Well, all that violence and child soldiery last time was a real downer. Let’s talk catgirls instead!
Cat Planet Cuties (formerly known as Asobi ni iku yo!) is a rather unconventional tale following Kio Kakazu, a young man whose main hobbies include reading manga, working in his high school’s film club and generally being a complete dork.
He spends most of his days engaging with his childhood friend and neighbour Manami, and his classmate Aoi, who makes no pretense to not have a huge crush on him.
One day, Kio meets a girl with cat ears and a tail at a memorial service for one of his family ancestors. The girl, named Eris, explains that she is an alien from the planet Catia, and that she is visiting Earth on a mission of good will and cultural exchange.
But all is not well in the cosmos (is it ever?) and Eris soon finds herself pursued by alien fanatics, government agencies and a more dangerous foe than all of those combined – DOG ALIENS.
If that all sounds like something dreamed up in a confusingly erotic fever-dream, then you might want to stop drinking coffee. If it all sounds a bit weird, then you’re right.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain that catgirls are kind of a thing in Japanese culture. Hell, there was a tail shop at this year’s Glasgow MCM Expo, so it’s practically mainstream.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that Japan and indeed Earth accepts Eris with open arms. Well, most of it does – pretty much as soon as Eris reveals herself, she is kidnapped. Here’s where things get complicated.
Turns out Manami is actually an agent working for the CIA, Aoi is also an agent working with the Immigration Bureau of Japan, and Kio’s freaking film group teacher is part of a fanatical group dedicated to ensuring first alien contact meets the expectation set by sci-fi movies. They are all sent to eliminate Eris, because ESPIONAGE.
Oh yeah, and Aoi is a mutant with the ability to teleport objects up to fifty meters away. Ooooookay.
Anyway, once that situation is resolved, the Catians decide to form a temporary embassy on Earth and send a contingent of diplomats to discuss formal relations with Earth’s leaders. Since the Catians are entirely ignorant of Earth’s customs, they show up dressed like this:
But of course, the Dogisians (yes, you read that right) take issue with that, what with them having been there for hundreds of years before the Catians (in secret, because… erm.) and the plot unfolds from there. It’s all a bit silly really, but in a (mostly) good way.
That said, I surely don’t have to tell you that the humour is pretty predicable. Eris and the Catians are all clueless and confused and light-hearted and expose themselves seemingly at the drop of a hat and generally act nothing at all like actual cats, the little bastards. That’s not to say I didn’t laugh heartily several times during the course of the series, but there’s only so many times you can take a fish out of water before it suffocates, you know?
And the puns, jeez, the puns. There’s a bunch of them. They’re the sort of jokes your dad would tell. At a family dinner. After having too much to drink.
Among the dumb laughs and fanservice, however, there are some really nice moments that clearly come from the heart, or at the very least the lungs. I’d like to put in a special mention to the episode which guest-stars Caitlin Glass as an early model Catian assistant droid named Lawry, visiting Earth before she inevitably shuts down permanently. Throughout the episode, a running theme is that the Catians are rather preoccupied by a certain song, one which we don’t actually hear until the very end.
And then there’s a fantastic moment where Lawry and Kio go to a lookout point and she begins singing the song – taken from an old-school anime called Captain Future – Lonely Spaceman. As the song goes on, the entire cast joins in – even the ‘villains’. It’s a really sweet, touching moment that comes completely out of left field. Sure, Aaron Dismuke’s singing sucks a fat one, but it’s the thought that counts.
It follows, then, that the English dub of the series is, for the most part, on point. Tia Ballard does a good job being adorably clueless as Eris, if maybe a little too high pitched for my tastes. The other Catians, with regulars like Anastasia Munoz (in a role before her big break in Jormungand) and Cherami Leigh, come across as appropriately silly, and Colleen Clinkenbeard is cool as a cucumber, positively oozing dog puns as Janes, the leader of the Dogisians.
Brittney Karbowski does her thang as Manami, as does Monica Rial as Aoi. Again, nothing earth-shattering, but absolutely functional. Their little conflicts over Kio’s affections give them a little space to show some depth, at the very least.
Let’s take a second out here to talk about Kio. Kio is quite possibly the worst thing about this series. He is without a doubt one of the most dense, oblivious protagonists of any anime I have ever seen. When I mentioned how cool it was that Akatsuki from Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero was a competent Badass™, rather than an “ooh-err missus” wet blanket, I was being truthful. Wet blanket protagonists in harem comedies are annoying as hell and in general add nothing to any of the proceedings. Kio luckily doesn’t fall into that specific trap, but certainly stumbles over it into another, almost worse trap – one that he immediately forgets is there and walks into again once he recovers.
Here’s a summary of a typical scene between Kio and Manami:
“She likes you, dummy!”
“What? Of course she does, we’re friends!”
“She wants to be more than friends!”
“Like, best friends?”
If that little exchange didn’t make your fists tighten a little with rage, rest assured that they will around about the eighth time it happens. So can somebody tell me why, exactly, these girls are fawning over Kio? Aside from the fact there aren’t really any other substantial male characters in the cast except Ernest Hemingway?
This isn’t helped by the fact that Aaron Dismuke, though I’m sure he tried his damnedest, just doesn’t click with me. I thought he was by far the weakest voice in the cast, and I don’t normally go out of my way to mention something like that. Sorry Aaron, you’re cool and all, but this time it’s a no from me.
To wrap this up, I enjoyed Cat Planet Cuties – to a point. It benefits from a relatively short run of 13 episodes, so it doesn’t outstay its welcome, it’s genuinely funny at times and the voice acting and animation is pretty decent. That said, it doesn’t bring a lot new to the table, features one of the most frustratingly dull and oblivious protagonists ever, and Eris, charming as she is, is severely under-utilized to make way for the Manami/Aoi/Kio love triangle (which, as we’ve already established, isn’t exactly convincing).
Still, if you like improbable, goofy plots and a healthy dose of fanservice, you could do a lot worse than Cat Planet Cuties.
Cat Planet Cuties doesn’t really being anything new to the table, but makes up for its generic characters with an off-the-wall framing narrative and some legitimately sweet moments. Just remember to turn your brain off at the door.