Monday, 13 December 2010

出ましたっ!パワパフガールズZ / Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z

The idea was certainly an interesting one. Powerpuff Girls is a postmodern animation for kids that distorts, mocks and yet clearly admires the magical girl subgenre of anime. It takes its tropes and takes them to absurd lengths: the anime heroines tend to be superpowered, colour-coordinated little girls with huge eyes? Well, we’ll make them preschoolers! Yeah. With eyes that take up ¾ of their heads! And yet the tongue-in-cheek schtick worked a charm, the characters were actually sympathetic, the villains were hilarious and the music was awesome.

And online, an artist called Bleedman became one of the most famous of any in that arena by taking the characters and others from Nickelodeon and putting them back into an exaggeratedly serious context. So when the first clips of a real Powerpuff Girls anime were leaked, I took an interest. And it tickled me that the Japanese took the property and removed just about every shred of irony, while taking on board every anime cliché there was. The girls stopped being lab creations and became regular Japanese girls empowered by ‘white light’. They were adolescents again, with big and rather vacant eyes, daft outsized weapons and rather too many suggestive shots of their scantily-clad bodies.

Still I liked the idea. The ironic property becoming straightforward and trying to be adorable could be extremely funny. I liked that Blossom became boy-crazy, Bubbles became so soft and loving, and especially that Buttercup was a tomboy to the extreme that she went past bokuko and referred to herself as ‘ore’. It even amused me no end that the humour of the villains clearly didn’t quite translate to Japanese, and Mojo Jojo’s amazing speech patterns got rendered as a ‘-mojo’ stuck on the end of sentences, Him’s creepy cliché-transvestite voice became the familiar effete anime baddy voice and very nearly has the same effect, and that the ‘my property!’ redneck cliché that informs Fuzzy’s character doesn’t cross cultures and becomes a doglike obsession with claiming territory. Powerpuff Girls Z, with chemical Z instead of the original chemical X, was always supposed to be an alternate retelling, so it worked.

So Powerpuff Girls Z was on its way to being a little curio I was fond of and unloading all its clichés before going away…but it lasted 52 episodes and soon became the worst anime I have ever seen. Not overall, but some of the episodes were quite simply the worst writing I have ever come across in Japanese animation. To pad the series, the story goes that ‘black particles’ take over people and even things and send them on rampages. If the idea of superpowered girls battling evil bits of sushi, pencils or flowers sounds hilarious to you, you probably haven’t sat through it actually spun into a 15-minute plot.

And call me overly optimistic, but I had hoped that the last episodes would have some genuine emotion to them, not the horribly artificial and momentary tearjerkers of robot dogs sacrificing themselves. Overall, a silly idea that could have amused and entertained for 13 episodes, possibly 26, but at 52 long outstayed its welcome.

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