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Sometimes, The Cat Skins You

The formula for cat girls is simple enough: young girls are cute, cats are cute, so young girls who are also cats are cute times two, right?  ... Cat Planet Cuties (a.k.a Asobi ni Iku yo) does not stop there, it includes girls with guns, nudifying weaponry, and even failed romantic comedy that shows lots of skin.  Cat's out of the bag: Cat Planet Cuties is basically straight up wish fulfillment.

The overall plot is pretty simple.  The Catians are a race so advanced that they have not changed in over 70,000 years.  They discover Earth, a planet whose people have uncanny resemblances, right down to speaking the same language!  Desiring an escape from their cultural stagnation, they rename their own planet from Earth to Catia and dispatch a scout to assess the viability of first contact with this new Earth inhabited by humans.  High jinks ensue.

Other than an excuse to see some fun sci-fi devices, the plot sucks. Let me count the ways:
  • Kio Kakazu - The male center of our harem, a 16-year-old who suffers no outstanding characterization other than being a moderately nice geek.  At one point he fabricates a spaceship via advanced technology by imagining it down to its intricate details, I guess that is reasonably alpha, but otherwise I have no idea why he would be worthy of one girl, let alone three.
  • Eris - The head scout from the Catian race, Eris is a sweet-natured, if naive, cat girl who wears a skin-tight power suit capable of magnifying her strength a thousandfold.  It is probably worn to avoid lower back problems.   She's also 16 "cycles" old, and apparently that means she is about to go into heat.  Kio instantly ends up her ideal mate after some ill-advised heroics of his.
  • Aoi Futaba - A delicate looking girl who is a shy otaku by day, deadly mutant commando by night.  Poor, poor Aoi, with her good looks, inborn ability to spontaneously teleport small objects, and elite skills used to deal death from her post with a highly technologically advanced crack commando unit.  If only she had the courage to tell Kio she loved him, she might actually have reason not to brood!
  • Manami Kinjou - Kio's brash childhood friend, busty and full of spunk, Manami is also a bit of a gun nut.  She was hoping to join the CIA, but (along with Aoi) ends up defecting to Kio's household, the impromptu Catian embassy on Earth.  Manami also always had a crush on Kio, so it would seem her gun fixation is to compensate for her own inability to fire on all cylinders.
There is the main love triangle right there: one hapless boy, an interstellar bombshell, and two elite combat-trained girls of East and West who were always too shy to tell Kio they like him.  I have no idea why anyone would be shy to tell Kio anything, he does not exactly bite, and he is so awkward and clueless that he can not understand why he should tell any of the girls in this anime that he likes them, or even if he likes them, yet they still pine for him.
From top left to bottom right: Janes, Matrey,
Kio (surrounded by assist-droids)
Aoi, Eris, and Manami
But then, this anime is so full of plot holes that you could use it as a sieve.  Lets continue finding plot holes as we delve into the secondary characters:
  • JACK - Manami's old boss, "JACK" is actually a bodacious mature woman who flaunts her figure like there's no tomorrow.  Following Manami's defection, she primarily operates as an unofficial leak to the Catians when she thinks they might be in trouble.  Her bosses apparently never bother to listen in to cell phone calls.
  • Maki Itokazu - Kio's beautiful high school teacher, she is also a member of a secret society dedicated to making sure humankind's first alien contact is awesome.  Because cat girls are silly, they move against Eris.  Because the idea that this would be a secret society is silly, her arc is resolved almost immediately.
  • Yuichi Miyagi - Kio's uncle is basically Magnum from Magnum P.I, except he seems to have some kind of connection with the movie industry instead of being a private detective.  Maybe Yuichi is supposed to be Tom Selleck without the chest hair.  He is the closest thing to a parental figure Kio gets, and is generally a swell guy in most of the episodes.  He tries to slip Eris a roofie on the first episode to hook her up with Kio.  What the Hell is the matter with you, Yuichi?
  • Antonia - A 12-year-old ridiculously wealthy heiress, she founds a cult that worships cat girls.  Eris's arrival is heralded as "the divine embodiment" ascending from above, and so Antonia kidnaps Eris and Kio.  After a daring rescue, it turns out what Antonia really needed was a friend.  Riight.
  • Sara and Maya - Antonia's voluptuous personal maids, they really like cats too.  Though they would do anything for their little Antonia, apparently they don't qualify as friends.  Of course, this being that kind of anime, they lead a legion of battle maids capable of facing a NATO regiment to a standstill.
  • Qoone, Melwin, Chayka, and Durel - Officers of the Catian mothership.  Catia's gender ratio is almost overwhelmingly female, and these officers are no exception.  There is a loose analog to the roles of the crew of the Enterprise here: captain, first officer, secondary officer, and science officer/doctor.  One has to wonder why these skilled professionals sent an airhead like Eris ahead to establish first contact.
  • Janes - Our primary antagonist, Janes is a Dogesian, basically a Catian except with dogs instead of cats.  The Dogesians are apparently underhanded jerks, probably space pirates, so are forbidden from entering into relations with other races by the galactic alliance.  Despite this, she blatantly meddles with the Catian's attempts to establish first contact with Earth anyway... because cats versus dogs, I guess?  (She has a personal assistant droid named Matrey who behaves a lot like Mutley, I think that is probably a homage.)
The other major set of characters in this anime are "assist-droids," teddy-bear-sized cat androids who communicate by holding placards.   They are primarily there to be cute, but a few are offered to the major characters as personal assistants and customized accordingly.  Honestly, they are probably the most endearing characters in the anime.  I want one!
Durel, Eris, Qoone, Malwin and Chakya are sitting across the negotiation table to determine
Earth/Catia relations while wearing wearing school girl swimsuits because
Eris's Earth research is pretty sure that will bring them a favorable result.
From time to time, paramilitary forces belonging to international superpowers get involved, they are almost invariably being manipulated by the Dogesians, but it is still hard to fathom why they would have anything against the Catians considering these cat girl extraterrestrials seem to do nothing but offer to uplift humanity into a new era of technological enlightenment.  An elephant in the room is why legitimate government forces have not fortified the area surrounding the Catian embassy in order to avoid an intergalactic incident.  It is strange that Aoi and Manami are considered defectors considering they are representing their former agencies far better than the agencies themselves.

The sexual content in Cat Planet Cuties deserves special mention, as it probably sets a record for being naughty while remaining innocent.  There is casual nipple exposure, but that is about it, with artful animation keeping genitals out of the viewers' sight.  I found the most pornographic thing was the mention that Catians usually deal with going through their mating season via the holodeck: that's something straight out of a Star Trek erotic fanfic!  Eris being in heat is neatly defused with sci-fi medicine before things get downright adults only.  In the final "bonus" episode, all the cute girls end up naively tricking themselves into playing some strip variant of a game, which certainly underscores the fanservice in play.  But throughout it all, nobody acts straight up perverted, everybody is pretty innocent in their intentions.

Volume 1 of the Asobi ni Iku yo novels.
(Translation: "Lets go play!")
I decided to rate Cat Planet Cuties as "Decent" (7/11) on the anime news network scale.  The art and character design are great, but the story is riddled with plot holes, most of the characters' personalities lack subtlety or sophistication, and most of the conflicts are contrived on the backs of more plot holes.   The romance is a dud largely because there is next to no premises to establish why the girls like Kio, and Kio never reciprocates.  I will grant it that the action sequences and cool sci-fi devices are a saving grace, but not enough for me to score it higher.  There were a few laughs, but they were usually at the ridiculousness of a given scene's scenario.  I am on the fence about the musical score: the intro and extro music is great, but during the episodes I was jarringly subjected to some of the less inspired tracks ever to come out of a drum machine.

Although the girls are not lacking in sex appeal, none of the characters are particularly endearing, and I do not find it likely I will miss any of them; I think I will miss Catian technology more than the Catians themselves.  Cat Planet Cuties is basically the equivalent of candy: pure sugar high, but it is sure to rot your teeth.  Thanks to blunting the sexual aspects, my stomach was spared; I actually do not feel too guilty about watching this even though it is somewhat juvenile at times.  However, consuming too much of this stuff is bound to be bad for you, even if it was a fun watch.  This might have been a great anime were it more focused on character development and less focused on cheap thrills, but perhaps that would have required another 12 episodes to pull that off. 

As Cat Planet Cuties was adapted from a series of light novels whose original title was Asobi ni Iku yo, and there is not all that much interest to localize them (either from fans or importers), there is no available English translation for me to see how the story ends.   However, the anime pretty much settles the love triangle by Eris asserting that Catians are not monogamous and Kio is technically under Catian law, and all three girls kiss him.  Wish fulfillment scenarios do not get much more overblown than that, but hey, looks like a happy ending to me (provided Kio has the endurance for it).  A naughty but innocent ending to a naughty but innocent anime.
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