I wasnâ€™t fortunate enough to have seen Samurai Pizza Cats when it originally aired. I knew it existed, but I sort of passed it off as yet another anthropomorphic animal action cartoon trying to cash-in on the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (like Street Sharks, Biker Mice from Mars or the COWboys of Moo Mesa). I didnâ€™t give it a fair chance until many years after the initial run, and I have to admit, this show really doesnâ€™t get enough credit.
Samurai Pizza Cats was imported from Japan, â€œtranslatedâ€ (though I use that term loosely) from the original version called Kyattou Ninden TeyandÄ“, which sort of-kind of translates to â€œSurprise! Cat Team Ninja Legendâ€¦Wha?â€ There are a bunch of untranslatable Japanese puns and idioms in that title, so donâ€™t take my translation as the gospel. Americaâ€™s version of the show was more a parody of the original series than an actual proper translation. Supposedly, the translators and script writers were given the raw tapes of the Japanese series, became completely baffled by the shear volume of Japanese-centric puns and gags, and just decided to do a â€œMystery Science Theaterâ€ parody instead. The result is brilliant.
While â€œOMG Kitty Klan Ninja Legend WTFâ€ was a pretty straight-forward Childrenâ€™s anime/glorified toy commercial, the English version was a fair bit more clever. The characters are self-aware that theyâ€™re in a cartoon and that nothing is real, and as a result, they break the fourth wall on a frequent basis. Theyâ€™re constantly making gags about how violent the show is and that theyâ€™ll sue the producers over their injuries, or when a cartoon character is acting â€œsexyâ€ one of the boys will remark at how pretty she looksâ€¦for a hand-painted drawing on a sheet of paper. They also toss in boatloads of pop culture references, taking potshots as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rather frequently (in the first episode, a pagoda collapses and, according to the Narrator, demolishes a â€œRetirement Home for Elderly Ninja Turtlesâ€). They also toss in some references that are bound to go over the heads of a kidâ€™s audience, like jabs at Green Peace or the ineffectiveness of the Vice President.
The plot is like so: In the town of Little Tokyo, Emperor Fred has gone completely insane and thinks he is a scat singer. His head advisor, the Big Cheese, is constantly plotting to overthrow the Royal Family with his army of Ninja Crows, lead by the villainous Badbird. However, the head of the Royal Guard, Al Dente, is on to the Big Cheese and has recruited a trio of super-powered felines to fend of giant robot attacks. They are the Samurai Pizza Cats (named so because they work part time at a pizzeria): Speedy Cerviche, the super-fast leader, Polly Esther, the cute token female with razor sharp claws and hilariously stereotypical pink heart fetish, and Guido Anchovy, the â€œcool catâ€ who wields the Parasol of Doom, an umbrella which can kill things. Every episode, when trouble rears its ugly head, theyâ€™re launched out of a giant cannon for no good reason, parodying lengthy transformation and launch stock footage from Sentai shows. Incidentally, Saban (the producers of this show) are most well known for bringing Japanese Sentai to America in the form of Power Rangers.
The voice-acting for the show, done in Canada, is both good and bad. This is a self-referential parody, so theyâ€™re not trying to be serious, so as a result, the voices are rather goofy all around. I donâ€™t mind Polly and Guidoâ€™s voices so much, but Speedyâ€™s can get on your nerves. He sounds kind of like Meowth from Pokemon only a far cry less endearing. The Narrator (who constantly interacts with the characters, which I love) sounds kind of like heâ€™s doing a Gary Owens impression. However, the best voice has to be the dude singing the theme song, Michael Airington, who was also one of the head writers. He does this hilariously flamboyant Mildew Wolf/Sammy Davis Junior-impression. Once you get that theme song stuck in your head you will never, ever forget it.
The good news is that there were a total of 52 shows produced, which means America received almost every episode of the Japanese series. Only two episodes were left behind, both of which were useless clipshows, and I hate that crap. The bad news is that this show is owned by Saban. Why is that bad news? Saban is owned by Disney. Whatâ€™s so bad about that? Well, Disney has shown little to no interest in releasing many of their classic cartoons on DVD in season sets, let alone shows owned by their acquired studios, like Saban. Thatâ€™s why we havenâ€™t gotten X-Men, Spider-Man, Power Rangers or Digimon season sets yet, and why we may never get them. Disney has â€œmore important things to doâ€.
However, you *can* find a few episodes on You Tube, and youâ€™re in luck, as I dug some up for you: