Hello Kitty always says, "Nothing can brighten your day like a new friend." According to Judge Mike Pinsky, a more accurate translation would be, "Hand over all your money, gaijin. I've got a bunch of little plastic toys to trade you."
"Today you'll find out the truth! My name's Kitty!"—Hello Kitty
Yes, the last time we met to talk about Hello Kitty (see Hello Kitty and Friends: Fairy Tale Fantasy (Volume 1)), I may have given you the impression that I have something against Sanrio's brightest star and her merchandising empire. But I look around my office and take note of the Pochacco clipboard, and the Badtz-Maru portfolio, and the Hello Kitty Magna-Doodle…Okay, that last one belongs to my two-year-old daughter. But the rest are mine.
So I admit, I have been colonized by Hello Kitty and her army. Every trip to the mall, right before we put a raincoat on our daughter so she can eat gelato (yes, I said raincoat—have you ever seen a two-year-old with a cone of vanilla?), we must venture into the Sanrio store to see what is around. My wife prefers Chococat. I like Badtz-Maru (at least I did until they retired him). But it is Hello Kitty all the way for our daughter.
Still, that does not make Hello Kitty and Friends: Let's Be Friends (Volume 4), the latest installment of collected episodes from the Hello Kitty and Friends television series, any more palatable. For one thing, the technical aspects of this disc have not improved over previous volumes. The colors are still soft, and the image is sometimes washed out, as if shot through gauze to make it less threatening. Four episodes are included, each running about 26 minutes.
The centerpiece of the disc is a terrifying remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street that makes Wes Craven's film look like, well, a Hello Kitty episode. Snow-white cat-thing Kitty and littermate Mimmy have nightmares: All their happy dreams are being sucked into a vortex. The kids in town spread rumors that a "dream thief" is running amok, and panic reigns. At first, a sympathetic parent tells Kitty and Mimmy that the thief might be a magical tapir named "Tappy the Nightmare Eater." You can have your picture taken with him at any Hello Kitty theme park.
Later, the kids discover that the thief is a frog-like thing named Puffin who took over the job when Tappy retired. So they trap him inside a dream using a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Okay, we are told they trapped him, since the T-Rex appears to be cut out of the episode to avoid any real scares. Then, Puffin's mommy fixes everything, and the kids get all their dreams back and all the dreams overlap in a bizarre fugue—and then I passed out.
In "The Wonderful Sisters," Kitty and Mimmy are boy crazy. In their desire for a perfect boyfriend, they obsess over the new blanched cat, Robert. The narrator describes this as "puppy love." Dammit, these are cats—can't she see that? Cats don't date puppies. That is just so wrong. Anyway, Kitty offers Mimmy advice on how to score with Robert. In classic sitcom form, Robert mixes up the twin sisters and falls for the outgoing Kitty over the shy Mimmy. Ah, the merry antics of those young scamps! When Robert learns the truth, he wants to "be friends" with both twins and gives them both flowers. Cue the wakka-wakka music and start killing some kittens, as the Farkers say.
Little frog Keroppi stars in "Let's Be Friends." Amphibian fraternizes with reptile, as Keroppi and his pals meet a venomous snake that wants to play. When the fat kid falls and crushes the snake, our frog hero nurses it back to health using his father's medical kit. Jeez, they just met, and already Keroppi is playing doctor.
The fourth episode features two stories. In "The Big Adventure," Keroppi goes in search of—brace yourself—a bellybutton. I guess this makes sense. Frogs, not being placental mammals, would not have bellybuttons. I just never thought of Keroppi as an actual frog. When biology intrudes into the Sanrio world, you know something is dreadfully amiss. This short episode is paired with an inoffensive Pochacco segment. In "Exciting Birthday," the sporting pup skateboards around town reminding all his friends that his birthday is on Leap Day (February 29). Did you send him a card?
There is nothing here to excite children, offend parents, or even cause you to consume any more air in the room than that strictly required by lightly dozing. My recommendation: go to your local Sanrio store and buy some toys. Then make up your own adventures. Your kids will get more replay value that way.
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