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Samurai Pizza Cats

Samurai Pizza Cats, known as Kyattō Ninden Teyandee (キャッ党 忍伝 てやんでえ) in Japan, is an anime series produced in 1990 by Tatsunoko Productions and Sotsu Agency.

The anime was introduced to western audiences in 1991 by Saban. The stars of the show are three anthropomorphic cats who protect the city of Little Tokyo from crime while making a living running a pizzeria. The series combines action and humor and is noteworthy for its tendency to poke fun at itself and others. Throughout the series, the fourth wall is often broken.

Title

A very loose translation of the Japanese title is Cat Ninja Legend Teyandee or Surprising Group Ninja Legend Teyandee. The word キャット pronounced kyatto is a transliteration of the English word cat, but the title uses the kanji 党 (—group) with the katakana キャ (kya—an onomatopoeia indicating surprise), so the title contains a pun. The slang word teyandee can be considered roughly equivalent to the phrase, “What the hell are you talking about?”

Premise

The setting of the show is Little Tokyo (Edoropolis), a town where the traditional meets the futuristic. It is populated by many kinds of living flesh and blood, anthropomorphic animals, many of whom feature cybernetic body parts.

The ruler of Little Tokyo is officially Emperor Fred. However, the Emperor is insane, because his wisdom teeth were removed. Therefore, Little Tokyo is actually ruled by the Emperor’s daughter Princess Vi and a council. Heading the council is Prime Minister Seymour “Big” Cheese, who constantly tries to overthrow the government and become Emperor of Little Tokyo.

Only Al Dente, commander of the Palace Guard, has learned of the Big Cheese’s covert plans. Having insufficient proof to expose the Big Cheese, Al Dente’s only choice is to prevent his efforts from ever succeeding. To that end, he recruits three young cat warriors, the Samurai Pizza Cats (Nyankī, a portmanteau of nyaa (“meow”) and Yankee). Each one has unique skills and weapons that help them keep the citizens of Little Tōkyō safe from Seymour Cheese’s plots, which usually take the form of a giant robot.

Characters

The Samurai Pizza Cats

In Japan, the heroes are known as the Himitsu Ninja Tai Nyanki ("Secret Ninja Team").

  • Speedy Cerviche (pronounced “ser-vee-chay”) (Yattarō ヤッ太郎): Speedy is the leader of the Samurai Pizza Cats. As his name implies, Speedy is nimble and fast on his toes, a trait which comes in handy both when delivering pizzas and when fighting crime. He wields the magical Ginzu sword, whose power is unleashed in almost every episode as Speedy’s special attack, the Cat’s Eye Slash. Speedy is very self-confident and loves to pose for the camera after each victory. He is sarcastic, often jokes, and gets easily irritated at times, but remains very committed to his duties. He has green eyes and wears white armour. There has been controversy over the spelling of his name. Initially it was thought that Speedy’s surname was spelled “Service” (“service” pronounced with Italian phonics sounds like “ser-vee-chay,” making the name “Speedy Service” a tidy pun). However, most official packaging (such as the VHS box for the movie) spells his name “Cerviche,” making it the de facto spelling. Voice: Kappei Yamaguchi (Japanese), Rick Jones (English)
  • Polly Esther (Pururun プルルン): Polly is the only girl on the team. Although Speedy is the leader, Polly does her fair share of bossing her teammates around. She has a fiery temper and a dynamic, independent personality. Polly battles evil with the power of love: she plays a flute when going into battle, her projectile weapons are heart-shaped, and she can charm foes to make them move in the range of her razor-sharp claws. She has blue eyes and wears red and pink armour. Her name is a play on the word polyester; Esther is also the heroine of the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. Voice: Ai Orikasa (Japanese), Sonja Ball (English)
  • Guido Anchovy (Sukashii スカシー): Guido is the resident cool dude of the group. Tall, dark-furred, and a smooth talker, he is often seen chasing after girls, although he actually has little success in romance. Guido’s weapon of choice is the Samurai Sunspot Umbrella (which he occasionally calls the Parasol of Doom), which can fire rings, fire a heat beam, be spun to hypnotise enemies, and be used as a club (when closed) or a shield (when open). Its handle conceals Guido’s sword. Guido has red eyes and wears blue armour. His name is a reference to the anchovy fish, and Guido is common slang for a young, male Italian-American in New York. Voice: Juurouta Kosugi (Japanese), Terrence Scammell (English)

Other Good Guys

  • The New York Pizza Cats: Little Tokyo is not the only city under the protection of a Pizza Cat team. Episode 38, “A Mission in Manhattan”, involved the Samurai Pizza Cats traveling to the city of New York and meeting their counterparts:

Their Japanese names are plays on popular American singers of the time.

  • The Narrator: always unseen in the English version and only seen once in the Japanese version, the Narrator provides voiceover for the episodes and interacts with the characters. Like Speedy, he often makes witty or sarcastic comments, many of which spoof plot holes and clichés, with one episode of the US version being notable for him reading the wrong narration. Occasionally, in the US version, some of his lines are changed, and a different, more “politically correct” Narrator takes over. For instance, the original Narrator’s line, broadcast in Canada was: “And so, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Samurai Pizza Cats, movie-goers around the world can thrill to yet another pointless display of senseless violence and meaningless destruction!” while the US line used the PC Narrator’s voice and was changed to: “movie-goers around the world can thrill to yet another heroic display of untamed bravery and never-ending action!” Voice: Kenyuu Horiuchi (Japanese), Terrence Scammell (English)
  • Francine (Otama おタマ): Francine is the feline owner of the Pizza Cat Restaurant. She does not actively participate in missions, but still plays a vital role. Wherever the Samurai Pizza Cats are needed, either to deliver a pizza or to battle evil, she operates the launching cannon (in a parody of the live-action Japanese film Cyber Ninja) which blasts the heroes in the air. She also handles communications and finances, and is known in the English language version for speaking in rhyme. Various sources (including the IMDB) often list Francine’s surname as being Manx, but her last name is never actually given in the show. Manx — referring to a breed of cat — was improvised by a fan, and has since been widely adopted as fanon. Voice: Satomi Koorogi (Japanese), Pauline Little (English)
  • The Rescue Team (Otasuke Ninja): whenever the Samurai Pizza Cats are in serious trouble, they ring the bell on the collar around their necks, alerting Francine to call part or all of the Rescue Team into action. Ironically, one lone member of the Rescue Team is usually able to accomplish what the three front-line heroes could not. The Rescue Team comprises four more cats, each with a different ability based on one of the classic four elements:
    • General Catton (Rikinoshin リキノシン): a play on real life’s General Patton, Catton has a pair of flamethrowing cannons on his back. He is the leader of the Rescue Team. He generally speaks in clichés (“I have not yet begun to fight! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”). Voice: Kiyoyuki Yanada (Japanese)
    • Bat Cat (Mietoru ミエトル): this cat uses a wing and propeller device to become airborne. His English name is most likely a play on Batman, though he does not resemble the character. Voice: Tsutomu Kashiwakura (Japanese)
    • Meowzma O’ Tool (Gotton ゴットン): this member of the Rescue Team has drills on his gloves, helmet, and tail that allow him to burrow under the earth. Voice: Wataru Takagi (Japanese)
    • Spritz T. Cat (Nekkii ネッキー): unlike most cats, Spritz loves the water. He uses high pressure water jets. The “T.” stands for “the.” His name is a play on Fritz the Cat, a comic book character created by Robert Crumb. Voice: Takehito Koyasu (Japanese)

The Rescue Team demonstrates some Sentai-like abilities: the members can combine their powers by joining their backpacks into unlikely weapons. Spritz and the General create what appears to be an acid-shooting machine gun, and Bat Cat and Meowzma create what was referred to once in the English series as the “singing robot wrecking rotor,” which fires an electrified vortex. Finally, all four members can combine their equipment into a larger energy cannon (the "Super-Duper Wonder Weapon") that must be supported by the whole team and fires a blast nearly equivalent to the Ginzu sword.

  • Lucille (Omitsu おミツ , Omi-chan おみっちゃん): a ram and owner of a tea house, Lucille is the main object of both Speedy’s and Guido’s affections, and a primary cause of conflict between them, until Speedy realises he really loves Polly at the end of the series. . Her hairstyle and shoulder pads conceal a number of homing missiles, which are launched whenever she gets overly-emotional. She and Polly were briefly, unknowingly recruited by the Big Cheese to form a girl group called the Pointless Sisters (Lovely Mipple in Japan; also, Mipple is a portmanteau of Omitsu and Pururun), a reference to the Pointer Sisters. She also has an older brother who works as a sushi chef. Her Japanese name, Omitsu, is possibly a reference to the Omitsu of Ganbare Goemon fame, with whom she shares many similarities such as occupation and relationship to the main characters. Voice: Yuko Mizutani (Japanese), Susan Glover (English)
  • Big Al Dente (Inuyama Wanko-no-Kami 犬山ワンコー守): a dog, Big Al is chief of the Palace Guard. He is also the boss of the Samurai Pizza Cats and assigns their missions. His name is a reference to the al dente pasta cooking method. Voice: Kōzō Shioya (Japanese), A.J. Henderson (English)
  • Emperor Fred (Shogun Tokugawa Iei Iei 徳川イエッイエッ): a panda and legal ruler of Little Tōkyō, Emperor Fred does not hold any real power because he is insane and tends to act like a scat singer. He tends to only utter his own name (“Fuh-RED!”), except on some occasions when he takes to scat singing. However, he does speak coherently in at least four episodes. He is married, although his wife only appears once in the series when she comes home from traveling the world. Voice: Kenyuu Horiuchi (Japanese), Terrence Scammell (English)
  • Princess Vi (Tokugawa Usako 徳川ウサコ): full name Violet, Princess Vi is the young rabbit daughter of Emperor Fred, and unofficial ruler of Little Tōkyō. She is rather spoiled and temperamental and has a tendency to banish all who displease her to Prisoner Island. Later, when Prisoner Island becomes too crowded, she banishes people to Extras Island. Princess Vi is devoted to her absent mother, and they have a very unusual family dynamic—they try to beat each other up when they first re-unite. Voice: Maria Kawamura (Japanese), Susan Glover (English)
  • Guru Lou (Nekomata Reikainosuke 猫股霊界之介, Daisensei 大先生): an old cat, Guru Lou lives alone in the mountains outside Little Tokyo. Whenever the Samurai Pizza Cats are in great trouble, they seek his advice, however reluctant he may be to give it. Through his own ineptitude, he helped the Pizza Cats unlock the power of the Supreme Catatonic, which the Samurai Pizza Cats call upon occasionally during battle, furnishing them with their own giant robot, as well as additional armor that enables them to fly. The name is a reference to the catatonic state. Voice: Kenichi Ogata (Japanese), Walter Massey (English)
  • Mother/Momma Mutt and Junior (Itsumono Oya and Itsumono Ko 伊津茂乃母, 伊津茂乃子): a small but constant part of the show, this canine mother and her son appear to make a silly comment every time the Samurai Pizza Cats blast off on a mission. They can be surprisingly sharp-tongued, making social criticism toward both their own world and the real world. In KNT, they may have been tanuki instead of dogs. When the group traveled to the past, Junior’s grandmother was shown to be very similar to him. Voices: Momma Mutt: Yuko Mizutani (Japanese); Junior: Ai Orikasa (Satomi Koorogi in first ep)

Villains

  • Seymour Cheese (Kitsunezuka Ko'on-no-Kami 狐塚コーン守): the prime minister of Little Tokyo; more often referred to as the Big Cheese. In the Japanese version he is a fox, but in the English version he identifies himself as a rat, a modification to reinforce his position as an enemy to the cats. He is the arch-nemesis of Little Tokyo and the Samurai Pizza Cats. He always tries to seize control of the city, but is invariably thwarted by the heroes or his own incompetence. He has the bad habit of literally exploding with anger every time he is disappointed at his failure, which usually happens near the end of every episode. The Big Cheese is a flamboyant and openly gay showoff, prone to overacting, crossdressing, and flirting with male subordinates. His voice is strongly reminiscent of comedian Paul Lynde. His English name is a pun on "See more cheese". Voice: Ikuya Sawaki (Japanese), Dean Hagopian (English)
  • Jerry Atric (Karasu Gennarisai カラス幻ナリ斉): an elderly crow, Jerry Atric is the Big Cheese’s trusted advisor and leader of the Ninja Crows. His voice of reason counterbalances the Big Cheese’s impulsive nature. His name is a play on the word geriatric, which refers to the elderly or the branch of medicine dealing with treating the elderly. Voice: Naoki Tatsuta (Japanese), Terrence Scammell (English)
  • Bad Bird (Karamaru カラ丸): a crow, Bad Bird is first among the Big Cheese’s army of ninja crows and rival of Speedy. He executes most of the Big Cheese’s plans. Bad Bird and his henchmen follow the age-old archetype of raven ninja, or Tengu. In the last episode he reforms, helps Speedy save the world from an incoming comet, and reunites with his childhood sweetheart Carla (Okara). Voice: Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese), Michael O’Reilly (English)
  • Ninja Crows (Karasu Ninja): Jerry Atric and the Big Cheese’s personal army of henchmen, these crows are led by Bad Bird. They are often the first to face the Pizza Cats in battle, and are usually disposed of easily by them.
  • Yard Bird (Choinaa Nana Gou): a hyperactive and very fast ostrich or emu that appeared in only a few episodes (mainly as the Big Cheese’s delivery boy). He contains a design defect where he will explode if he stops moving for more than two seconds. In KNT, the character was modeled after Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Japanese reading: Jakkii Joinaa-Kaashii), the Olympic gold medalist, while his English name is derived from the famous 1960s English rock band, The Yardbirds (which is itself derived from the nickname of jazz legend Charlie Parker). Choinaa rhymes with Joinaa.
  • The Rude Noise (Yami no Yon Nin Shu): a heavy metal band of four crows that is sometimes hired by the Big Cheese, the Rude Noise are the villains’ equivalent of the Rescue Team. The Rude Noise is comprised of:

The Rude Noise also have a Sentai-like ability that has been demonstrated in at least two versions. Both of these group attacks are preceded by some sort of formation flight of the crows which is followed by an emission of thick, black smoke. The first group technique conjures a giant indestructible robot. The other technique was called “Operation: Smogberry, Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em” (in the English version), where the Rude Noise become a giant crow made of a murderous miasma of smoke that makes dive bombing attacks.

Translation

As is with many cases of early anime translation, the product released to the western market was quite different from the original Japanese cartoon. However, the case of the Samurai Pizza Cats dub is somewhat unusual.

First, the difference in translation was one born out of necessity. When Saban bought the rights to the show, the translators were supplied with the tapes of the series in Japanese, but not with any transcripts. Furthermore, the show was apparently chock full of esoteric Japanese cultural and linguistic references. Under these circumstances, Andy Thomas, the Saban producer, decided to have brand new scripts written to match the animation. As a result, the show ended up being something of a spoof of itself. This creative approach to the English translation of distinctively Japanese programs would be later implemented in other anime localizations, such as the Cartoon Network-aired shows Shin Chan and Lupin the 3rd, as well as live-action shows such as Spike TV's MXC.

Secondly, Samurai Pizza Cats may be said to be one of the few anime shows whose majority of followers feel that its extremely loose translation actually increased its entertainment value. The creativity of the new scripts and the fact that even the lip-synch was modified to match the new lines, together with the show’s good-natured silliness and tendency to make fun of itself (and others), have proven to be popular with viewers. Several edits, however, were made because of purportedly violent or inappropriate content. Other small scenes were dropped, either because of extensive Japanese references, or because of time slot constraints.

Due to the changes - a rewrite, different music, and westernized punchlines - many consider the dub to be an entirely different show from the original. This has also been the case with other Saban shows released in America, such as Power Rangers (which was based on and used footage from Super Sentai).

Despite the alterations and content edits, Seymour Cheese retained his stereotypical homosexual traits (including crossdressing and flirting with male subordinates) after translation. While gay or transgender characters are fairly common in Japanese anime and manga (for example Sailor Moon or Fushigi Yūgi), they are often toned down or censored when a show is licensed for broadcast in an English-speaking market. Samurai Pizza Cats is especially notable for this, given that the era in which it was dubbed was one in which one would be even less likely to find an English-dubbed translation of an anime series that retained such material.

Also notable is that despite the alterations to the series, and unlike many dubbed anime of the same era (for example, Sailor Moon, whose heavily localized dub was released only 4 years later), it nonetheless made no attempt to completely remove Japanese references in order to appeal to Western audiences. The series occasionally pokes fun at the Japanese writings that were intentionally left in the series, usually by characters being unable to read the text and calling them "squiggles", and even at one point stating, “It’s Japanese. This is a Japanese cartoon.” As another example, in one scene, a character who was originally behaving lecherously towards a girl was crushed by a giant falling H, which in the original Japanese was taken to represent the abbreviation for hentai. In the dubbed version, the animation was left unchanged, but a character was given the dialogue: "You'd better mind your P's and Q's, or an H might fall on your head!"

All of the English voice acting, with the exception of the theme song, was recorded in Canada.

Theme songs

English Version

The theme song for the English dub naturally differs from the original, a common practice for dubbing at the time and even today. In keeping with the parodic nature of the show, the lyrics of the new theme song make a number of references to American pop culture. For example, the lyrics “they've got more fur than any turtle ever had” subtly imply that the Samurai Pizza Cats are superior to the similarly themed cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while the lyrics “they’re stronger than dirt” refer to an advertising slogan once used for the industrial cleaner Ajax. The theme song also contains the line “And as soon as we find the script, we might begin the show.“, which can be interpreted as a reference to the lack of transcripts.

Michael Airington, one of the show's writers, also sang the theme song. According to Andy Thomas, Airington had a few drinks before the recording session for the song started, and as a result, accidentally repeated some of the lyrics (i.e., “this cat gets down down with a love hang over”). Airington recorded this doing his Paul Lynde voice.

Japanese Version

  • Ottodokkoi Nihonbare (おっとどっこい日本晴れ) by Rena Yazawa (OP)
  • To Be Yourself by Rena Yazawa (ED)
  • Battle In Flash by Ami Itabashi (IN1)
  • Teyandee Special Express by Ami Itabashi (IN2)

Both OP and ED songs were composed by Etsuko Yamakawa, Takeshi Ike and Anju Mana and sung by Rena Yazawa. Ami Itabashi, the singer of the ED song of Izumo OAV, sang the Insert Songs "Battle In Flash" and "Teyandee Special Express".

Releases

Spelling of title

In the opening credits, the word “Samurai” is misspelled “Samuri,” and appears this way in some images of the series’ title; the word is spelled correctly on official merchandise (such as videocassettes).

Broadcasts

Samurai Pizza Cats has been broadcast in Australia and New Zealand, as well as various countries in Africa, Eurasia and the Americas, most notably the United Kingdom, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Chile, Peru, Panama, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, Kenya, South Africa, Sweden, Armenia, and the United States, from 1991 onwards.

Out of the 52 English-language episodes produced, as little as 40 have been shown in some countries due to censorship or other issues.

Episodes

Of the 54 episodes that were originally produced in Japan, 52 were translated into English. The two untranslated episodes were clip shows that did little to further the series’ plot.

DVD

The series has a complete DVD release in Japan. The French language version is also available. Recently, an English DVD has appeared on Amazon.com, containing five episodes of the series. A three-DVD release claiming to be the first box set appeared on Amazon.com in 2007.

Video game

In 1991, Tecmo published a video game based on the original Japanese version, Kyattou Ninden Teyandee, for the Family Computer. It was released as a Japanese-only release, but was bootlegged outside Japan under the title Ninja Cat. Players take the role of the three main cats and otasuke members, of whom can be switched to at any time and have their own special abilities to progress through the game. The game features most of the characters in the series as well as an additional villain, a mysterious scientist who shows up later on in the game and "appears" to team up with Ko'on-no-kami.

Trivia

  • Hogan the Wonder Cat, listed in the show’s credits as “Spiritual Advisor,” was Andy Thomas’s real pet cat.
  • Although Polly removes her helmet in a few episodes, Speedy and Guido never remove their helmets throughout the entire series. The Pizza Cats never remove most of their armor, even while working at the restaurant or walking in the streets normally, parodying the fact Superman manages to hide his identity merely by wearing glasses. Polly Esther removed most of her armor when she went to Charm School, as well as during the time she was an idol singer, as half of The Pointless Sisters (Lovely Mipple in the original Japanese version). During these times, Polly is shown with short red hair and a hairband on top of which her ears sit.
  • Samurai Pizza Cats was once shown as a cartoon that Jeb the dog was watching on VR Troopers. Several times the family of Masked Rider was seen watching it as well. Clips of SPC were also seen on a TV in a bowling alley in the pilot episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
  • Samurai Pizza Cats pays tribute to several episodes of another Tatsunoko hit The Adventures of Pinocchio.

See also

References

External links

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