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Thursday, 30 September 2010 00:00

Asobi ni Ikuyo!

Here's show that I'll be holding up as a poster child for quite some time to come. Asobi ni Ikuyo! translates as We've Come to Play!, and essentially is what you get when alien cats come to Earth and initiate first contact. When I talk about using it as a poster child, though, it's as an example of all that you can do wrong with a show, rather than all you can do right...

It seems that to your typical Okinawan, the arrival of an alien catgirl is nothing to get worked up about. The only person we meet who seems to think that it is is Kio, and that's only because he's just woken up to find one in his bed. The alien in question is Elis, who's come to Earth essentially to see if we're worth playing with - cats being such playful creatures, don'tcha know - and has decided to base herself in Kio's house. But next-door cutie Manami (an undercover agent for the CIA), teacher Itokazu-sensei (high-ranking member of an anti-alien conspiracy) and possible love-interest Aoi (also a hired killer with strange powers) are all about to take a close interest in Elis...

As the series goes on, we also get introduced to the crew of the Catiaship, who have followed behind Elis in order to open relations with Earth; and the Dogisians, who although banned from contacting other races by interstellar overlords the Orsonians have infiltrated several nations on Earth and are doing their best to disrupt the plans of the Catians. Heaven forbid that anyone out there would have the temerity to just be nice. The first big problem with the series, though, is that it has the distinct feel of something that's been designed in committee - the sort of committee where no-one seems capable of saying no. Girls with guns? Check. Catgirls? All the boys love them. Science-fiction aspect? Yeah, we can get that in there - and don't forget the love triangle, the secret society, the religious cult (who all wear nekomimi), and the mysterious ability to source just about any available weapon or vehicle. Mix all that together, and it can't go wrong, right..?

Oh, how wrong can you be. It's an unholy mess of genres, that from one episode to the next doesn't know what it's trying to be. The primary focus seems to be on the love quadrangle of Kio, Elis, Manami and Aoi, and that's a bad choice for the start - while the male component of any harem tends to be a bland, one-size-fits-all receptacle for wish fulfillment (you want as many of your male audience to be able to associate with him as possible, remember), he's well beyond the norm on the blandness scale and is just an annoyance to watch. That the three girls are somehow as attracted to him as they clearly are is a mystery, as his his equally baffling inability to see it. And yet this aspect of the "storyline" takes up a good half of the show, annoying you at every turn - particularly Manami's over-the-top insistence that Aoi get a move on with confessing her love to Kio. Trust me, dear, it's nothing to get all angsty over.

On the other end of the scale are Aoi and Manami, our girls with guns who are, frankly, awesome fun when they're not fawning over Kio. Aoi starts off as an agent for the undercover arm of the Japanese immigration services, with a particular expertise in black ops and an inbuilt ability to teleport small items - very handy when you drop your weapons - while Manami is a gun otaku of note with high hopes of becoming a CIA agent. Put them together, and they can kick all kinds of ass without breaking into a sweat - and yet there are only perhaps three decent battles for them throughout the course of the series. These are the highlights of the show, by quite some margin, and if there's anything good that can come of Asobi ni Ikuyo! it'll be a spin-off series featuring these two. I'll not hold my breath, though.

In between is an ocean of mediocrity, with idea after idea rolled out, toyed with, and quickly forgotten about - a bit like a cat's catnip toy, really. There are a few decent characters elsewhere in the series, but they're all chronically underused (particular mention is due to Catiaship crewmember Chaika, who seems to have become the unsung mascot of the series, and Itokazu-sensei, whose role in the anti-alien underground wasn't exploited nearly enough). There['s also the curious introduction of Ichika, a young girl with magical abilities who appears to be helping both sides - but whose identity and motivations unsurprisingly remain unexplored. Instead, the focus of the show remains firmly on the insipid Kio and his non-existent love-life, and that's no subject on which to hang a twelve-episode series. There's a thirteenth episode coming with the DVD release, apparently, that will no doubt promise a feast of tits'n'ass for anyone bothered to watch that far, but frankly at this stage: who cares. Certainly not me.

Asobi ni Ikuyo! started with a bang and with so much promise, but that all drained away, with the series becoming more and more of a chore to watch as it went on. I can't think of another series I've seen in the past few years that has had so much potential, and yet gone on to waste it so thoroughly. While there is a little fun to be had just from the fanservice aspect of it, there's precious little else to it, and that means that I really can't recommend it. Save yourself the frustration, and watch something else.

Rating - **