I would like to thank Dwight Decker for giving me the idea for this column, though maybe not exactly in the way that he expected. Dwight said in his comment on my “Cat Girls” column:
“I hope I’m not anticipating Fred’s next installment, but I thought I’d add a mention of UFO PRINCESS VALKYRIE (2002), which takes catgirls to something of a satiric extreme. In a near future when Earth is in regular contact with alien civilizations, a princess from the planet Valhalla has decided to live on Earth (I’m way oversimplifying, but…). Her maid, a catgirl, makes the best of the situation and uses a catgirl raygun to transform a large number of the teenage Earthgirls living in the neighborhood into catgirls so she can have a catgirl army to work for her. Besides giving them cat ears and tails, the ray makes the girls willing servants at the head maid’s beck and call, and an unpaid labor force. At the time ADV released the series in the States (2006), I saw a review expressing considerable unease: the catgirl army is supposed to be funny and probably meant to satirize the very well-worn catgirl trope, but taken at face value, it’s mind control, involuntary servitude, and outright slavery.”
The L.A. area anime clubs preferred the boy’s adventure anime to the girl’s romance series, and this TV series had not come to America at the time of my stroke in March 2005, so I was unaware of it until now. What is available on the Internet of UFO Princess Valkyrie really showcases several aspects of anime. (1) The fansubbing that shows a lack of a broad education. “Warukyure” is obviously “Valkyrie”, just as the revelation in the final episode of Last Exile that Claus Valca is a descendant of the Carthaginian general Hannibal gave away that his name should have been Claus Barca. I suppose they could claim that Barca mutated to Valca over the thousands of years, but it looks like the translators just goofed. In Black Lagoon, 24 TV episodes, April-December 2006, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the Israeli mercenary “Revy” should have been “Levi”. When Space Pirate Captain Harlock became one of the first favorites of anime fandom in 1979-’80 and there was no “official” English translation yet, there was considerable arguing over how Captain Harlock’s main adversary’s name should be spelled – Queen Laflesia or Lafresia or Raflesia or Rafresia — until it was pointed out that she was named for the flower Rafflesia. (2) The fantasy common in the “magical little girls” series of the little girl protagonist who is magically “grown up” into a pop-singer star, a movie star, a famous fashion model, or, as in this case, Grows Boobs. (3) As you mention, the exaggeration of the cat girl stereotype into an army of cat girl French maids. (4) The exaggeration of “fan service”. All girls know that boys like to look at brief innocent scenes of nude girls in showers, so UFO Princess Valkyrie has brief scenes of lots of nude girls in a traditional Japanese bathhouse. UFO Princess Valkyrie looks superficially like a standard little girls’ fantasy program like Sailor Moon or Minky Momo, the Magical Princess, but its 12 episodes were originally broadcast on Thursdays from 11:30 p.m. to midnight, July 4 to September 28, 2002. UFO Princess Valkyrie is both a magical little girl anime and a parody of the genre.
Anyway, this reminded me of so many other anime series that were exaggerations of anime stereotypes, or were outrageous for other reasons.
Urusei Yatsura could fill a whole column by itself. It was the first of the “teenagers from outer space” genre, full of Japanese in-group cultural (mostly mythological) and historical references that sent early American anime fans scrambling to find what they all meant. Early anime fans tried to translate the title as Those Obnoxious Aliens or Those Annoying Aliens, but “urusei yatsura” is really an untranslatable Japanese high-school pun that means approximately “the weirdos from outer space have moved in, and there goes the neighborhood”. Today, everyone just accepts the Japanese title. But for this column, I will refer to, not the TV series (almost 200 episodes) nor the theatrical features (8), but to the last of the original video releases, “The Terror of Girly-Eyes Measles” (OAV #10, June 1991). This turned the huge eyes with multiple highlights of anime girls, that had become a humorous stereotype by then, into a deliberate parody as an alien communicable disease that all the students of Tomobiki High School catch. The girls are delighted to suddenly have anime-girl eyes, while the boys are horribly embarrassed.
Cat girls are not the only obvious girls in frilly French maid costumes, or “uniforms” since they are all so alike. Many have been android girls, such as the doll-sized Hand Maid May (11 episodes, July-September 2000), an AI apartment-cleaning miniature cyberdoll that falls in love with her inventor, and is eventually upgraded to life-size so she can marry him. In Black Lagoon, about a team of deadly international mercenaries, in episodes 8-10 the Lagoon Company encounter Roberta, a Cuban assassin who is an expert at hiding weapons in her costumes, and Fabiola, a younger trainee in knives and martial arts, whose regular jobs are as French maids at the Lovelace Plantation in Colombia, where the wealthy have private armies to protect themselves against F.A.R.C. rebels and “regular” kidnappers.
However, returning to androids, the standout is probably Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden. Mahoro is an android killing machine built to look like a young girl (don’t ask why), specifically made to save Earth from an alien invasion. After Earth’s victory, Mahoro, who will self-destruct in 398 days, is given the freedom to live out her last year-plus however she wants. She chooses to become the French maid of the junior high student son of her former commander, since she considers herself responsible for his death in action; without the boy’s knowledge – Suguru thinks she is a normal girl sent by a maid service. As she tries to humorously “save” Suguru from his busty teachers and schoolmates, and a normal adolescent interest in mild pornography, she more seriously tries to keep him from falling in love with her since she knows that she has less than a year to exist. The original 12-episode TV serial, September 2001-January 2002, was so popular that a 14-episode sequel, September 2002-January 2003, was made, then a TV special, a 2-part live-action TV special in October 2009, video games, etc.
Patalliro!; 49 TV episodes, renamed Boku Patalliro! (I’m Patalliro!) with episode #21; April 1982-May 1983. In 1982-’83, when homosexuality was still very much an “in the closet” affair, Patalliro! daringly flaunted it for laughs. The ugly Patalliro VIII is the spoiled, bratty 10-year-old crown prince of Malynera, a country very important to the West for its diamond mines. The British MI6 assigns the reluctant Major Jack Bancoran to be Patalliro’s bodyguard. Bancoran is a very efficient killer; he is also a very obvious effeminate homosexual. Patalliro takes advantage of his royal status to make frequent demeaning fun of Bancoran’s gay nature, which Bancoran fumes over but is forced to accept. Bancoran is constantly frustrated because the enemy-agent assassins that he fights are so handsome; he would rather go to bed with them. (Fans are still arguing whether the name should be translated as Pataliro or Patalliro, but Patalliro seems to be the preferred spelling.)
Midori Days. Midori no Hibi; 13 episodes, April-June 2004. The Japanese title is another pun, referring to the schoolgirl Midori, which is also the color green (hence her green hair), and the popular holiday Greenery Day (formerly April 29, the Showa Emperor’s birthday; today May 4). Seiji “Mad Dog” Sawamura (with stereotypical Japanese teenage tough-guy bleached hair) is the terror of his high school, but he actually protects the weaker students from the real bullies. Midori Kasugano, a shy girl, secretly loves him but he doesn’t know she exists. Because of his fearsome tough-guy image, Seiji cannot get a girl friend. One day, he remarks frustratedly that it looks like his Demon Hand (his right hand) will be his only lover for life (a reference to masturbation). The next morning, he awakens to find that his right hand has been replaced by a miniature of Midori’s head and upper body! The series ends up with Seiji recognizing that the real Midori is his True Love, but for 13 episodes there are jokes around the horrified and extremely embarrassed teenaged boy trying to have a private and public life with a miniature high-school co-ed attached to his body. Another 11:30 p.m.-midnight TV program in Japan, and a video release in America.
Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. The man with the prehensile nose hairs. This anime TV series is an adaptation of the very popular manga by Yoshio Sawai; 76 episodes, 2003 to 2005. It is an outrageous parody of action-adventure series. In 3001.5, Emperor Tsuru Tsurulina IV (Baldy Bald IV) of the Maruhage Empire (Americanized as the Chrome Dome Empire) decrees that everyone must be as hairless as he is. His ruthless, shaven-headed army (the Hair Hunt Troops) terrorizes the nation, destroying everything as they search to crop anyone still with hair. Enter Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, the bo-nafide soulful bo-tector of hair, the super avenger with the towering blond Afro and the prehensile nosehairs, master of the Fist of the Nose Hair school of martial arts. With his feisty followers Beauty, Jelly Jiggler, the odoriferous Gasser, Poppa Rocks, and others, he fights for truth, justice, and the right to wear your hair down to the ground if you want to. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo has been extremely popular both in Japan and in America on the Cartoon Network (with numerous fan-created wikis and websites), despite having to be heavily Americanized to replace Japanese ingroup cultural references, untranslatable puns, and the like. For example Poppa Rocks – the one who looks like a cross between a pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid and a red parody of Sonic the Hedgehog — is Don Patch in Japan, a reference to the Japanese onomatopoetic sound-effect for machine-gun fire, and to Donpachi, a Japanese candy similar to Pop Rocks that “pops” like gunfire when eaten. Despite his seeming uniqueness, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo has an older sister, Bububu-bu Bu-bubu (her fighting style is Fist of the Armpit Hair); older brothers Bababa-ba Ba-baba and Bibibi-Bi-bibi; younger brother Bebebe-be Be-bebebe; nieces Vita and Min; …
His and Her Circumstances. Kare Kano; 26 episodes, October 1998-March 1999. This series was outrageous only to knowledgeable animation fans. It was a sweet and very popular high-school romance, which was widely praised for its innovative graphics. What the public wasn’t told was that His and Her Circumstances was made on an extremely small budget, and the innovative animation was due to directors Hideaki Anno and Kazuya Tsurumaki working with very little money. At one point, Studio Gainax essentially ran out of money after episode #14, with #15 due before more money came in for #16. How do you produce a half-hour of TV animation with virtually no money? Watch His and Her Circumstances #15 to see how Tsurumaki did it. Despite the TV series’ extreme popularity, manga creator Masami Tsuda refused to license it for another season because she objected to Studio Gainax emphasizing comedy over romance in its adaptation. One suspects that the animators took advantage of knowing that the program would not be renewed to carry the limited animation in the final episodes to new lows – but always innovatively!
This has been fun, and there are plenty more anime programs that could be added. What would you suggest for an “Outrageous Anime, part 2”?