On the basis of its simple premise – Japanese pop duo attempts to convince young Cartoon Networkers that punk and 60’s rock guitar are way cooler than anything their older brothers and sisters listen to – I was already predisposed toward Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. The twosome’s Nice, produced and co-composed by former Jellyfishman Andy Sturmer, is as fine a piece of disposable pop-rock as you could wish, even if most of its lyrics are in untranslated Japanese. Too, their Cartoon Net cred had already been established via their chirpy rendition of the Teen Titans theme song, which hopefully gives ‘em a leg up with that all-important Toys ‘R’ Us demographic.
The twosome’s new cartoon series, which debuted Friday (but this humble blogger watched on Saturday morning – since that’s the time that made the most sense), is a cheerfully fake reconstruction of the pop star life in the tradition of the old Beatles cartoon show: three cartoons featuring our cute-as-a-button heroines Ami & Yumi, two of which fold a raucous pop song into the middle of the action. In “Dis-Harmony,” for instance, the girls are stalked by their number one fan – who shows up all over the world as they flee to escape her to the strains of a rockin’ AmiYumi track. Just like we might’ve seen the cartoon Fab Four doin’ in the sixties, only here the animation is more frantic and studiedly retro in the manner of Powerpuff Girls. Not a bad thing with fluff like this.
Still, the cartoons themselves are cute, with plenty of sly jokes for those of us outside the show’s age group. (In one cartoon, for instance, a biodegradable monkey ninja instructor is introduced as Master Song Sung Blue.) It is not, I should warn, a cartoon that you should broach on a Saturday a.m. without at least one good cup of coffee in ya; both the musical and visual energy can probably be jarring to a half-asleep adult – kinda like listening to Peewee Herman do the Scream Real Loud thing when you have a hangover.
Cartoon Ami & Yumi have elements of the Powerpuffs in their characterizations: the former, who grows addicted to collecting cuddly cereal toys in one cartoon, could be Bubbles, while Yumi, in her quest to become a master ninja in a second toon, at times even sounds like E.G. Dailey’s Buttercup. Show creator Gary Register may not be breaking any new ground here, but he gets the job done. And for fans of the band’s music, you get two new cuts, plus snippets like the Byrds-y guitar hook from “Sayonara” on the Sturmer-directed soundtrack. I’m looking forward to the inevitable Kid Rhino soundtrack collection. . . Powered by Sidelines