When news reached me that Manga Entertainment was releasing Cat Planet Cuties in the UK I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Why is this show getting priority over others when there are so many quality animes that have yet to see the light of day in the British Isles? No offence to Okina Kamino, who penned the light novels the cartoon is adapted from, but the show doesn’t exactly come across as high art. A quick glance at the series trailer, which can be found on YouTube, treats us to a plethora of topless cat girls – although I’m sure the average viewer won’t spot their kitty ears as their attention will be diverted to the oversized mammaries on show.
Still, I cannot be too critical about Manga’s business strategy. With one thousand sales considered to be a hit, for a UK anime release, it makes sense to release a short thirteen episode series like this one. It’s less of a financial risk to peddle than a deeper/longer show, which spans for several volumes, not to mention that sex sells. Fan service heavy shows like Cat Planet Cuties tend to perform well, which goes to prove that you should never underestimate the spending power of toonophiles. If UK otakus want to see more animes get UK releases they better stop pirating and support the industry. How else can you explain that an anime centric convention like the MCM Expo attracts 76,000 people, but your average anime release only sells a few hundred copies?
As I descend from my soapbox I do however find myself backtracking on the initial point that kicked off my rant. I was perhaps being too cynical because after watching Cat Planet Cuties, in its entirety, I have to concede that… I rather enjoyed it. Looks like we have a new entrant for the guilty pleasure section of my anime collection… as if my DVD library were that organized.
Cat Planet Cuties deals with the Catians, a race of humanoid felines, who have travelled to the Milky Way eager to establish diplomatic ties with Earth. During a tour of the planet Catian scout Eris meets up with high school student Kio Kakazu, moments before the teenager gets drunk at a relative’s memorial service. One thing leads to another and before you know it Kio wakes up nursing a hangover and sharing a bed with the Catian hottie. Eris subsequently decides to move in with Kio and turns his home into Earth’s first ever Catian embassy. The moral of the story is to be careful about what girls you bring over to your place after consuming copious amounts of booze. At least Kio woke up next to a cat girl cutie… when I get wasted I normally hook up with someone who resembles a bulldog.
Unfortunately for the Catians not everyone welcomes their arrival with open arms. Potential threats arise in the form of science fiction fans who are appalled that Earth’s first contact will be with such unorthodox looking aliens, an army of maids that serve a cult of cat fanatics that wish to worship Eris as their goddess and the Dogisians – a group of canine aliens who fear that Catia’s interest in Earth will expose their illicit inter-planetary weapons trade. To beef up security CIA trainee Manami Kinjou and assassin Aoi Futaba offer their services to safeguard the Catian embassy. With three girls and one guy under one roof it’s only a matter of time before hijinks ensues.
As is often the case with harem shows, in a cast of predominately female characters, it is the male lead that ends up being the weak link of the troupe. Kio Kakazu isn’t an annoying character per se, in fact he comes across as a nice albeit nerdy guy, but he isn’t very interesting. Harem shows, much like video games with a mute protagonist, seem to employ a plain leading man that viewers can imprint themselves upon (because every geeky connoisseur of anime fantasies about being surrounded by babes.) Kio’s biggest flaw is how dense he is when it comes to romance. He’s completely oblivious to the fact that a trio of beauties is lusting after him, possibly as he himself cannot fathom why anyone would be attracted to someone with the charisma of a sponge.
Thankfully the show is saved thanks to Kio’s suitors. Eris, the perky Catian, is always entertaining on screen as are her legion of adorable mechanical servants. Much of the show’s early comedy comes from the fact that she is going through her first mating season, resulting in her affectionately throwing herself at Kio whenever the chance arises. This irks both Aoi and Manami who both harbor secret crushes for Kakazu. Aoi is an assassin by trade, possessing the unique ability to teleport objects. She is smitten with Kio as he is the first person to treat her as a regular girl and not a cold-blooded killer. Surprisingly, considering her profession, Aoi is rather shy and leans on the support of Manami to egg her on in the battle for Kio’s heart. Gun nut Manami, who is a childhood friend of Kio, however only manages to complicate the love triangle further when she herself starts to develop feelings for him.
Although Cat Planet Cuties doesn’t do anything new, treading ground we have seen in countless other harem shows, what it does it does well. There’s always something going on to keep your attention, be it the comedic interactions between the characters or brief bouts of fast paced action. The jokes may not have you in stitches, but they consistently had me smiling. It also gets extra points for sneaking in a Red Dwarf reference, something I thought I would never see in a Japanese cartoon. The action sequences are exciting and blood free given that Catian weapons only destroy inorganic matter (resulting in many examples were a target’s clothing disintegrates, providing the cheeky nudity fans of such shows glamour for.)
The only time the show takes a misstep would have to be episode nine when the series deviates from its usual formula of gags and battles. That particular episode tried its hand at a touching tale, which didn’t work as the drama dealing with the guilt caused by Catia’s past mistreatment of artificial life came across as forced. Other than that the rest of the episodes in the set were enjoyable. All the voice actors suited their roles and the artwork has good production values as evidenced by the bold colors, attractive character designs and unobtrusive CGI used to animate the alien crafts. Cat Planet Cuties isn’t a purrfect show, but viewers who enjoy lighthearted animes, like Rosario Vampire, should enjoy it.