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Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Rock Forever! is a collection of 12 five-minute "adventures" compiled from four episodes of the Cartoon Network show. Those included on this set are:
J-Pop duo Puffy AmiYumi (or simply "Puffy") may be stars in their native Japan, but were relatively unknown in America before receiving their own show on the Cartoon Network in 2004. Animation would seem like a natural medium for these two women, whose flamboyant wardrobe and spasmatic mannerisms are already, well, cartoonish. However, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi creator Sam Register has oddly chosen to downplay the goofy exuberance of Ami and Yumi in their cartoon counterparts.
Though the real-life Ami and Yumi are both in their early 30s, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi reinvents them as teenagers who seem to be stuck on some sort of perpetual American tour. The decision to take Ami and Yumi out of their home country for the bulk of the episodes is the first in a series of ill-advised attempts to Americanize the duo.
Despite the fact that the real life Ami and Yumi (who introduce each episode) have very limited English-speaking skills, their cartoon counterparts speak fluent, American-accented English. While a slight upgrade from Ami and Yumi's poor intonation was clearly necessary, I see no reason why Register couldn't allow the girls to keep their Japanese accept for some local flavor. Additionally, the clingy, skin-bearing wardrobe of Ami and Yumi's cartoon doppelgangers in no way resembles the frumpy, yet colorful, outfits the girls wear in their introductions. Far too often, Register has chosen to disregard nearly all the affectations that make Ami and Yumi unique and replace them with boring convention. In essence, the cartoon Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi bears so little resemblance to the real life girls that anyone who watches because they are fans of the musical act Puffy is bound to come away disappointed.
The show's writing is marginal, at best. The stories, which all max out at around five minutes, never have a chance to become very involving. Admittedly, the show was created for children, but even they appreciate a good plot. One adventure, "Rock N' Roe," is merely five-minutes of Ami and Yumi hallucinating after eating some bad sushi. Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi also provides few jokes to salvage these weak storylines. The sporadic attempts at humor usually involve bad puns and endlessly recycled punch lines that seem to exist only in bad television shows (such as when Yumi comments that one gluttonous kid is "big enough to have his own zip code"). Perhaps a young child hasn't heard that one before, and may even be mildly amused, but pity the poor parent who may be forced to watch.
The shows strong points are the music video interludes and brief introduction by the real Ami and Yumi. Puffy's music, which was largely written and produced by Andy Sturmer of power pop band The Jellyfish, is surprisingly catchy and engaging. A DVD collection of Puffy's music videos would be far more entertaining than this compilation.
As previously mentioned, the real life Ami and Yumi are nearly infinitely more engaging than the cartoon characters who merely share the same name. In each episode's introduction the girls bounce and dance ebulliently through various set pieces without any apparent sense of self-awareness. Sadly, these introductions are rarely longer than twenty seconds. If Register had managed to tap into the uniqueness and exuberance of the duo, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi might have been a fun, irreverent show for children and adults alike. As it is, this is just another nondescript cartoon. It may hold a child's attention for 22 minutes, but it probably won't be looked back on fondly in adulthood, if it's remembered at all.
The extras on the DVD are pretty skimpy. "Speak Japanese with Puffy AmiYumi" could have been an interesting feature, but it's only a two-minute segment in which Ami and Yumi only teach three words. The music video and music video karaoke style and actually the same thing, expect the "karaoke style" video has subtitles. All in all, this is a rather unimpressive DVD.
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