Hey hey, you you out on the streets. Don’t you see the man is Kappa K. So I am going to try to keep this intro brief, but today we are reviewing the 2006 series Kappa Mikey which is an American cartoon that heavily parodies a bunch of anime. I know a bit of anime so I thought maybe it would be fun to do a retrospective on this cartoon and see how it holds up to today. However if playing a weekly game of Anime Music Quiz has taught me anything, I clearly have not seen as many series as some of my compatriots, so I thought it would be a fun idea to have them join me in a series where we watch an episode of Kappa Mikey and then I get their thoughts on the episode and a series as a whole. Without further ado, let’s take a look at who will be joining us today!
Hello, how are you?
Pretty good, looking forward to doing this collab here.
Would you like to quickly introduce yourself, or how would you like me to introduce you?
Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer Reviews here. I run a bunch of community events, write reviews, and a bunch of other stuff. I think it might be more interesting for K to say more, so I’ll pass things off to him on that front.
Jon Spencer is the Ryan Seacrest to my Joel McHale. A man of many titles: game inventor, creator showcase founder, reviewer, community leader, and friend. If you’ve heard of me and not Mr. Spencer I feel like you’ve made horrible life choices and probably need to correct that.
So how familiar were you with the Kappa before I forced you to watch an episode?
Well this show was on when I was growing up, but if I’m being totally honest I don’t remember all that much about it. I do remember that this was one of those shows I wasn’t supposed to watch, but did a few times anyway. I remember liking bits of the show but overall this was far from a favorite.
Lost in Transportation
Ozu books the Lily Mu cast for the birthday party to a rich stereo mogul’s son. However the gang decide with only room for 4 in Lily’s car that Mikey will have to walk there alone. Mikey befriends the Chums Biker Gang that who accept him as one of their own. Mitsuki and Guano find Mikey and try to convince him to come back but Mikey refuses to leave the chums. Mikey stares into the 4th wall and must have realized there was only a few more minutes in the episode because he does a complete 180 with little to no convincing and rolls up with the Chums to the birthday party. Hooray, happy ending.
I will admit this episode does the best at the sort of Lily Mu episode as the framing device. Most episodes start with depicting a conflict appearing in the episode they film and how it get resolves in some fashion. In a lot of these episodes the connection is kind of weak while here I see the relationship. Mikey feels that he doesn’t fit in represented by the battle wagon. By the end Mikey gets his own motorcycle demonstrating that he learned to accept his own style. Why this doesn’t work as well is that the conflict is initiated less by Mikey having an internal conflict but more by his friends being sort of jerks to him. It seems like all the other main characters don’t learn anything at all. The fact that he still is excluded but is now fine with it seems like a backhanded lesson.
So I know you gave me some questions for the episode before watching but here are some thoughts just watching it blind. It seems I got “Lost in Transportation” for my episode which is episode 13 of season 1.
I think the most notable thing when you start this up is the animation style. It’s clearly Flash, and while it doesn’t look bad it’s a far cry from the “anime” aesthetic that clearly inspired the show. Still, the cast kind of runs the gambit in style and Mikey himself looks the most out of place (as he should) since he’s an American.
I do wish there was less congruity in that Mikey and everyone still looks like they belong in the same show. It would be kind of interesting to see a bigger budget version of this concept where Lily has a very polished KyoAni design, while maybe Mitsuki has that sort of Trigger style. If Gonard is supposed to be your Shonen rep I feel like it should have more intense shading and a bit of a thicker outline then the rest of the cast.
Then there’s the theme song, which describes the show while showing clips of what may occur later in the season. Pretty standard American opening for a cartoon. I feel like the show could have been a bit bolder like Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi with it’s opening (a show that came out before this one). Would have made the cultural nods a lot more interesting. Of course, that’s just how I feel before watching the episode, I may be off base on how hard this one actually wanted to make nods to Japanese culture and such.
Not even five minutes in and I’m already groaning… I think I’ll leave my commentary here and skip to the questions. I’ll hold off on judging things too hard until then though.
Haha aren’t I supposed to be bad cop? In fairness this episode is the worst of the 5 by far! Geez, every attempt at humor is a miss, every character is unlikable here, and it’s not as fun or creative as some of the other episodes.
I don’t know where to put this but I did catch at least one reference in the episode. Go me I guess?
This episode is pretty light on references that I was able to catch as well. Besides the main biker having Tezuka eyes there’s very little in terms of anime/pop culture references this time around.
How do you feel about Kappa Mikey’s portrayal of anime/anime culture?
This episode didn’t really have much, so I’d say it’s pretty weak. As I said in my episode notes, there was one whole anime reference I caught, and even then it hardly mattered.
Since Kappa Mikey aired in 2006, what since then do you think would be parodied or referenced if it was made today?
Well it obviously has a thing for 90’s era stuff, which is still popular to reference today. I would say it’d be much the same in this aspect with more callouts to mid-2000’s works though.
I think this is true, and a large part of that is that 90’s anime was a huge escalation in American interest in anime. I think while parodying something relevant always plays a factor, I think you always go with what you know. I think creators will pay homage and want to incorporate the shows that were once significant or impactful to them and usually the show runners, directors, producers are older. That’s why you probably see more Naruto and One Piece then Love is War, Violet Evergarden or Demon Slayer (Please don’t yeah duh me in the comments, I know the comparison isn’t 1:1 due to varying popularity but these are the examples that came to mind with iconic older staples versus trendy shows that its safe to say nobody is nostalgic for yet).
Do you think anime reviewers such as yourself should give Western animation more of a chance?
Well I already do, but my content doesn’t only focus on animation so there’s that. It’s true that it’s largely my personal focus, but I enjoy several Western shows animated or otherwise.
That is true, from anime, to movies, to all sorts of games you really do…do it all. Unlike me who only does movie reviews, it’s in the name and if I did anything else then I’d feel that I’m false advertising….
It’s weird how American media is sort of looked at as heavily influenced by consumerism but anime is but it’s just different. It’s weird because for anime, it’s often time sort of a commercial to influence watchers to read the manga/light novel and indulge in an ancillary market of products. It’s actually very interesting to read on the practices of how anime airs in Japan in this late night Adult Swim/ Infomercial format. Essentially, a lot of anime isn’t considered with appeasing network ratings and commercial sponsors. Eromanga Sensei would never air in the US because Coca-Cola won’t buy ads during it. US animation the show is very much the product being sold, which explains why shows last longer and rarely ever have the taboo content that can be common in anime. I think they’re different philosophies behind both as an art form, and I do recommend that people keep an open mind and consider broadening their horizons because watching something different really can be insightful as to why you prefer one over the other.
What would you do to most improve Kappa Mikey?
I really couldn’t say. It felt like this episode didn’t have great pacing and the jokes simply weren’t funny. So probably a combination of direction and writing there.
Was there anything unexpected or surprising upon viewing or revisiting Kappa Mikey?
No, not really. I would have been more surprised if I liked the episode. Like I said, this was never a favorite or anything. I mostly ever watched it as a kid because it wasn’t allowed. Still, I really hated a lot of cartoons that were on when I was growing up so that probably doesn’t help.
I mean not every show from this time can be Kid Nation. I recently, watched Kid Nation with Jon Spencer and friends and it’s a 10/10 would force questionable social experiments onto children again. How obvious is it that nobody wants to talk about Kappa Mikey in this review! Jon’s not a fan and this is like my 4th time discussing the show and to that all I can say is DEAL WITH IT!
For many kids this was something that introduced them to the concept of anime, or at least established that distinction, Do you think this is a good introduction? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. The show is too shallow to give any kind of real feeling. It’s very Western in its presentation with a few nods here-and-there at best.
Anime is really kind of just a gimmick here then actually being the driving force of the show which is a little disappointing to say the least.
Is there any Western animation series you’d recommend to someone who loves anime?
I think the most obvious one would be Avatar but even shows like Gravity Falls and Steven Universe have things going for them. They do a far superior job capturing what Kappa Mikey is supposedly after while being its own thing still.
Gravity Falls is really freakin’ good. I think what outsiders might not get is that there’s actually a lot of appeal to an older demographic. While the show remains a wholesome Disney cartoon the show is a glorious interactive mystery. The end credits of most episodes feature different ciphers that tease future events of the series. There’s tons of Easter eggs and details that are more enjoyable to discover the more you know certain pop culture, horror, and mystery references. Grunkle Stan is just an enjoyable adult humor character, this one is certainly beyond the kiddy affair you might initially think it is.
Favorite character, or one that stands out to you?
I really couldn’t say. They were all kind of obnoxious, which was part of the point of the episode, but that didn’t do the show any favors.
Mikey won the chance to be the star of his own anime, how would you fair as an anime protagonist?
I don’t think a show about me would be terribly interesting, but then again who knows? Would be cool to see though.
I don’t know a guy with a giant question mark head seems appropriately anime. You got a knack for bring people together, I’m sure you could lead an Ocean’s 11 style heist or crime as this odd Assassination Classroom figure… I’d be down to watch something like that.
As my panel of experts it is up you to decide is Kappa Mikey GOOD or BAD?
This was pretty awful, I’m not going to lie.
Thanks for stopping by, please plug something. Any reviews, or things coming up, and future tour days or merch you want to promote please do!
Site is fine, and anything else you want to plug on your end. Oh, maybe #anitwitwatches and all that too?
Be sure to check out Jon Spencer Reviews in his natural habitat, here at Jon Spencer Reviews and be sure to follow him on Twitter to keep up with all the things he’s got going on.
I mean Jon is cool and all but I must say that AMQ and the JS Discord are actually places I hang out quite often so if you’re reading this… you already know I’m the coolest so if you want to hang out with Jon, my other guests, and more important ME, I’d recommend maybe checking it out.
Thanks to Jon Spencer, and readers for stopping by today this has been fun. Hopefully we have much more fun to come, here at the movies!