At first glance, the title of Kobayashi Motofumi‘s manga will probably make one think it’s about cats doing their business, while mention of bunnies may suggest it’s one of those cute and cuddling type of shows, but what we actually have here is a war-based series where looking cute doesn’t save you from getting shot in the head. In fact, looking cute doesn’t mean anything at all, since all nationalities are represented by an animal in Motofumi’s unique take on the Vietnam War. For this series that’s really like no other, Studio Anima delivers their CG-rendered adaptation after well over a year of planning and it does not disappoint one bit. Backed by IDA Entertainment and streaming for free to Japanese audiences via their YouTube channel for the next two months, this rendition that’s subtitled “THE ANIMATED SERIES” appears to feature the same characters as Motofumi’s manga, while the setting has been changed to the Middle East in a much more modern day and age.
In this first episode, we’re introduced to American rabbit soldiers Perkins, a.k.a. Packy (Tsuchida Hiroshi), and his sniper partner Botasky, a.k.a. Bota (Hino Satoshi), as they attempt to rescue some hostages. Out of the two, Packy is totally badass and skilled as hell with Hiroshi’s voice behind him to back it up, whereas Bota is a bit of coward and quick to panic yet can be surprisingly dependable when he’s in the zone. Their platoon is codenamed “Cat Shit One” and is where the title of the series comes from, which makes a bit more sense in the Vietnam War setting since Vietnamese people are depicted as cats. In this new Middle East setting, it remains to be seen how many other nationalities we’ll come across, but the manga’s depiction of the belligerents in that war as French pigs, Chinese pandas, Japanese monkeys, Russian bears, Korean dogs, British rats, and Australian kangaroos has me hoping that at least a few others will show up down the road. The more animals the better!
Back when the series was still in the planning phases and Anima was seeking investors to continue with the project at last year’s Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF2009), it was suggested that it would be twelve episodes long; however, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of set schedule for future releases, leaving me wondering exactly how many we’re in store for. Given the impeccable quality of the CG work and all the motion capturing that went into though, I’d say we’ll be lucky if we see another episode before the end of this year. I’m not holding my breath, but this first showing that served as a technical demonstration of sorts to showcase Anima’s movie-like cinematics does have me hoping it will be sooner rather than later. The screens captures speak for themselves, but this episode is a real visual treat in motion. With motion capture actors, the characters’ movements are naturally very fluid and human-like, which was really funny to see because we’re dealing with bunnies and camels here. At the same time, it’s exactly what made everything so cool, as I loved seeing Packy move around with such poise when he has huge bunny feet.
What I enjoyed the most though were the espionage-like tactics employed that were reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 4 — particularly with the over-the-shoulder camera angles and the Middle East setting — but just as easily fit many first person shooters such as Counter-Strike, Battlefield 2, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Gamers should get some enjoyment from seeing the use of silencers, claymore mines, rocket launchers, and even a Hind helicopter lighting camel ass up. The bobbing camera in some scenes sure made it feel like a game too, whereas the slow motion scenes worked in the suspense really well. The scene with Packy discarding his empty rifle, switching to a handgun on-the-fly, and rolling away to avoid gunfire was pretty slick as well, and I just love it how neither him nor Bota hesitated to fire additional rounds into wounded enemy soldiers on the ground just to make extra sure they’re dead. “This is war!” Some subtler details included Packy switching hands on his gun depending on which corner he was peeking out of, and the two of them covering one another while moving together as a unit, both of which were pretty cool to see.
All in all, there wasn’t a whole lot of story here in this first episode as they never delved into exactly who they were rescuing, but it really didn’t matter because the action itself in full-blown CG animation was all that was needed to draw me in. I really liked the whole animal take on it too, since it was somewhat funny to see yet didn’t take away from the awesomeness one bit. Instead, it actually added to it because it’s not every day you get to see bunnies owning face with guns and whatnot. Compared to the trailer that was shown before, all the blood was removed in this episode, but I didn’t feel like anything was taken away from the scenes without it. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the blood added back in in some director’s cut version, though it may feel like a depiction of animal cruelty on some level if they do. Anyway, Cat Shit One. You didn’t read that wrong. If you haven’t checked this first episode out already, be sure to do so because it’s animals at war at its best, regardless of whether or not it has any competition in that category. 🙂