If Cat Planet Cuties (Asobi Ni Iku Yo!) sounds like a somewhat shallow series, let me assure you that it is indeed shallow in a number of ways. With that said, the series did surprise me with the quality and ambitious scope of its action sequences, and the complexity of some of the supporting cast. Studio AIC PLUS+, a division of AIC, which also produced Bubblegum Crisis and Tenchi Universe, adapted Cat Planet Cuties from the Asobi Ni Iku Yo! light novels by Okina Kamino and their subsequent manga adaptation.
The series centers on Kio, an incredibly dull teenager surrounded by girls who not only belong to various militant organizations, but also, for no apparent reason, all fancy him. The dynamics of Kio’s personal relationships become increasingly difficult for him to manage when Eris, a hyper-sexualized alien cat girl of the Catian Empire, moves in to his home. Before long, Kio’s house becomes the residence not only of Eris and two of the aforementioned militant girls (Aoi and Manami), but to the Catian Embassy as well, as Catian Emissaries attempt to broker a peace treaty with Earth. Unfortunately for Kio and his house guests, not everyone supports said treaty, least of all the dog aliens which have already infiltrated Earth’s military forces. Action and sexual hijinks ensue, escalating toward impressive action set pieces every few episodes.
As you may have surmised, Cat Planet Cuties falls into that vague harem subgenre of anime, which includes other series such as Tenchi Muyo!/Universe/etc. and Love Hina. These series rarely work for me and Cat Planet Cuties is sadly no exception. Typically, to foreground my previous statement, harem anime go to great lengths to endear us to the many characters with affections for the central character. Since there’s only one love interest to go around, you end up having to see characters you care for hurt needlessly. This is made all the worse when the central character almost entirely lacks personality, as is the case with Cat Planet Cuties.
The other characters, including the girls with affections for him, constantly stress Kio’s overwhelming blandness. This blandness, in theory, should allow for any audience member to project themselves on to the character of Kio, thereby allowing them to vicariously serve as the love interest for three beautiful girls. However, I find that his lack of personality to have the opposite effect, making Kio impossible to relate to in any way. After all, if he is a vessel specifically for a projected me, shouldn’t he react the way I would to any given situation? Thus, if he frustratingly responds to a situation (say, for example, tendering the advances of a beautiful woman) in a way contrary to the way in which I the viewer would, I am more distanced from him than if he had been a fully-formed individual making decisions to which I could relate.
I found this element of the series endlessly frustrating, as I was otherwise fully engaged in the series and the characters, particularly the shy, yet battle-hardened, cinephile Aoi. The premise of various animal-alien empires comes off as appropriately silly, but is treated with reverence in the writing when needed, and the action, as mentioned above, is impressive and engaging in its realization. If only the series had a more engaging protagonist than Kio.
FUNimation released Cat Planet Cuties in a terrifically-packaged Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The Blu-ray and DVD versions of the series come in their own two-disc Blu-ray-style case, which are housed in sleek, hardcover slipcase. I’m extremely fond of the customizability of many of FUNimation’s releases, a rare quality in Blu-ray/DVD releases that gives the consumer at least some choice in the way the product is displayed in their home video library. To that end, the Blu-ray and DVD cases here each feature individualized, reversible cover art so you can customize your sets to highlight the characters you like best. Additionally, special features on this set include commentary on episodes one and nine, textless opening and closing songs, and 14 bonus scenes clocking in at about 17 seconds a piece.