Magical Meow Meow Taruto Complete Collection (Anime Legends Edition) (of 1) (

By:Ben Leary
Review Date: Monday, June 23, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, April 01, 2008

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 little magic wouldn't hurt either.

The Review!
Magical girls and cat girls - two cute things that go even cuter together!

I went for the English language option for this release and found a simple but problem-free stereo mix. This is hardly an action-heavy show, so most episodes have little beyond dialogue coming through the center channel. That didn't bother me at all, though, because the dub is just dandy. The left and right speaker get minor use on occasion, usually in the form of music or thrown voices as characters run off the edges of the screen. There's nothing spectacular about it, but it sounds fine for what it is. I also spot-checked the Japanese track and found it much the same, only a little less prone to throw voices.

Taruto isn't as aggressively colourful as some other relatively recent shows, opting instead for a somewhat more muted look. That isn't to say it can't be vibrant when it wants to, though, and when it does it looks nice and crisp with no bleeding. I'd be hard pressed to find any real problems; even nit-picky stuff like aliasing during pans doesn't seem to be around at all. The only thing I can really point a finger at seems to be a source problem: a couple of shots looked ever so slightly fuzzy, as if they'd been zoomed in on. But I only remember two of those in the entire show. These are very clean-looking discs.

Similar to a number of other Anime Legends sets, Taruto comes in a mini-brick style case, twice as wide as the typical amaray, and with a flippy hinge in the middle to hold two of the four discs. The cover sports a good "what you see is what you get" image: the three main cat girls looking all cute and happy and the flying squirrel sidekick soaring along the top. The back is a little unusual, in that the middle section lists all the episode numbers and titles, leaving only a little room at the top for a brief bit of copy, and at the bottom for a staff list and technical grid. (The grid lists the age rating of the show as 13 and up, but I'm pretty sure that's an error for 3 and up.) The discs themselves have some very attractive art in the shape of portraits, and the disc numbers are clearly identified by numbers inside little pawprints. Cute and pleasant; it'll do just fine.

What makes menus for this show a little odd is that at the beginning they are bypassed altogether and the episodes play out one after the other in English and play one of the Meow songs afterwards. This struck me as a little bizarre, until I realized that this is a children's show, and it was done almost certainly to make it easy for kids to pop in the discs and just watch the show. The more I thought about this the more I decided it was an idea well thought of. After the program is over, it even takes you straight to the extras menu, right where you want to be, instead of just dumping you to the main menu. But when you finally get to the menus you'll find them attractive, in-theme and easy to navigate. Perhaps the initial animation for the main menus are a tad too long, especially since they're unskippable, but nothing else is worth mentioning. And even there I like the effect of the magic bubbles popping and turning into the menu options.

The four discs in this collection come with a few decent extras. Apart from the usual and always welcome clean openings and endings (two each for this show, since the first and last episodes have a special opening and ending sequence, respectively) there are also six "Meow songs," which are in essence character songs performed by the original voice actresses. These are presented as music videos that cut between scenes from the show and live-action footage of the actresses (in costume!) from the recording booth. There's certainly some novelty value there, if nothing else. The songs are pretty good, too.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Magical Meow Meow Taruto takes place in a sleepy seaside town, a town where the sun is always shining, people are always friendly, and nothing much ever happens. It has the perfect "holiday" feel of a good storybook. All but the most minor unpleasantnesses are omitted: the show makes its stories out of the most agreeable experiences of everyday life, with just enough whimsy to set the imagination working. The cat girls are one of the obvious, and better, examples of the whimsy, so I'll start with those. Taruto's cat girls are, for once, at least as much cat as girl. In fact, they're even cat-sized, in a welcome change from the well-worn cliche of girls who just happen to have cat ears. And it's not just the girls, either. All the cats in this world are humaniod - that's just the way it is.

But that doesn't mean that all the cats are the same. The show's prologue tells us of a race of cat people called the Kinka, who lived in another world, and fought a losing war against a similar tribe called the Byoh. Legend has it that the lost princess of the Kinka escaped to our world...and then we meet our heroine, who may or may not be the lost Kinka princess. She apparently has some sort of magical power, but isn't able to control it properly. The results of her spells are more or less random: a box bursts open and empties itself on the floor, flowers grow instantaneously, rubber ducks fall from the sky, etc. Almost anything can happen when Taruto tries to use her magic to help people, and she gets plenty of chances, because most of the show is about helping people. Sometimes it's like watching a child's version of Someday's Dreamers. Some of these stories are surprisingly touching, considering how simple they are. More often than not, their warmth and affection, as much as their sense of humour, left me with a smile on my face - sometimes with a smile that had been there all the way through the episode.

About the first half of the show follows this episodic mode and most of the characters get a chance in the spotlight. We get to see Taruto's loving but absent-minded owner, Iori, and his quest to develop a recipe for the perfect confection. We see Taruto avoid the crazed clutches of the resident cat collector - Iori's crush on this girl bodes well for no one - or go into training with a crotchety old master, on the time-honoured principle that strange old men in the woods make the best martial arts instructors. Then there's the local witch and her two hench-cats, pursuing her goal of making the townspeople unhappy with acts of petty sabotage, such as stealing a small item of sentimental value or trying to close down the candy store. All of this is cute and fun to watch; but then we run into an episode where the Byoh appear and the show takes on a much more serious tone. After that we get another episode of the kind we've become used to, but the story slowly becomes more and more serious as it nears the end - though it never becomes heavy or feels forced. People still get helped, they just get helped through sadder times, like the death of a pet - a subject with which the show deals tastefully and intelligently.

When the seriousness first started, I thought there was a strange disconnect between it and the light, innocent pleasantness that came before it. But I was in better hands than I knew. By the end everything had tied together beautifully. I was absolutely astonished by the final episode. There's a wonderful sense of culmination. Not only does the everything in the story draw together, all the characters we've met along the way have a hand in it. We even get a good action scene! And the true fairytale quality, seen only in glimpses earlier, finally arrives in full force. Exciting, moving, satisfying, and beautiful: I haven't seen many shows with an ending I enjoyed this much.

In Summary:
Magical Meow Meow Taruto is a children's show through and through, but I suspect an adult that dislikes it would not have liked it at any age. It should at any rate be a boon to any fan with young relations to draw into the fold; older viewers of a certain kind may find it a good pick-me-up after an emotionally wrenching series. It's the kind of show that makes you want to bake cookies for your neighbors. If you enjoy it, it will be for the same reasons you enjoy a good children's novel: for its simplicity, its sweetness, its sense of fun, and its likable characters. It certainly surprised me. I expected it to be easy to watch, but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. There's some real magic in this little charmer.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Music Clips,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Sony 35" KV-35XBR88 SDTV, Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player (via generic component), Yamaha RX-V550 DD/DTS Receiver, Infinity Primus C25 and 150 speakers.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magical Meow Meow Taruto