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”?
Gawrsh, Fred, you’re embarrassing me, giving me a shout out like this! Okay, enough sappy stuff. You’re hinting here at one thing I find fascinating about manga and anime. They can take an outrageous premise and develop it so that it’s well done and enjoyable. Professionalism. If I were to describe the premise of STRIKE WITCHES to most Americans, the reaction would probably be a dropped jaw and a gasped “WTF?!”, but the anime series, developed from a line of figurines of World War II fighter planes anthromorphized as part girls, is actually enjoyable. (Once you get past the creepy-crawly feeling you’re watching soft-core fetish porno about somebody else’s fetish, that is.)
Of the various series you mention, I’ve actually seen several of them. MIDORI DAYS was probably cooked up as a literal version of a teenage boy’s right hand being his girlfriend, but the execution was clever and often touching. Somebody realized Midori is really a living hand puppet and took it from there, with a really classic episode set at a convention of hand puppet collectors and enthusiasts. Meanwhile, Midori’s real body is lying in a coma across town, and her desperate mother goes so far as to bring in all manner of priests, shamans, psychics, faith healers, and what not in the hope one of them might be able to bring the girl’s wandering soul back. In a touch of the grass is greener on the other side, more brought out in the manga version, the Asian priests and mystics are seen as frauds while only a wise Sioux medicine man from America has a clue what’s going on.
URUSEI YATSURA: I think the creator said somewhere she was basically inspired by BEWITCHED TV reruns in Japan, but some fans have pointed out that Lum is much more like Jeannie from I DREAM OF JEANNIE. Samantha was very much an American woman aware of what was going on and conventionally married after a conventional courtship, while Jeannie was from an alien culture, could never really internalize modern Earthly norms, and was overexuberantly in love with her somewhat reluctant “master.”
The first series of MAHOROMATIC was fine, and as you describe it. The second series lost track of things like the ticking clock on Mahoro’s existence, and finished with a final episode that seemed to just throw everything good about the show away. Some fans said it was a “dark” ending, but no, it just ignored and diminished the promise of the series with something that didn’t even make a whole lot of sense in the context of the story as originally set up. Despite what I said above about professionalism and making an outrageous or impossible premise work, these series don’t always turn out well.
The story of HAND MAID MAY logically ends with May’s upgrade to human-size, which solves the plot problems and brings appropriate closure to all the story’s outstanding business. (I think, though, the idea of the hero then being able to marry her is at best implied rather than stated, as he has a sort-of human girlfriend already, and it would be years away anyway.) The problem is that this happens halfway through the series! The rest of the series is an ever increasing number of characters trying to find something to do when the series has really already ended. A final episode seems to attempt to restore some of the original premise by introducing several new miniature copies of May.
HIS AND HER CIRCUMSTANCES. I had a significant other at the time who enjoyed some of the anime we watched together, but we did have our differences. I thought KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD was often a brilliant depiction of a teenage boy uncertain about how the girl he likes really feels about him, but Honeybunch just got impatient with the situation being stretched out indefinitely. She wanted the boy and the girl to hurry up and get together and then get on with the relationship. (She’d have to wait for the much later second movie to have even a glimpse of that.) HIM AND HER CIRCUMSTANCES pleased her much more because it showed a boy and a girl already in a relationship and their problems as a couple.
Hey, this was fun! Thanks for the mention, Fred!
(Once you get past the creepy-crawly feeling you’re watching soft-core fetish porno about somebody else’s fetish, that is.)
Unfortunately too many shows over the past decade have been this way to me, and I can’t really get into ’em much anymore. Of course these are the shows most fans would clamor for anyway. I’m just done with it!
There are some other transliteration problems in other programs that show a “lack of a broad education”.
One example is Phantomas for the villain Fantomas in two of the Lupin III episodes released by Geneon.
BTW the first 5 Fantomas novel translations are in public domain and available for free for several e-book platforms. I have them on my iPod.
I have a list of transliteration errors from other shows, if you want a copy drop me an email I’ll send you the list.
It does become a headache to go over these transliterations, simply because the Japanese used a western/foreign word some of us might not have caught out of not knowing the full details therein. It can be very obvious but sometimes someone messes up and is taken verbatim. The wars over that are big in fandom I’ve noticed.
America and Japan, separated by a common language. Much of the humor and cultural references are often lost in translation. As for weird plot lines or bizarre imagery, the Fleischer Brothers and several other earlier American theatrical cartoons could give a few of these shows a run for the money!
Watching the later Flip the Frog cartoons by Ub Iwerks does it for me!
I would like to warn everyone about the S’more Entertainment Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo DVDs. Despite being advertised as being in Japanese with English subtitles, there are actually no English subtitles. Instead they included a PDF on one of the disks that you are supposed to print out and read while watching the show.
I understand that their Galaxy Express 999 DVDs are also pretty crappy.
Well, they tried, and if that’s the fault of Toei being a jerk about it, when I have nothing else to say.
I’ve seen a few examples of the adapters/releasers of manga and anime clearly not “getting” something. The NEGIMA! manga ran a more or less regular two-page spread showing individual school pictures of the 31 girls in Negi’s class with summaries of their school activities. In the German edition, one girl was listed as being a member of the “Rakuros” Club for quite a few successive volumes until somebody finally figured it out and changed it to “Lacrosse.” In the ANGELIC LAYER anime, a girl was shown with a Barbie-type doll with bunny ears and wearing a dress with an apron; in the German version, the doll’s name was given as “Arisu,” but the doll’s design was clearly meant to represent Alice, as in Wonderland.
In the second series of KALEIDO STAR, one of the characters is appearing in an off-Broadway play called “Salome in Vegas.” I doubt if the play actually exists, but from the scenes shown, it’s a version of the story of John the Baptist’s final fate updated to the modern era. But John’s name is given as something like “Johannes” even in the American release of KALEIDO STAR, making me wonder if the adapters realized the fictitious play was referencing an actual Bible story.
Slight correction to my posting above: For HAND MAID MAY, I said the hero had a sort-of human girlfriend. I meant to say he had a human sort-of girlfriend, not to suggest his girlfriend was other than perfectly human. That’s a frequent trope in magical girlfriend series, by the way: the hero already has a normal girlfriend, but then the magical girlfriend shows up and gets in the way. MIDORI DAYS, UFO PRINCESS VALKYRIE, and URUSEI YATSURA all had versions of that trope as well.
Also, I’m surprised by Fred’s comments indicating UFO PRINCESS VALKYRIE was aimed at little girls like a magical girl show. It seemed to me more like often risque comedy meant for boys, and in the magical girlfriend genre. I’m not an expert on internal Japanese marketing politics and genre classifications, though. (I still find it hard to believe that ANGELIC LAYER was considered a boys’ show, since it’s about girls and their dolls — even if the dolls fight — with mostly female characters and the story is from a girl’s viewpoint and about her reconciliation with her mother.)
Good column, Fred! And now I’m having flashbacks of “Patarillo”, which I remember watching via reruns on satellite cable in Japan. The manga is still being made, last time I checked.
Another anime I consider outrageous is “Maichingu Machiko-sensei” (often translated as “Shame of Miss Machiko”), about a teacher who is constantly sexually harrassed by a group of perverted boys in her class. The thing that made this outrageous is that this is a kids show, and those boys are in elementary school.
Yes, I remember from the early days of anime fandom that the C/FO was watching mostly the giant-robot programs and the interplanetary space opera until “Urusei Yatsura” and “Maichingu Machiko-sensei” arrived at almost the same time in 1981. We loved them both, at least at first, until we realized that “Maichingu Machiko-sensei” had only one joke that it was repeating over and over, unlike “Urusei Yatsura” which was always growing and evolving. I have “Maichingu Machiko-sensei” noted for if I do another column on outrageous anime.
No doubt The Shame of Miss Machiko is a show that follows that line of “You seen one, you’ve seen ’em all!”, and there are apparently 95 episodes worth of this shame (and yet there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind watching it anyway)!
Speaking of outrageous anime, one that comes to my mind is “Sasuga no Sarutobi” (Clever Sarutobi) with it’s titular chubby ninja who’s technique involves effectively lifting up girls’ skirts!
As a kid, I recall seeing the opening of this show from a documentary I saw once on PBS that I think was about Japanese TV in general showcasing the kind of programming they had and I can recall seeing a clip of this show’s opening in it somehow.
I can suggest a few.
Hare and Guu- A little boy in a jungle who lives with his mom runs across a very odd, powerful girl who torments him to no end.
Oh! Edo Rocket- Based on a stageplay………. VERY LOOSELY based on a stageplay…, this takes place in 1800’s Edo Japan and is about a fireworks enthusiast wanting to create the best fireworks in a town where all luxuries are banned, and comes across an alien taking the form of a female human, who wants him to invent a rocket that can take her back to her home on the moon.
Nerima Daikon Brothers- a sort of parody of The Blues Brothers, only in anime form, with new original songs per episode, and featuring not a band of 3 united by a job, but 3 siblings united to save their theater that they actually live in!
One mistake to correct in the article: Revy from Black Lagoon is not an Israeli assassin, but a New Yorker with the full name Rebecca (Revy’s her nickname).
And don’t think that fan service is exclusive to anime. I have recently stared watched the live action TV series Shadow Warriors. The show stars Sonny Chiba as ninja master Hattori Hanzo. Hanzo’s cover is Mr. Han, the owner of a popular bath house. Since he uses a bath house as a cover for his activities, we often are allowed as much female nudity as was necessary for the plot.
Video games have had their share of it too! Anyone remember the “Gals Panic” series?
If these are the most “outrageous” anime you can list, you’re not looking very hard. 😉