Saturday, November 20, 2004

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Y'know, there are times when I really feel my age. And yes, I know that I'm not really that old...but still, I kinda got that ol' feeling as I watched the premiere episodes of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi last night on Cartoon Network.

I first became aware of the J-Pop sensation Puffy through an Andy Sturmer Yahoo! Group. Sturmer, of course, is one of the musical braintrust behind one of my favorite newish groups, Jellyfish- and since that group split over ten years ago he's kept a very low profile, only working here and there with very little of it seeing widespread release. Anyway, someone mentioned that he had been working with a Japanese teen pop-rock group named Puffy, and I kinda filed that away in my little mental file cabinet until I got a chance to hear some of this music. Sometimes someone like that will be involved in a project in a producer's role or as a session musician, and you'd never know it because he or she has sublimated what makes their own music special to conform to the main musician's sound or identity. That's not the case with Sturmer and Puffy (now named Puffy AmiYumi to avoid confusion among the feeble minded music fans who might confuse two young rock'n'rolling Japanese girls with Sean "Puffy" Combs)- one listen to the duo's most recent Stateside release Nice. will give Jellyfish fans an instant sugar buzz as they recognize the old-new-borrowed-blue Sturmer songwriting approach. Sturmer and Puffy also did the theme song for Cartoon Network's Teen Titans animated series, which was included on Nice. and probably led to the discussion of an animated vehicle for the J-Poppers, and last night, it became a reality with this new toon show.

I really wish I could say I got as big a charge out of the show as I did from's certainly bright, colorful and fast paced, and the Flash-style animation is simplistic but fun to look at. Sturmer is on board, credited as "associate producer", and he wrote the music which is constantly going on, in short bits and pieces, throughout each shortish episode. Occasionally you'll hear an excerpt from one of the Nice. songs, or some other tune which may or may not be on one of the duo's other albums (I haven't heard them, so I don't know if Sturmer produced/wrote them). Kinda fun if you're a Jellyfish fan, but if you're not, then you probably couldn't care less. The character designs are done in that Genndy Tartakovsky/Craig McCracken/Samurai Jack/Powerpuff Girls style that the CN has had great success with so far...not exactly fresh and groundbreaking but watchable. But the scripts- ugh. This is the biggest problem I had- they're very simplistic and apparently aimed at preschoolers, which is where CN must think the audience is, I thought Puffy would appeal to older teens, especially teen girls, but what do I know- I'm sure CN did all the appropriate demographic research. Problem is, at 44, I'm a little too old to appreciate this, unlike many animated shows these days which are written with a more, shall we say, sophisticated approach. Another quibble is that the cartoon girls don't really resemble the real girls (who appear at the beginning and end of each episode, in clumsy, forced skits) except at the most superficial level (actually kinda appropriate, come to think of it).

So there you have it...your first grader might get a charge out of Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi, but I can't imagine anybody else will be interested, unless you want to hear the Sturmer music. Zannen desu, Ami and Yumi.

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