Magical Meow Meow Taruto Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2005
What They Say
Meow! Taruto is a young cat-girl living in a world filled with mystery and magic. She and the other cat-people appear as nothing more than just normal animals, but she has a unique gift of magic! Can she control her troublesome powers and unravel the mystery behind the ancient cat-people? Only time will tell... and a little magic wouldn't hurt either.
Magical catgirls. Lots of catgirls. Kimono catgirls, frilly dress catgirls, tomboy catgirls, sophisticated catgirls. The catgirl genre finds itself splintering here as the choices here are indeed many. There's even a catboy!
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the show is about average and there isn't anything really noteworthy about it. The dialogue comes through clean and clear and the bulk of it really feels center channel based, though the music makes good use of a full sounding stage for both the opening and ending. We listened through the English track as well and didn't note any problems with it during regular playback.
Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for this show looks really good for the most part. It's a very bright and vibrant show with a wide range of colors but has a certain softness to the background ones. The only area where we really noted any trouble is during a couple of the scenes with the eye-patch characters as the black eye-patch showed some blocking throughout it while the character moved. The transfer is otherwise pretty much free of problems such as cross coloration and aliasing. This release marks a surprising change for Bandai though in terms of how they present their shows. The opening and ending sequences are done via alternate angles based on language selection. One angle has the original Japanese text credits while the other has the translated credits. The end credits provide both voice casts in the English translated credits which is a plus as it's something that's often forgotten and the Japanese actors are never credited. The actual show logo is the same in both versions and the title cards are also done via alternate angles. The only thing that's noticeable between the two is that the English one appears to be a bit brighter. While I'm not huge on alternate angles because half the time they're not done properly, they're well done here and done as I like to see them done.
Using the same art as the Japanese first volume cover but accentuated by the purple keepcase that brings in the color all the more, this is a very cute and detailed piece that has Taruto in the center just looking adorable in her faux-maid outfit while the cityscape sprawls out behind her. It's a soft looking piece with the illustration style used but it really sets the visuals right for the show and just looks adorable. The back cover keeps the same simple feel to it with an off-white/pinkish background that's littered with little cat prints. Small circles showcase cute images from the show and each of the episodes is given a summary. The staff for both sides of the production are kept together and a small block of technical information is provided at the bottom, though it's a bit odd. It actually lists that there is a single DVD inside and there's no listing of any of the extras from this release here. The keepcase is actually clear and the reverse side of it uses the cat prints all over it in varying colors and looks really cute. The insert has a big cast shot on the front of it that I don't believe came from the Japanese retail release and opens up to a two panel piece that has the episode summaries on one side and small character profiles for the first three girls we meet. The back of the insert has the full translated production and voice actor listings and the English cast is tied to their roles which is a plus.
After a brief animation at the load-up that sets into the background of the city at sunset, the menu pieces float in on bubbles and the menu finally becomes usable. A brief bit of instrumental music from the show plays along here and it's overall a very cute menu and one of the better ones from Bandai as of late, which is why I'm feeling forgiving about some of the transitional animations. Moving to the submenus has a brief piece play as well but it is very short and keeps everything in theme. The only area that works right but could be done better is in the language selection area as once you have your languages selected (or preset), it doesn't provide any way of telling on the screen what you're actually set at. This happens across a number of releases from most studios and it's something I still consider one of those "step 1" procedures that just must be done.
A couple of extras are included here, though not listed on the cover. A pair of music clips are here which are highly amusing as they have the Japanese voice actors dressed up in their characters outfits and the ears doing singing at the microphones in the studio and that's mixed with clips from the show. I'm a sucker for cute pieces like this one and it just oozes cuteness all over. Also included is a textless version of the first opening sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Every now and then a series comes out that when you watch the first couple of episodes it really takes a while to wrap your head around the concept of the show. Often these aren't the shows that take place in far away settings and are so wildly different that it's easy to see how things are going to be but rather the shows where there are such small differences between reality and the show that it can be difficult to really get what's going on in a sense. Taruto is definitely one of those shows and almost takes on a fairy-tale feel to it.
The series kicks off with its fairy tale origins to it with an illustrated piece about a kingdom called Ganache that was subjected to a war that it lost. The king, wanting his rule to continue to his daughter's life, sends her off and she's never seen again. The main trait of those of the Kinka family is that they're very powerful in magic. And in this dimension slightly to the left of our own, they're all cats. That sets the stage for the series itself where we're introduced to a European looking town where a human family made up of a mother that I don't think we see, a daughter named Kinako and a man whose relationship isn't clear named Iori. They've just moved to a new home and are in the process of moving in though it looks like Kinako is doing all the work since Iori looks to be the sort of proper gentleman who doesn't do physical labor.
Iori is also apparently the keeper of Taruto. Taruto is human in appearance with the exception of cat ears and a tail. She's also roughly no taller than Iori's knees, which means she's about as tall as an average cat if they stand on their hind legs. She doesn't look like a child but she doesn't look like an adult either but sort of a medium that's hard to really pin down. They're also not really consistent with her height in a lot of this nor with the other catgirls that are introduced. Taruto is an excitable person who just wants to please Iori and do all sorts of good things for him, things that often lead her to getting into trouble. In the first episode they make it pretty apparent with he amount of things she crashes into and causes trouble with just from the move.
Taruto qualifies as the bright eyed innocent of the show and as the cast gets larger and we meet more catgirls we get pretty much all the archetypes for them. A local pair named Charlotte and Chitose are a mix of modern and traditional with their outfits and mannerisms but they do offer something important to Taruto. When Taruto tries to help a rodent-like creature named Kakipi out of its problem by trying to use magic and she actually gets him to fly, they talk about the legend of Ganache and the missing magical daughter that everyone is searching for. While it's a fairy tale to them, we see that there are indeed forces out there in various cat-forms that are looking for this missing girl and someone with strong magical powers.
That serves as the backdrop for the series but the bulk of what we do get is Taruto dealing with the day to day life of being her. Once she hears the tale of the missing princess she instantly assume she is her, which furthers the belief that she's pretty much empty-headed to some extent, and does her best to learn magic so that she can properly assume her role. This brings in a wide variety of other catgirls that are either there to help or hinder her. In a real change of pace, there's even some catboys that get brought into this, from the old priest under the shrine to one of the local boys catboy. He's an interesting one since he really looks like Jigen from Lupin the 3rd but in cat form. Taruto and the others go through their various little adventures while inadvertently skirting the real danger of the two opposing forces that are searching for the missing girl.
It's a very charming show and in watching it I could see that it would be ideal for my young girls, up until we hit the second episode and they go rather heavily into the loss of some cats and how they died. Granted, we're not trying to shield her but there are some things that can cause more trouble than not, but the 7 rating on the title is probably pretty accurate. It has a very fairy-tale feel to how it's told and the setting but it just has this very odd quality to it that's hard to pin down. The catgirls and their keepers aren't really explained here and the world setting is just slightly off from normal. It's charming in its way but as mentioned before, it's the kind of show where something so small and simple is different that it can change the entire dynamic completely. The character designs for the catgirls are just great in general and with so many different types they're able to really hit a wide range of styles for them. One of the girls we meet even collects these catgirls/boys.
Taruto is a really hard show to describe and one that I've tried to do in the past day in person to some people but haven't been quite able to get its charms across. It's definitely a fairy-tale piece that will appeal to the young fans but has more than enough cuteness and sugary goodness that it'll appeal to an older crowd at the same time. The legions of catgirl fans will be all over this one for obvious reasons though and probably went into conniptions from the introductory line here. The main flaw that I come back to with this show is that for it being a 2001 release and being twelve episodes, it certainly shouldn't be a four volume release or a release at this price point.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Music Clips,Textless Opening #1
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 69
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magical Meow Meow Taruto