Asobi ni Iku Yo! – A mixture of Nekomimi, catnip, and the miracles of Okinawa
February 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Asobi ni Iku Yo (Let’s go play) is an anime released last year which is based on a light novel series by Okina Kamino and illustrated by Hoden Eizo. The story takes place on Okinawa and revolves around Kakazu Kio who meets a cat eared girl named Eris who claims to be an alien at a memorial service for one of his ancestors. As anime series go, the premise should be familiar to most people – essentially it is a harem anime with a sudden girlfriend appearance and a smattering of fanservice, nekomimi are also involved. It was licensed and released in the US under what is quite frankly a horrendous name – initially released as Bombshells from the Sky, but then changed to Cat Planet Cuties – names that I shall never use and should not exist.
The sudden appearance of Eris, a ‘Catian’ proves to be controversial, not only for the various international governments, but also for other underground organizations. Essentially, having the earths first alien contact being with a cat eared girl, who apparently speaks perfect Japanese is unacceptable since aliens should be all weird looking, perhaps like the Klingons, or other, weirder looking alien races. A lot is made about the idea that Eris cant possibly be an alien since everything she does looks too good, and doesn’t look like anything from science fiction. This is a show in which a lot of suspension of disbelief is required if the viewer, and yet I enjoyed myself while watching it. Fascinatingly enough, the people of Okinawa are perfectly happy to accept the Catians, and especially Eris, as demonstrated by her immediate acceptance into the memorial service by Kio’s extended family. That this happens on Okinawa should come as no surprise though; since the archipelago of Okinawa has only been considered part of Okinawa since 1872, so its culture is rather a unique one, and bears little resemblance to what many people consider to be ‘Japanese culture’. You could perhaps say that Okinawa is Japan’s Hawaii, with a far more relaxed culture and society.
I feel that Okina Kamino made a great decision to base the story on Okinawa, as it allows the viewer – or reader originally – to suspend their disbelief that these aliens are so readily accepted. A significant element of the show plays off of the idea that Eris is essentially a naïve ‘child’, someone with little to now understanding of the world which surrounds her, and Kio is her guide on her journey of exploration. The look on Eris’ face when she finds something interesting or tasty is pure bliss, and she often appears to be more of an overactive, or excitable child, constantly running around, exploring new places and discovering new things. Enter the assistroids, strange little robots who do most of the menial tasks, along with happily guarding their masters, doing the cooking, and even helping wash their masters back when taking a bath. They appear to resemble Kijimuna, a spirit from Okinawan mythology that has the appearance of a small child, entirely covered in red hair and with a big head. I think this is another element of Okinawan culture that has influenced Okina Kamino’s work, and feeds into the idea of a society that is far quicker to accept something a little different than perhaps certain other parts of Japan.
The naïveté of Eris does feed into the comedic aspect of Asobi ni Iku Yo, along with injecting elements of fanservice. Seeing her happily walking around Kio’s house in nothing more than a shirt is wonderful to behold, but causes untold problems for Kio who is accused by his childhood friend Manami of being a pervert, along with his teacher Itokazu Maki apparently thinking he’s trying to escape reality. Asobi ni Iku Yo plays with the fanservice and the idea that these aliens appear part cat to create incredibly entertaining, yet a little strange scenes. For example, having the entire Catian delegation dress up in school swimsuits for officially negotiations was great to watch. It is fanservice, and we cannot escape that, but the reason for it – such as fostering better relations – made me chuckle.
This naivety, and apparent helplessness further emphasises the immense power that the Catians control. We learn early on that the Catians uniform – while looking like a set of hot pants with big thigh-high boots – is actually a power suit that increases the Catians power and strength immensely. Add to that the bells they wear being personal computers that are capable of rearranging matter and even changing genetic makeup, and we have something serious on our hands. I like sci-fi, but I often get bored with random techno-babble, and strange, what I liked about the technology in Asobi ni Iku Yo is how much it is understated. The technology and futuristic things sort of happen, we don’t necessarily need any real explanation for it, and I like understated technology that is in the background, but is not at the centre of the story.
The story, while being quite light-hearted in nature, does, however, have dark undertones that run throughout the entire series. At the very start for example we see one of the shows main characters Aoi Futaba – who is a super powered agent for the Japanese Immigration Bureau – killing off smugglers. Several of the characters have dark pasts, or dark elements to their personalities; this includes Manami, Kio’s childhood friend. She is apparently training to join the CIA – this is Okinawa after all, the US still has sizeable base military base there – and is ordered to abduct by her CIA handler to abduct Eris for some sort of testing, Aoi is also ordered to eliminate both Eris and Kio. While there are lighter aspects to these characters, you get little glimpses of a dark past in Aoi’s case, and conflicted notions of right and wrong in the case of Minami. We also have a more serious plot running under all of this about a government conspiracy involving the arch enemies of the Catian nation, The Dogisians – highly unoriginal, but I didn’t find it detracted from the series – who apparently were the first aliens to make contact with earth and seem to hold a significant amount of power, while working from the shadows.
I found the characters quite likeable, and while they may have largely been the harem anime stereotypes, with the ditzy, but well endowed girl, the Tsundere, and the shy girl, they were all great to watch. Kio was also quite an interesting character and didn’t really come across as the normal, often bland, male lead characters that we find in harem anime. He is kind and willing to risk his life to help others, and actually, as a glasses wearing ‘geek’, Kio comes across as a bit of an unusual male lead for a harem anime. I greatly enjoyed watching Aoi and Manami, both professionals who know their way around a gun, and who are both in love with Kio, but seem incapable of admitting it. I do like the way in which they both switch, almost instantaneously from being quite normal high school girls into full on commando mode. I’m not entirely sure if I should be envious of Kio, or feel pity for him having such potentially deadly women around him every day. I must, however, confess that I preferred Eris, her naivety, along with the sheer joy that she exhibits when discovering the most apparently inconsequential thing is great to watch.
Asobi ni Iku Yo switches readily between harem comedy, to full on action, with gun-play and political conspiracy, something that I feel helped the show. I think it helps to show how crazy the world around Kio has become since the sudden appearance of Eris, but it also means that there are breaks in the action. Neither element of the series becomes overbearing, so the romance is dramatic, but not melodramatic, and the political conspiracy injects a serious element to the romantic comedy. All of these elements play off each other to produce a story, that I did enjoy watching right through to the end. This is helped by the great animation quality that is consistent throughout the series, I found the action sequences to be well done, and the backgrounds were detailed and vividly coloured as befitting the Okinawan setting.
I am a fan of harem and romance anime, when done properly they can be hugely entertaining. Asobi ni Iku Yo is not especially original when it comes to anime, with well used anime plot devices, and certain clichéd characters, however this did not put me off the series. Many people appear to suggest that because a series such as Asobi ni Iku Yo is clichéd, it is rubbish, but appear to forget that half the anime series in existence are clichéd in some way or other, it is practically impossible now not to be. The story itself may be a well used one, with certain predictable elements, but to me it’s never the story itself, but the way in which the story is told that matters. A large part of this series seemed to be about accepting who you and those around you are; with Kio discovering Aoi’s past, but accepting her for who she is. At the same time, it is silly, ecchi fun with cat eared aliens who cause havoc wherever they go, and appear obsessed with food. I do have a few issues with the series, such as the ending, and certain plot points; however, I feel this is largely to do with the source material. Asobi ni Iku Yo is based off of a light novel series which is ongoing and currently on 14 volumes, the amount of material there is immense, and 13 episodes only provide a finite amount of time. Clearly, there is a lot more to the story and characters and their relationships, all of which is explored in the light novels, but unfortunately left out of the series. To me, Asobi ni Iku Yo might be unoriginal, but was, and still remains enjoyable to watch, also, Americans should be ashamed that someone (or people) from that country came up with the names Bombshells from the Sky and Cat Planet Cuties, my god are those terrible names and should not exist.
Edited for Sense – Because the original post was badly written.