We live in a world where three-minute anime are increasingly becoming a viable method for studios to adapt manga. With the 30-second theme songs removed, it’s closer to 2:30. Every second counts when you’re working in a time frame that small. Most jokes should land (naturally, most of them are comedy), and the animation should have as much motion as the small budget will allow. This is the most notable form of short anime, but it’s existed pretty much since anime (and DVDs) began.
DVDs, mostly. The incentive of director’s commentary or bonus features are a major part of what makes those Limited Editions so tempting to buy. Additional media on a separate disc, such as soundtracks or character songs, also play a part, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the bonus features. The animated equivalent of a 4-koma manga on the back of a volume jacket (sometimes literally), these may flesh out the universe a bit or comment on things that even the creator found a little odd about the workings of their universe. A place for self-parody and blowing off some steam.
Their animation style can be radically different from the TV series (Uraon! from K-ON!), chibified versions of the series (Akucheru World) or exactly the same as the TV series (A Channel). Their content also varies, from the above-mentioned self parody to blatant fanservice. Ladies versus Butlers! was particularly effective in this regard, but there’s only one show that has bonus features that encompass all of these, a true mastery of the form. They’re also more than a little weird.The show they come from is also a little weird, and, to me, is a wonderful example of what anime can accomplish.
About Mayoi Neko Overrun!
Mayoi Neko Overrun! is an anime of many visions. This is because every episode is directed by a different director adapting a radically different story, giving the series a tone that is at the same time hodgepodge, unique and expansive. The premise of the series is a simple romantic comedy story – Takumi Tsuzuki is one of many people picked up by Otome Tusuzki, a kind, caring big sister figure who manages a sweets shop named Stray Cats. Along with Fumino, his tsundere childhood friend (played to the extreme), Chise, a rich girl with an extravagant amount of money and interest in anime, and Nozomi, a catlike girl who joins at the start of the series, romantic hijinks ensue.
This description doesn’t encompass what the series actually ends up doing. The hot springs episode features a game of table tennis that lasts for an extraordinarily long time (mostly because it’s in slow motion). There’s a Jenga-like game mixed with the King/punishment game that borrows more than a few visual cues (and the director) from Saki. Episode 7 is nothing like what comes before or after it, instead being a full episode of Yuusha Choujin Grand Braver‘s episode 26, a loving homage to the Brave Series of yesteryear. That’s not even getting into Chise’s adventures in filmmaking, which involves Sentai poses, explosions and reckless destruction of property.
The TV-only compilation episode loops the series back in on itself and has the characters MSTing their own series. The only other work I can think of that did that was Akibaranger.
The series has a heart at the center about the bonds of family being who you spend your time with, not necessarily who you’re related to. Even with a large number of panty shots, the series keeps most of its focus on its exaggerated slapstick and situational comedy. Aided by its source material, it produces a series that takes many detours, but always ends up at the same place. The directorial Round Robin gives it an identity that very few other anime possess. By seeing different peoples’ takes on the same material, it allows the themes present in the work as a whole to become more pronounced – it’s perhaps the only true animated anthology comic.
The Neko Neko Douga series included as bonuses on the home media releases are a little more unified than the main series, all being directed by the same guy. That is Eiji Suganuma, director of Mashiro-iro Symphony and Sasameki Koto. I’m not sure what selection process was used to land him for Neko Neko Douga, but the end results are a series of slick extra videos, equal parts fanservice and comedy. There are six of them, but perhaps it’s best to view them by recurring sketches.
Yes, This is a Dancing Anime
Neko Neko Douga begins with a dance sequence, nearly every time. It alternates between Fumino, Nozomi and Chise, with the only difference being what outfit they’re wearing. Lots of what goes on in the series is done without explanation, or even dialogue. It’s not very hard to figure out, but the random, clips package nature of it all means that those who go in unprepared might wonder exactly what they’re watching. The dance that the girls do seems designed explicitly to show off their panties and give an overhead boob shot, and it isn’t long before they’re mocking this. The second installment of the series has Ieyasu sliding onto the stage while Fumino is practicing her dance, and gets himself hauled off stage for the trouble.
When viewed in sequence, this was building up to something. The final, sixth installment features everyone dancing together, with additional lights and sounds upon the stage (that we see being set up). There’s not much to analyze here, a dance is a dance. Taking the name of the series into account, as a parody of Nico Nico Douga, it references the frequent dance videos set to anime theme songs on there. A combination of fan culture and fanservice. The other segments running through the series have a bit more to them.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, Fanservice
Fumino and Chise have a rock-paper-scissors match in every installment, with each of them representing the Spats or Bloomers side from the great field day war in episode 11. (By “war” I mean West Side Story. Each side had their own theme song.) About half of these matches end with the loser getting doused by water in some way, turning their clothes see-through. The other half of these matches end in some violent slapstick that recalls Tex Avery and the like. It’s a precursor to what Nichijou‘s rock-paper-scissors matches between Nano and the Professor would become. Here’s a few samples of what happens to the losers.
There’s a bit of a gap before the Moai falls. The show’s already figuring out ways to twist its own gags before long. Nozomi even takes part in the games herself, providing some fanservice herself. The sixth installment has the punishment for losing being to be enveloped in a column of flames that dissolves all clothing. Fumino and Chise also find ways to pass their water-soaked punishments onto Kaho and Kanae, working more of the cast into the madness. Like many anime of its kind, it points out this is explicitly meant to be fanservice. Doesn’t make it any less fanservicey, but the show is aware of its end goal. Which Kanae is more than happy to assist with.
Chise’s Hidden Talent
Chise has a lot of anime knowledge for a young-looking socialite, and with anime knowledge (most of the time) comes a case of Chuunibyou, which will be the focus of an upcoming KyoAni series and at least two visual novels in the near future. In Neko Neko Douga this manifests itself as Chise trying to see if she actually has psychic powers. They don’t work on the objects, but they do affect Takumi, subjecting him to all matters of slapstick. There’s only one direction this can go, once she realizes she has control over Takumi’s destiny.
Black Chise awakens, and turns the world into a post-apocalyptic hellscape. As with Grand Braver, another anime homage ensues. Takumi is enveloped in a green light, Chise in a purple light. They clash over the skies of the ruined city, and the series takes itself seriously, if you tilt your head sideways. A recurring theme of these sketches is that the punchline is fanservice. That includes here.
Takumi crashes headfirst into Chise’s crotch. It could end here, but in the series, Chise’s delusions involved destruction of several irreplaceable landmarks. In this case, that means the entire planet.
That’s the power of a bonus special, especially one that exists outside the main show continuity. Liberty can be freely taken in regards to things like there still being a planet situated between Venus and Mars. This bathos, this combination brought about by low fanservice and sci-fantasy, aims for its laughs by going completely over the top. As I established previously, I like comedy that always tries to top itself. Topping yourself can be a difficult game, and a plateau will be reached eventually. But Neko Neko Douga is short, about the length of a regular TV episode if strung together. The stakes on topping itself are even higher, and I think it delivers.
Nozomi in Catland
If androids dream of electric sheep, what do catgirls dream of? Nozomi’s been something of an ambiguity since the first episode, and her role in the Neko Neko Douga series is no less so. The above screenshot isn’t actually her first segment. It begins with Takumi opening the door to find this.
Once we get into Nozomi’s dreams, the “cat” motif of Stray Cats sticks with her the most. She finds herself running down an alleyway, when she has a chance encounter with a talking cat who kind of looks like Lupin, telling her that there’s a war going on in his country. Nozomi follows these mysterious cats, hiding out on the edges of the battlefield. Like with Chise’s segment, this looks to be a riff on a popular anime, something that any slightly comedic anime is going to do. Nozomi’s side is clearly outmatched.
Then Catzilla rises from a nearby building and licks Nozomi, turning the thing into a King Kong sort of affair. This is the last we see of Nozomi’s segment, with her twitching in her sleep from the giant monster cat. It’s possible that the war was being fought because this creature was involved, but the details are left largely unsaid. Mostly, it’s just weird, which is what these were trying to accomplish. They work for their fanservice.
The Tenets of Youth, Featuring Godzilla
Ieyasu and Daigoro each have sketches of their own. Ieyasu has “The Tenets of Youth”, where he campaigns for a certain office, doing it all on the merit of 2D girls. He starts shouting outside the school gate, and before long is at the level of Prime Minister. His word is influential. Everyone is listening to him, including the bums.
The sketches end with Ieyasu an old man, petting a cat and saying his life was swell. Normally in these kinds of scenarios, there’s a wife with the old man, but since Ieyasu’s wives are all 2D, this segment implies that he kind of overshot the mark with his campaign.
Daigoro’s segment is shorter, also speaking to getting carried away. What begins with building a model of Kinkakuji…
Ends with another wad of cash spent on a robo-monster.
As these two were the standard best friends, their storylines may not pack as much punch as the rest of the segments, but they still fit within Overrun!‘s grand scheme of taking otaku culture as a family, and then exaggerating it until it becomes larger than life. When it comes to larger than life figures in this anime, there’s none other than Otome Tsuzuki, who’s a superhero without the costume. She has two stories, both revolving around her adventures.
Otome Tsuzuki Savin’ Around the World
There’s not much to analyze in these two short stories, but they do provide something the series only implied. What exactly it is Otome does in her spare time. It’s a simple travelogue that begins with her giving water to some soldiers in the desert, has a brief segue into her helping a baby gorilla find its mother, and ends with her back at home, her clothes ripped but her body alright, serving mostly to confuse Takumi. These segments are defined by their visuals and atmosphere rather than any dialogue. Seeing Otome in action is proof enough of her exploits. The second story has more direct consequences on the Stray Cats crew.
Otome brings home a… thing that only Nozomi and Chise seem to appreciate. After Ieyasu finds he can’t deal with it (the others aren’t even going to attempt it), it works its way into the usual transitions of the series, namely Nozomi on the riverbank. It’s here that Otome pops up again, seeking out what turns out to be a kappa.
The first story is down to Earth (mostly, Otome’s still a larger-than-life presence) and the second leans more on the fantastical side, but both of them show why Otome is important to the show, both to get plots moving and to provide a shoulder for the main cast to lean on, even if at times it seems more like they’re helping her than the other way around.
Fumino and Takumi
The central pairing of Mayoi Neko Overrun!, the stars of the show. Like with Otome, they get two stories over the course of the shorts. The first is a story told many times before in anime. Takumi accidentally gropes Fumino, sees up her skirt, she delivers slapstick retribution. The key to Neko Neko Douga making them entertaining is the cinematography. The first instance of this involves the entire grassy field Takumi was in being stained blood red, and the second is him ascending to the stratosphere – from his point of view. Aerial shots are always breathtaking, and the shot of Takumi coming eye to eye with a passing bird is amusing in itself.
In a later segment, Fumino is lounging around Stray Cats while reflecting back on the first incident. It’s a somber, reflective piece about Fumino being alone in the shop, stuck with feelings and frustration she can’t properly express. The lull of the segment is only broken by the violence in the flashback. Once again, the contrast in moods is jarring enough to induce laughter, as intended.
The final segment involving these two, and one of the last segments of the series overall, is a dream sequence that reveals the show’s true nature clearly. Fumino and Takumi are relatively normal, and everyone around them is weird, but they wouldn’t give it up for anything. Our scene is set, with no context, in the middle of the ocean. Takumi goes overboard and finds himself coming face to face with this.
Her face looks calm now, but in a moment, she begins laughing an insane laugh that only Yuka Iguchi can manage. The tiny raft is tossed, not just because of Mermaid!Chise screwing with Takumi, but also because Captain Nozomi and the Kitty Crew begin randomly firing cannonballs into the water.
They land on an island, where they are instantly attacked by natives (played by Daigoro and Ieyasu). As the picture that led off this section shows, it’s implied that Fumino moidered them while nobody was looking. Or she just took their duds as a trophy. Either way, they won’t be causing the stranded lovebirds anymore trouble. This alternate universe, where everyone is playing a role in a high seas adventure, continues as Takumi treks into the jungle. Who should be there but Otome, maiden of the jungle? Given her outing in the previous section, this may very well be the same Otome.
It’s at this point Takumi wakes up, revealing everything was a dream he was having on a vacation. It’s an excuse for a final swimsuit shot of everyone, but I enjoyed what the section was doing. By putting Fumino and Takumi in a harsh situation, their bonds become even stronger. That the cast is easily able to slip into their roles here, in addition to the Grand Braver episode, shows the versatility and the power of archetypes, and the chemistry this cast has anywhere they go.
That is Neko Neko Douga. Not every joke hits, but it has a much higher joke to length density than several other shorts of a similar nature. The fanservice is presented in a cute way, and the minimal dialogue makes the sketches reliant on animation, and on that front, it delivers. Not super detailed or fluid, but it’s quick and vibrant enough to communicate a gag. It even manages to tell some short stories in the moments between sketches, and finds new ways to one up or twist its own gags.
Mayoi Neko‘s broad but clever sense of humor and multiple directors give it an identity that stands out among the large number of anime produced, and by embracing the “anything goes” nature of internet culture, it stands out among the extras, too.