Friday, December 2, 2011

Catman (anime), via Crunchyroll

According to MyAnimeList, what Crunchyroll has lumped under a single title, Catman, is actually Catman, Catman Series II, and Catman Specials. I caught the title change from Catman to Catman Series II, but when the specials started I got confused, because they used the title Catman.

Episodes, in general, run 3-5 minutes long. Crunchyroll has 22 episodes total.

There is no spoken dialogue (unless you count the reporter in the "shoot at the sun" episode), just subtitles and music from the Planet Smashers.

If you want to watch this series on Crunchyroll (I'm not sure where else it's available), you'd better watch it soon, because it's going to be removed by the end of this month.

Synopsis:

There's not much of a plot, although there are a few recurring characters. All characters in this series are anthropomorphized cats - they drink, smoke, talk, gamble, etc. like human beings and don't seem to have any feline-specific behaviors, although that didn't keep me from becoming nervous on behalf of the bird and mouse that showed up in a couple episodes.

Catman tends to live in the moment, which, unfortunately for him, often results in him doing things that leave him hurt, lonely, and/or penniless. He tends to be dissatisfied with his life and wants to run away to someplace different and, hopefully, better. Episodes in the first part of this series show moments in Catman's life. He also captures the interest of a female cat-person.

Wanting to be free, Catman leaves the lady cat-person behind and spends much of the rest of the series engaged in self-destructive behaviors (drinking, angering gangsters, gambling away all his money). Will Catman ever stop running away from all his problems?

Review:

This series is not for everyone. At the very least, you really, really have to be okay with slice-of-life stories. When I said there wasn't much of a plot, I meant it. In the first episode, Catman does nothing but jump from one place to the next. In another episode, Catman is so hot he tries to shoot down the sun. Even the more action-oriented episodes are brief and simple. For example, one episode is almost entirely about Catman running from a guy after stealing one of his apples.

I didn't really like this show overall. There were certain moments and episodes I liked – the gangster episodes were usually fun, I laughed when Catman shot at the sun, and I found that one lady cat, the aged former beauty (prostitute?) who talked to Catman about love, to be both chilling and sad. However, it felt like the show didn't have any kind of plan, or at least not a consistent one, and I thought it suffered a bit from that. Also, there were times I really disliked Catman.

In the first part of the series, I could tell that things were probably moving towards a romance between Catman and the lady cat-person who dressed in green. When he left her at the start of Catman Series II, I figured that his self-destructive behavior would culminate in a realization that he preferred life with the lady cat-person to the “freedom” he had on his own. This was not really the direction in which the series went, and, although I was somewhat relieved for the lady cat-person (she was barely a character, but, even so, I couldn't help but feel that she could do better than Catman, if only she'd just move on), I was also disappointed.

When the gangster episodes started, I felt the tone of the series shifted. Catman's self-destructive behavior no longer seemed to be presented in as negative a light. Instead, the stupid things he did became gutsy and cool. He didn't just gamble away his own money, he almost gambled away a stranger's money. And then he gambled away his own money a second time. He didn't just flip the bird at a gangster once, he did it for as long as he could still get his fingers to work between the beatings the gangster gave him. It was stupid of him, but it was presented as cool and, I think, intended to show that he was finally developing the spine and pride necessary not to run away at the first sign of trouble. All of this seemed, to me, to contradict earlier hints that the show was moving towards Catman's realization that his idea of “freedom” was actually just a bunch of self-destructive behaviors that weren't going to get him anything other than an early grave.

The inconsistent feel of the series bothered me, and I never quite got over the dislike I felt the moment Catman turned away from the lady cat-person. Still, like I said, there were moments and episodes that were enjoyable. I'm glad I watched this show before it was removed from Crunchyroll, but it's not something I could see myself recommending to very many people.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Maus (graphic novel) by Art Spiegelman - Okay, so I still haven't read this, but it immediately came to my mind as a work that might potentially appeal to those who liked Catman. As in Catman, the characters are all animal-people (cats, mice, pigs). Spiegelman interviewed his father, a Holocaust survivor, about his experiences and turned that story into Maus.
  • Cowboy Bebop (anime TV series) - Those who'd like something else starring a "cool guy" main character and featuring action and a good soundtrack might want to try this. The series focuses on a group of bounty hunters doing their best to earn enough money to feed themselves.
  • Tekkonkinkreet (anime movie) - Like Catman, this is set in a fairly gritty urban environment, and the main characters are amazingly athletic as they run and jump around town. I've written about this movie.
  • Dark Side Cat (anime) - If you'd like another short show featuring Flash animation, you might want to try this, although Dark Side Cat's tone is different and its pace is faster. I've written about this series.

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