Nuku Nuku Dash Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2003



What They Say
It's love at first sight when 14-year-old Ryunoske Natsume has a chance encounter with the purr-fect beauty he will come to know as Nuku Nuku. Atsuko Higuchi, aka Nuku Nuku, shows up at the Natsume residence one afternoon not knowing where she came from or where she will end up.


One person, however, knows more about the elusive Nuku Nuku than he is letting on. While Kyusaku tries to discover the secrets of this androbot All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl, his son Ryunoske is tormented by his deepening love for his new live-in companion. Meanwhile, Akiko Natsume finds herself being reassigned at Mashima Industries and heading up an impossible mission. As Nuku Nuku tries to adjust to life with the Natsumes', she finds herself up against a string of adversaries, but little does she know it's Akiko who is the deadliest foe. This is the All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl like you've never seen her before!



The Review!
After a successful OVA series, the franchise is restarted and done differently for this particular OVA series.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Being a pretty standard OVA release of its time, the stereo mix is decent with a few areas of noticeable directionality, mostly in the larger combat scenes, but otherwise a normal mix for dialogue and ambient effects. Dialogue comes across nicely with no noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released to video back in 1998, the transfer here makes it feel much closer to the 1992 release with its look. A dark color palette on an already dark looking transfer gives the show a grainy feel and something that you normally don’t get from an OVA release, since those are typically much shinier in their use of colors. The transfer is decent, but the way it comes across makes it look older and more traditional than someone would expected from a 1998 release. Thankfully, cross coloration and aliasing are both very minimal so they don’t provide much distraction.

Packaging:
Done in a clear keepcase, the front cover provides a nice display of images that brings the various elements into play in their own angle. Through the three angles, you get headshots of the primary family members while above all of that is Nuku Nuku herself in a cute dress. The cover looks really nice here and uses some good colors to bring it all off. The back cover has a few shots from the show and pushes the new aspect of Dash over the previous release. A good summary brings things up to date and a listing of the discs features and extras is also here. While the front cover and spine list the volume numbering (as mode’s), the back cover doesn’t list episode titles or numbers, just the number of episodes on the disc. For the insert, we get a bit of a booklet this time with some great full color artwork. The booklet is really nice; it’s got a couple of pages on the basic plot in these episodes and then does a couple of pages on characters. There’s two full pages given to one of the enemy androbots here and then a map section of the town we’re dealing with. Very nicely put together and laid out.

Menu:
The main menu is a simple static piece with a brief bit of the opening music playing over the image of Nuku Nuku in her combat uniform and sunglasses. The episode selections are along the right as well as languages and extras. With little on the disc, access is pretty easy and moving about is nice and fast.

Extras:
The only extras included on this release are a textless version of the opening and ending sequences, both of which come out quite nice.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first brief OVA series, I had enjoyed the adventures of a cat’s brain inside a female humanoid robot and the adventures she had with the wacky family she got stuck with. The series was a testament to the kind of weird shows that used to get done for OVA series that ended up falling off the face of the planet when that market dried up.

Nuku Nuku Dash is a twelve episode OVA series that takes the original Nuku Nuku “wheel” and while it doesn’t reinvent it, it spins it around a bit and makes some changes. For the most part, I think it works quite well and in several areas works better than the original. The main difference that I’ve found between the two is that the overall level of wacky and weird is toned down a bit more in favor of near-realism and other similar aspects. By doing that, the show is a touch more grounded in reality and more accessible to people.

The premise is pretty simple. Out of the blue, the Higuchi family has a new member in the form of Atsuko, a young woman who has lost her memory. Professor Kyusaku Higuchi has taken her in, though with a bit of debate from his wife Akiko about it, and Atsuko now lives with them. This comes as a shock to their fourteen year old son Ryunosuke, who had seen Atsuko earlier in the day save a cat in the street by doing an amazing flip in front of the truck to rescue it. But he’s also a fourteen-year-old boy who has a rather attractive woman living with him now.

With her arrival there, things don’t stay normal for long. Akiko, an employee of the big and power Mishima corporation, finds herself transferred to a new secret department where she’s given the assignment of hunting down a missing Andorobot, one of the prototypes that has escaped from a research facility. She’s ambivalent about it since it falls outside of her normal skill set, but the bonus and promotions end up swaying her over to the new job.

At home, Kyusaku has some secrets of his own as we see him sneak Atsuko down into a hidden room in the house where he’s got a ton of high-tech equipment stashed. As we learn that Atsuko is obviously the missing prototype, we see Kyusaku trying to unlock the secrets of this machine and why she’s so different from the others. There’s naturally all kinds of blocks that keep him stumped, but it’s an ongoing project that he’s rather delighted to be working on.

And Ryunosuke? Well, this poor boy keeps having dreams of ending up in bed with Atsuko but they’re fairly tame and not over the top. I think there’s only one real nosebleed sequence and that was within a dream and most definitely warranted. Ryunosuke knows there’s something different about Atsuko but she seems pretty normal outside of the fact that she can’t remember anything about herself. With the pluses such as her being a fantastic cook weighing in her favor, he’s not one to press too far in finding out what’s going on, but rather enjoying the change in his life.

Naturally, there’s plenty of danger coming into their lives as you have Akiko trying to locate and terminate her (not realizing that it’s Atsuko and only going by the technical specifications which show a more robotic looking end version) and other prototypes that are trying to find her to find out why she’s so different and was treated the way she was at their development. The action sequences are pretty well done with a darker edge given to them, particularly with the transformation and end-costume that Atsuko ends up wearing.

One of the main changes from the previous version that I think works best here is the simple fact that Ryunosuke is older. It was almost a bit creepy at times in the previous OVA series where the young lad was having the hots for her but was as young as he was. With the change in age here and the change in the family bond between the parents, the result is something that works better in how it plays out. With Akiko trying to be a good mother but not be the main villain helps the flow and structure of the family life immensely.

Going into the show, I had little foreknowledge of what to expect with it. Since it’s not a continuation but a restart with changes, I’ve enjoyed it more than I expected to since I wasn’t sure what else there could be done after the original series. Atsuko is definitely someone that’s more connectable this time around and the family doesn’t feel like a bunch of insane people on overdrive. After the first four episodes, I’m rather pleased by how it all turned out and am looking forward to seeing what other changes and fun the creators have up their sleeves for this variant.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean open and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.




Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Nuku Nuku, All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl