Have you ever felt like you just needed to watch something obscure and out there? Something so forgotten by time that, upon hearing the title, people would think you are trying to prank them? All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku. Man, what a name. When I found this series, I just knew I had to watch it and wanted to share it with others. However, there are actually 3 versions of this story and each one has its own appeals and shortcomings. So, instead of a 3 Reasons To Watch, today we are doing just 3 mini-reviews that explain the appeal (or lack thereof) of each of the 3 series.
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku (1992)
This is the original OVA series that launched the Nuku Nuku franchise and consists of 6 episodes of 30 minutes each. Nuku Nuku is a small, stray kitten in this story that, one day, has a run-in with a boy called Ryonosuke. He ends up taking her along with him, even though he and his father are on the run after stealing an advanced robot body from the heavy industries firm his dad used to work at. As they drive off to evade a company attack helicopter, Nuku Nuku is shot and Ryonosuke’s dad, Kyusaku, has to save her life by putting the kitten in the robot body.
This turns her into the teenage cyborg catgirl Atsuko “Nuku Nuku” Natsume, who joins the Ryonosuke and his dad as they go into hiding. The series is a strong mix of comedy and lighthearted action, wherein each storyline sees Ryonosuke’s mother, the CEO of the company that was stolen from, launch a scheme to retrieve the robot body and reunite her with her son. There are many battles between Nuku Nuku and a duo of company lackeys that are tasked with operating the cool robots, combat vehicles, and even a spaceship at one point. It’s a non-stop blast and had me entertained throughout its entire runtime.
A particularly interesting trait here is actually Ryonosuke’s mother, Akiko Natsume. She is not just the big, corporate villain needed to drive the story, she is also very motherly and you really see how much it hurts her to be separated from her son. She dearly wants to be with him, but every scheme she comes up with only serves to drive more of a rift between the two. The show has a lot of scenes that play into the romance between Akiko and Kyusaku, which are interesting because they do love each other, but just can’t stand being together for too long. It’s an interesting case for divorces and both Nuku Nuku and Ryonosuke end up playing big roles in episodes that deal with this broken marriage.
The 1992 OVA is an excellent choice if you are looking for lighthearted, fun action. It has deeper themes and storylines worth following, but it never has these at the forefront. There is drama to be had here, but it never gets in the way of hilarity.
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash! (1998)
Dash acts as a complete retelling of the original story and keeps only a few basic elements the same. Ryonosuke, in this story, is a teenager himself, and one day returns home to find that his father and mother have taken in the “recently-orphaned” Nuku Nuku, a mysterious, 19-year-old beauty.
In this version, Akiko and Kyusaku are still happily married, but instead of a CEO, Akiko is an overworked manager for Mishima, the evil company from the original story. However, a lot of big accidents are occurring lately, and Nuku Nuku keeps appearing to put a stop to them. Mishima then erects a department to capture her, which Akiko is put in charge of, not knowing just who she is actually hunting.
This story has more of a mystery to it and keeps Nuku Nuku’s origin and the roles of Akiko and Kyusaku in it shrouded. It plays its action scenes more seriously and the comedy is more understated, which isn’t exactly playing to the series’ strengths. However, it also has more of a romantic edge as Ryonosuke begins to discover his romantic and sexual attraction towards Nuku Nuku, which isn’t settling well for him at all.
It’s still a series worth watching, with a regular 12 TV-size episodes, but I wouldn’t recommend it as your first taste of Nuku Nuku. Instead, it’s more fun to watch if you have seen either of the other shows, so you can compare what has changed.
All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku (1998)
I wasn’t too fond of the 1998 TV series, mostly because it just doesn’t do much. It has the happy family setup of Dash, but the carefree comedic nature of the first series, without including any of the depth that either setting provided. Instead, it’s just a 90s comedy series with a villain-of-the-week structure and little in the way of an overarching plot.
Nuku Nuku and the Natsume family are happily living together, but Akiko secretly works for the evil Mishima Industries, which insists its employees wear leather villain costumes and build giant robots that frequently go haywire. Each episode sees some ridiculous incident occur, like an alien visitor from a planet of humanoid mice or a giant robot battle between Mishima’s CEO and Kyusaku. Meanwhile, Nuku Nuku is attending high school and an increased focus is placed on her interactions with various wacky classmates.
The TV series is nostalgically entertaining and certainly not without its good moments, but feels lazier in its setup. It feels like a parody that set out to mock various well-known tropes and character archetypes, but ended up playing all of them straight instead. Running gags get recycled far beyond the point of being funny and for every moment that positively surprised me, there would at least be two cringe-worthy scenes to compensate.
I would recommend the series with a line like “a good choice if you just want some uncomplicated action and 90s anime humor”, but the OVA version already provided pretty much that and was already not too complicated. This version is more intended for fans that just wanted more of a thing they already liked.
The best course of action is to watch the original OVA that started in 1992. It tells the story well and finds a good balance between being funny and actually telling a story with varied emotions to it. Dash! is also worth watching for its dramatic take on the plot, but you get the most out of it if you go into it already invested in the story & characters. Similarly, the 1998 TV series also relies on you already liking Nuku Nuku enough to bear with its uninspired, but largely-palatable comedy take on it.