi.

It’s downright woeful that, despite 36 episodes of suspicion and near misses, the soap opera between Hitomi and Toshi never comes to a head to force the characters to deal with the conse-quences. The closest it comes, which should be lauded, are instances when Hitomi’s shifting priorities between her concurrent roles as individual/lover and sister/thief affect the dynamics within the Kisugi clan. The difference in age between the sisters, with its accompanying issues of priorities and comprehension, puts legitimate strain on the group at times. Regrettably, said strain is usually alleviated within the same episode and thus, like the repetitive heists, never evolves the characters or the plot of the series.

The story may be about three sisters trying to find their father via clues hiding in the Heinz collec-tion, but that’s all a mask for the love story. What Cat’s Eye does manage to accomplish so admirably is depict the thrill of the chase, of being sought after, wooed, while courting by using post-heist pursuits as device and metaphor. Toshi never lets up on his drive to catch Cat’s, which consequently (and unbeknownst to Toshi) means that he’ll be pursuing Hitomi forever. This adds a sense of thrill and danger for Hitomi, especially as Toshi does get slightly better in his anti-Cat’s tactics as the series progresses. This keeps the relationship from becoming stale for Hitomi, but then Toshi starts to gets downright obsessed with catching Cat’s. This takes time away from the casual part of his relationship with daytime Hitomi and makes her worry about the plausibility of this arrangement in the long run (standing in for mental questions dealing with identity of self). This perfectly emulates the problem of ruts in relationships and asks the serious question of if we really love who we’re with or who we want them to be. But, again, the series does next to nothing with that.

Though not always so clever, the show does have its moments—like having a radio DJ who uses English intermittently as an excuse to pull out a certain album out of hundreds available, making it relevant to the plot, and making Toshi’s bumbling the reason behind the selection. Still, for every glimmering moment of “Well done!” the series undermines itself with repetition and lack of logic. Inunari Station is called in EVERY time there’s a Cat’s Eye burglary threat, and the potential victims are ALWAYS glad to have their protection … but WHY? Out of 36 episodes, those tasked with catching Cat’s Eye has had next to ZERO results. That means 99% of all the valuables under the police force’s watch have been stolen. Something’s better than nothing, I suppose?

Just one more thing before I go. Should you choose to watch the series, be sure to stick around for the uber-80s ED. It puts the Hot Sundaes “Go for It” to shame and, in doing so, shames all of the 80s. It’s wonderfully horrible.

In Summary:
Due to its episodes’ bumbled blend of comedy and drama, Cat’s Eye suffers a stuttered and ultimately unfulfilling execution. Frustration is supposed to be the tease which baits the audience into each subsequent 22-minute affair, but excuses wear thin after even a few episodes despite some lovely (though sparsely implemented) art and animation. The sheer repetition of wading through approximately 34 takes on almost the exact same plot before getting anywhere (which is, within 2 episodes, nullified for a return to status quo) makes marathoning this series a chore. Watching a couple episodes every now and then would be a great way to consume the entire season if there was anything of consequence to serve as reason for watching any more than two episodes of this show in sequence, but there are no such reasons. Any promise of leveraging situations for extended drama or character growth is thwarted by formula, which plays it safe all too frequently. This would be excusable if it were a purebred, lighthearted comedy, but the injection of legitimate drama imparts a weight that just feels gratuitous when neglected for the repetition. It’s not a bad show. Cat’s Eye just fails to be all it could, and that more frustrating as a viewer than any gratuitously out-of-place humor or skipping record formula.

Features:

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: July 1st, 2014
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 900 Minutes
Video Encoding: NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 40” LED 1080P HDTV, Panasonic Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080P, Sony 5.1 home theater system.

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