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Puffy Ami Yumi

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Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura are the stars of the Cartoon Network’s new show, an animated series based on their real lives as Puffy, one of Japan’s favorite pop groups.

Since we’ve already got a Puffy, they’ve added their names to their U.S. moniker.

Their new show on the Cartoon Network, Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, debuts this coming Friday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 6:30 p.m. Central time.

Here’s yesterday’s New York Times story by J.D. Considine.

    Big in Japan, but Made in the U.S.A.

    Ami and Yumi, a pair of plucky young rock stars, are thrilled when their manager introduces them to a cute little girl named Harmony, who’s their No. 1 fan.

    Their enthusiasm wanes, however, when they find Harmony hiding in their sock drawer.

    Yumi tosses the sycophantic stalker out the window of their (moving) tour bus, but Harmony keeps turning up with predictably wacky results.

    “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi,” which has its debut on Friday on the Cartoon Network, is an animated series based on two real Japanese pop stars,

    Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, a k a Puffy Ami Yumi.

    In Japan they’re known simply as Puffy, but North America already has a Puffy.

    They have been familiar faces since 1996, when “Ajia no Junshin” (“True Asia”) their debut single in imitation of the group E.L.O., sold more than a million copies.

    Like most Japanese pop acts, the group is nearly unknown in the United States, which is what the new cartoon is intended to change.

    For this is no Japanese import; their Japanese fans won’t even see it.

    “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi” is a made-in-the-U.S.A. cartoon intended to turn average American kids into fans of a Japanese pop group.

    Not surprisingly, “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi” is the work of a crazed fan.

    Sam Register, the Cartoon Network vice president who created the show, had never heard of Puffy Ami Yumi until the summer of 2001, when he stumbled across the video for their single “Boogie Woogie No. 5″ on a cable access channel in New York.

    “I waited until the end of the video, which I never do, to find out if I could see their name,” he said.

    “But the credits were in Japanese, so I had no idea who they were.”

    A year later Mr. Register happened to hear the song again, this time on National Public Radio.

    “I heard the words Puffy Ami Yumi, and I heard the word Sony,” he said. “That’s all I needed in my quiver to go after it.”

    Meanwhile, Sony Japan was trying to establish Puffy Ami Yumi in North America with relatively little success.

    Although the duo had sold more than 14 million albums and had made a popular television variety show in Japan, the odds of making a big impact in the United States were small.

    Apart from Pink Lady, who had a minor hit (“Kiss in the Dark”) and a famously bad television show in 1979, there hasn’t been a major American breakthrough by a Japanese pop act since Kyu Sakamoto topped the charts with “Sukiyaki” in 1963.

    Mr. Register decided Puffy Ami Yumi would be different.

    “A lot of Japanese music is horrible,” he said.

    But where juggernauts like Ms. Hamasaki or the charmingly amateurish girl group Morning Musume tend to favor either impossibly upbeat dance tunes or overly sentimental ballads, Puffy Ami Yumi’s sound seemed more familiar than exotic.

    It is firmly rooted in rock ‘n’ roll, and the producer, Tamio Okuda, wrapped the songs in arrangements that evoked rock acts from the Beatles and the Who to Rockpile and Elvis Costello.

    Still, it wasn’t until Mr. Register got the duo to record a theme song for the “Teen Titans,” a semicomic cartoon series about adolescent superheroes, that Puffymania began to take hold at Cartoon Network.

    “Everybody at the network started singing the ‘Teen Titans’ theme song,” he said. “That gave me the boost I needed.”

    Given the success Cartoon Network has had with its Toonami block of Japanese animation from 7 to 11 on Saturday nights and the continuing success of syndicated series like “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Digimon,” it would be natural to expect “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi” to resemble anime.

    But its look is more “Ren & Stimpy” than “Ruroni Kenshin” (one of the channel’s current anime hits), with garish colors, simple character designs and a general lack of visual clutter.

    Likewise, the plots tend toward the simple slapstick of American kidvid- no surprise, given the show’s intended audience, 6 to 11.

    Some episodes touch on the backstage life of rock ‘n’ rollers, but more often their antics are nonmusical, as when they take a part-time “dream job” in a candy factory and end up unleashing a monstrous taffy ball that destroys the town.

    Yet for all that, “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi” does relatively little to Americanize the pop group.

    True, the voices of the animated Ami and Yumi are by native English speakers, Janice Kawaye and Grey Delisle, but Ms. Onuki and Ms. Yoshimura also appear in each episode, doing live-action skits in a mixture of Japanese and strongly accented English.

    And the songs, which are heavily featured, are left in the original Japanese without subtitles.

    Thanks to several years of untranslated anime theme songs, hearing sung Japanese isn’t unprecedented on Cartoon Network, but the few words of untranslated Japanese in live action segments come as a surprise, reminding viewers that these are not American rock stars.

    In a telephone interview in which an interpreter combined their answers, they said: “There was no pressure from the network in changing who we are and what we do. Sometimes we would wonder, ‘Is it O.K. if a song is only in Japanese,’ and they’d say, ‘That’s what’s good about it.’ ”

    There has always been something essentially cartoony about Puffy Ami Yumi.

    Beginning with the cover art for their second single, “Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi”” (“That’s My Way of Life”), Ms. Onuki and Ms. Yoshimura appeared frequently as cartoons designed by Rodney Alan Greenblat, a New York artist noted for the childlike whimsy of his work.

    There were also short animated sequences in “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy,” their television show in Japan for four and a half years.

    In creating the show, the Cartoon Network tried to capture the real-life relationship between the long-haired, sweetly girlish Ms. Onuki and the spiky-haired, sardonic Ms. Yoshimura.

    There’s a strong sense of play in their interaction, reflected in the cartoon, with a laid-back wit that at times recalls the press conference drolleries of the Beatles (or would if the Beatles spoke Japanese).

    When they are in front of the cameras, mugging their way through one of the live action introductory segments for “Hi Hi,” their timing is so flawless and their facial expressions so coordinated you would think they shared a single comic brain.

    Even so, they recognize that conquering America will require significant effort.

    “We’d like to learn more English and be able to communicate with people,” admitted Ms. Onuki.

    Both hope their work will reduce cultural and language barriers.

    “But,” Ms. Yoshimura said, “we’ll just work with what we have and enjoy what we do. That’s the philosophy of Puffy.”

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  • Damaris

    I just happen to be browsing and I seen the cartoon come on. Girlish giggles came from me because I love J-pop and now there is a cartoon with J-pop stars.

    I wanted to know more about them, this is more than enough info.

    Hey I love japanese music! I don’t think it sucks at all.

  • Anne

    I love the show! I just got done watching an episode a hour ago. It was wonderfull. I am already a huge fan of J Pop Ayu Hamasaki and when I was skimming threw the shows and saw that their was a show about some J Pop Stars I quickly turned to it. I love it. The animation is like the plot, silly and random.

  • olive

    Catchy music. Crappy cartoon

  • kevin kissoon

    hi I am kevin one of your greatest fan in u.s.a I love your music and you guy’s are very cool and pretty

  • Kimie

    This is all bull! I knew of and loved Puffy Ami Yumi before they came out with that God awfull show on cartton network. But since I’m a big fan of their’s I thought I’d stick it out and try to watch the show. I can’t even describe how disappointed I was. I thought Ami and Yumi would do the voices, I heard mainly songs in english, and the artwork is just another American cartoon trying to look like anime! I’ll tell you why Japanese music doesn’t sell in America, MOST OF THE JAPANESE ARTISTS SING IN ENGLISH! Of course it won’t sound right! They should leave the songs in Japanese, they sound so much better! There are a few exceptions, Puffy does have some good english songs (“Your love is a drug”), Hikaru Utada is also good at singing in english but she sounds better in Japanese as do most artists. You want to make more money? Tell these big record companies to import the music straight from Japan, don’t edit it. Leave it as it is. I know a number of popular groups in Japan. But it’s only because I spend the 30 bucks for a CD that has to be flown in to America. I must say every CD has been well worth the extra cash.

  • alba

    puffy ami yumi are totally great I think they are great japanese singers but I don’t get the words that they are saying in the songs but its ok they are singing them from their hearts no matter what its the thought that counts I think ami and yumi make a great team working together as a girl group singing marvelous songs so its their uniqueness that matters because they are huge stars in japan so here in florida I can see puffy ami yumi on cartoon network but I think that they are cool and totally great!!! I LOVE puffy ami yumi and make thei hopes and dreams come true

  • Aimee

    I am familiar with some Japanese music and artist,but only from anime shows.Like BoA and Koda Kumi and people like that.When I was watching Teen Titans,which I usually didn’t but that’s besides the point,I heard this one song while they were trying to escape this house that was almost continual,and ami yumi sang this one song that I fell for!It made me want to see that show a million times until I found out that it was also on Ami Yumi’s show.I LOVE that song^^

  • Doug

    I’ve always been a fan of Japanese culture since I was a little kid. I happened to catch the show on cartoon network and thought is was cute but definatly intended for a younger audiance and bored me quickly. I heard some of the music and thought it was catchy. Then at the end of the show the real girls do a little skit and thats what grabbed my attention! They are beautiful! I now have a new found sense of motivation to save some money up and move to Japan. I dont know if everyone in that country is as gorgeous as those two but if its anything close it has to be what I need in my life.

  • http://unknown william

    I like the puffy ami yumi show!

  • Brad curl

    im crazy for puffy ami yumi. and just for the record,im a guy.yal best not even think about puffy amiyumi eny more, cause im takin over.

  • NO COMMENT

    I LOVE THIS SHOW IT THE BEST i love the episode when they go and ge $1 sushi

    CHEAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • madaketsun

    Hi-does anyone know of any PUFFY AMIYUMI Goods?Tshirts,dolls etc.

  • Kori

    i love puffy ami yumi, they are so pretty and cool, i mean the show is not that great but hey ami and yumi r the main characters i guess i can get used to it. i love j pop and P.A.Y are really great, so is ayumi hamasaki Namie Amuro,and seji, but of all i like P.A.Y

  • John Farallo

    I am just thankful that in this world of war hate and violence there are are women like puffy ami yumi making such a great product!their music makes me happy and makes me not want to swear and punch stuff god bless puffy ami yumi

  • John Farallo

    I am just thankful that in this world of war hate and violence there are are women like puffy ami yumi making such a great product!their music makes me happy and makes me not want to swear and punch stuff god bless puffy ami yumi

  • HW Saxton

    It’s too bad that Shonen Knife never got to have their own TV show.

  • http://patrick bruna ferreira

    oi adoro as fots da ami e da yumi e achop elas d+

  • Faith

    I’m doing this thing in french class and I have to find out what you guyz like to wear and stuff like that. Please post as much specific stuff as u can on your site. Or on this one. Thanx. Faith.

    P.S> Do u guyz even have your own site?

  • Suki akamari

    hello, how old Is Ami adn Yumi, because i cant seem to find out? thank you and goodbye

  • Yumi

    yes, its puffyamiyumi.com but there are a few more.
    hope this helps

    goodbye

  • ami

    we tend to wear similar things to our videos. The stage/video wear is an exagerated version of what we wear day to day.

  • Claudia

    Hello, I love your show. I think Ami and Yumi are very very cute and beautiful. I love the episode taffy Trouble because I love the part when the girls eat the candy and get their stomachs full that was so cute awwww.I also love the song True Asia.

    AMI AND YUMI ROCKS!!!

  • http://Lindsay Lindsay

    Hi! Whats up Ami and Yumi! Since I started high school I got even more intrested in the Japanese culture I even joined a Jap.club Since I watched your show on cartoon network,it influenced me even more to learn more Japanese.The cool thing about your show is that I can understand some of the Japanese words being said.You guys are da bom
    Best wishes

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    As a guy who spent 8 years in Japan, Puffy are a familiar name. While I’ve never been a huge fan, I am glad to see them getting some notice on these shores (although I wish it weren’t via a cartoon, but of course, they’re a natural fit).

    Their mid-90’s debut song was kick-ass though: Asia No Junshin (rough translation: Asian confidence. Their “Asia” extended to Berlin and Dublin in the song)

    Western rock fans might want to find that one(readily available on p2p) because of the uncredited producer, Jeff Lynne.

    It sounds like two cute Japanese chicks singing surging, heavy, uptempo, full tilt ELO song. Except it’s a lot better than that may sound.

    But for J-Pop, I always had the hots for the all-girl Princess Princess. Although I do have a crush on Takako Minekawa.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Tokoro de, Ami-san to Yumi-san, yoroshiku!

    Watashi no mesaaji o kaku ato de, anatatachi no mesaaji o hajimete mita.

    Gan’batte!

  • http://Idon'tknow Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Dear Ami and Yumi

    I am from Jakarta,Indonesia and I grew up in Los Angeles,California.My school is at El Sereno Middle School.My class is at B-26.Are you sure you’re older than my teacher.

  • http://Don'tKnow Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Patrick Tsoi-Sue is so dumb he lame like a crocidile.My favorite is when the cats are bugging Kaz at his beauty nap.

  • http://Don'tKnow Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    My favortive episode was Ami and Yumi have a Fan Mails and their making secerts to each other.

  • http://Don'tknow Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Why you have kaz in your show,is he real.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    I love your show and music,I’m your favorite band in the world.But my favorite football is the New York Giant,favorite baseball team is Los Angeles Dodgers,and favorite basketball team is Los Angeles Laker.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    My favorite singer in the Puffy is Yumi Yoshimura,my friend favorite is Ami Onuki.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Dear Ami Onuki,

    You look like my fifth grade teacher,when you cut your front hair.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Dear Ami,Yumi,Kaz,and the cats,

    I will have the best thanksgiving ever,but I wish you a thanksgiving.I hope I’ll see you in the Macy’s parade.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Dear Ami

    My friend Erikka Miles is your biggest fan in the world.I hope you got my messages.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    Are you sure Kaz is real,just asking.

  • Fransisca Tirtadjaja

    This is my sister’s birthday I wonder if ita great birthday for my sister.

  • tash

    konnichiwa

    can u come 2 australia one day u have fans there 2
    love all ur songs

    sayonara

  • tash

    i think ur show is kawaii n iijan ^_^
    cya again hehe

  • tash

    its me again lol

    JPOP music rocks 😛 its so cool

    jyaane

  • Chaterine

    Puffy rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bianca(your NO.1 fan)

    umm…
    I LOVE YOU PUFFY AMI YUMI!!!

    i want to know if you can come to lodi plaza sound garden!!in new jersey!!please!!and sing love so pure!!!if you can!!!
    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

  • http://www.puffyamiyumiworld.com/ Puffy AmiYumi World

    Greetings from the webmaster of Puffy AmiYumi World.

    There’s been a lot of Puffy news since this article. They’ve come out with an awesome new CD called “Splurge” to celebrate their 10 year anniversary as a group. Tamio Okuda, Andy Sturmer and a whole host of talent have joined them it what is probably their best single work to date. They toured in both the US and Japan to rave reviews.

    And since Splurge they’ve come out with a new single called Hazumu Rhythm and are about to release another called Hataraku Otoko. You can check out my fansite at puffyamiyumiworld.com for the latest news. I also have info on all their songs, with song samples, lyrics, pictures, biographies and much more.

    Great to see so many Puffy fans.

  • Rob Nichols

    I, love the show the music is alway’s awsome to listen to. I’m studying the japanese language,culture. My favorite song is the theme you sang to the TEEN TTTANS in the JAPANESE language only. I’m still learning it’s cool I think if I’m able to speak to other people in there language. Japanese music has always been my favorite. I’m also looking for the music cd of the Hi Hi Puffy Umi Umi that is only in the Japanese language.

  • W!ll

    I love you and your music!!

  • Аня

    LOVE AMI YUMI!

  • http://nia749 nia

    i love you guys i wish that the old cartoon network would still come now chowder and crap comes on thats all no old shows cartoon network people need to suck dick shame on them!!!