STUDIO: Turner Home Entertainment
MSRP: $14.97 each
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 90 Minutes each
Backstage with Puffy Ami Yumi
Trivia track on "Dance a Go Go"
Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi music video
Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi music video karaoke
Speak Japanese with Ami and Yumi

The Pitch

"It’s Japan meets America! Japan wins!"

The Humans

Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, and the English-speaking voices: Janice Kawaye and Grey Delisle, respectively.

The Nutshell

Puffy Ami Yumi was a packaged band before it was a cartoon. Sony had an act, typical J-pop, featuring two bouncy Japanese girls, and, through the direct interference of the ancestors, Cartoon Network decided to base a cartoon around them. Ami and Yumi, the real singers, feature in the opening and closing sequences of each set of episodes, while Ami and Yumi, the cartoons, assault your senses with frenetic action, American pop-culture references, and the occasional undecipherable Japanese exclamation.

These two discs contain twenty-four of the duo’s episodes, divided into eight shows of three each, four per disc.

"Look! His eyes are shaped like this. No more mosaic porn for you, Mr Bad Man."

The Package

It’s a show ostensibly about a pop band, so music ought to be a big priority to the disc authors. Unfortunately, the only track we get is a Dolby digital 2.0, mixed so that the abrasive soundtrack scrubs right over the dialogue. Generally, that’s fine, because the dialogue is incoherent, but there are a few lines you might miss.

The video quality is similarly rushed, with noticeable artifacting on a number of episodes, particularly on the first disc. Some of the errors are akin to playing any good 3D game on a machine with a bad graphics card, i.e. "jaggies" aplenty.

The bonuses are brief, in keeping with the ADHD tone of the show. The first disc, Let’s Go, features a brief biography of the human counterparts of the cartoon characters, all speaking in their native Japanese with subtitles, as well as an on-screen trivia track for one of the episodes. The trivia are along these lines: "If you do watch paint dry, make sure you are in a well-ventilated room."

"We are two mariners / Our ships’ sole survivors / In this belly of a whale…"

The second disc, Rock Forever, has a music video of a Puffy Ami Yumi song, which is an expanded version of the cartoon theme song, with a bit more footage of the real girls and a bit less of their ink-and-paper avatars. When you’re done watching the music video, you can then view it karaoke-style, and sing along with the profound lyrics. There’s also a brief feature that teaches three key Japanese phrases, specifically how to say: "Go for it," "cute," and "Thank you."

The artwork is fine, though with a strange parallel to that of the Tony Hawk videogames, and the keep cases are made of glittery pink-and-purple plastic, so there’s no losing these gems on a shelf.

The Lowdown

Do you have difficulty relating to anime? Are you baffled by the way that the youth of America idolize Japanese pop culture? Do you think it’s all just a nasty cycle, seeing as how the Japanese idolize American pop culture in a similar fashion? Prepare to be locked into a self-referential spiral of saccharine doom: Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi blends the American and the Japanese in the only way the two cultures mesh well together, which is to say it does so quickly and without looking back. Oil and water will mix, too, while you’re stirring it with an egg beater.

For the plots of the episodes, the show takes from established American ideas, with our insistence on having morals in our stories. There’s the story about obsession, the story about miscommunication, the story about bio-degradable monkey ninjas (not as good as Shakespeare’s take, but still worthy). It’s the methods of communication that spin wildly off our shores: the hyper-kinetic action, the Tokyo pop characters, and the impressionistic art.

"One road leads you away… the other leads you back…"

It’s a fun little show, especially if you think Japanese girls are adorable, but you may need to keep your finger on the pause button in order to slow the pacing down to a manageable level.

6.5 out of 10