You already read this intro, go check out part 1-4…please. Let’s just get into it. My final guest in the Kappa Mikey review series is….
Hello, how are you?
Doing well! Granted, quarantine has kept me feeling rather isolated and bored throughout most of the day. Recently, I got hired for a job and have mostly been working on trying to acclimate to it, so that’s been taking up most of my time lately, lol! But, how about you?
Congrats on making it out in the real world, quarantine is an ordeal but by the time this goes up two weeks will almost be up.
Would you like to quickly introduce yourself, or how would you like me to introduce you?
Oh sure, I can provide some sort of an introduction. Hi all, I’m Skully, though I go by many names – since I’m indecisive when it comes to sticking to a username haha! I run a blog called “Energized and Salty” which I’ve set up as an outlet for people to explore a wide array of recommendations of movies, animation, and just media in general. I’m kind of a huge nerd to be honest, but I don’t mind, really!
So how familiar were you with the Kappa before I forced you to watch an episode?
I used to watch an episode or two of Kappa Mikey when I discovered it on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. It made me laugh at a few of the jokes, but overall, I never really paid too much attention to it since its design and art just didn’t appeal to me at all. But I could appreciate it as something that’s trying to educate viewers on Japanese culture as well as satirizing it, and it’s pretty honest about itself especially with regards to this episode.
Episode specific notes, commentary, or criticisms:
I have to start with this. The episode is titled “Mikey Likes It” and as a film buff this is the one episode title that made me go HUH? Every other title is a clear allusion to some movie (“Splashamon” or “Lost in Transportation”) or is something clearly regarding the episode i.e. “Battle of the Bands” this one I was confused because this episode is about recycling and scrap booking….MIKEY LIKES IT? Then I encountered this:
A cereal commercial who knew….well actually probably a lot of people. Honestly now a days you’d be lucky to find someone who even knows what Life cereal is let alone their 70s ad campaign that was one of the most memorable and played ads of the day (It is probably the equivalent of “Jake from State Farm” back in the day). My favorite part about this is Mikey was linked to a popular urban legend. It was highly believed that poor Mikey met his demise when he ate a lethal dosage of “pop rocks and Coca-cola”. The combination was so potent that his stomach straight up exploded. The internet had to ruin it and discovered that Mikey is very much alive to this day. [Wasn’t that interesting, never say K at the Movies isn’t an educational program].
Now for a quick synopsis. The Lily Mu crew is filming an episode, but is interrupted by Mikey ruining the scene. Mitsuki takes a picture and puts it into her photo album. Mikey ends up getting a ticket for improper recycling of a can which prompts Mitsuki and Guano to teach Mikey how to recycle. Mikey gets carried away recycling literally everything he can find which includes Mitsuki’s precious photo album. Mikey tries to retrieve the photos but to no avail.
Meanwhile Gonard is set up on a blind date by Ozu who forces him to date Lily to gain the show publicity. Lily and Gonard surprisingly make a decent odd couple but is a short lived relationship as Ozu’s next step is for Lily to cheat on Gonard…with Guano. This gets the two to engage in various forms of duals. Mikey tries to recreate all of Mitsuki’s destroyed photos but is eventually found out. In the end Mikey apologizes for destroying the photos and lying to Mitsuki and the whole Lily Mu crew play a friendly game of ping pong.
From the moment the episode started, I could easily tell this was a parody of sorts. The over exaggerated facial expressions, the stilted animation, the bishie design being dialed up to 11; this is almost like what Westerners used to think of the medium back in the day. It makes perfect sense too given how America’s gotten a lot of really bad anime being localized over there that it almost feeds into the stereotype XD.
I also like how they drew Mikey in this very Western cartoon style as opposed to an anime esque one. It really fits his character of being a fish out of the water and accurately designates him as the only American out of the entire cast. I think it’s important to indicate who is the audience surrogate and Mikey’s simpler, almost comical character design makes it all the clearer as he’s the most distinct out of the main cast. Great choice there!
Is Mikey starring in a Super Sentai series? The dialogue and set up feel remarkably familiar.
The blue demon fella only has one liver?! Oh man, that’s messed up XD
It’s kinda funny how their director seems to be a pokemon! Also, the way the facial expressions shift during more comedic segments remind me a lot of Teen Titans. Maybe this show was inspired by it in a way?
Lol, everyone was surprised Japan was an island? But they all live on that island XD
Haha, there are 44 recycling bins??? Bit excessive don’t you think? It’s already annoying enough in Vancouver with the categories, I can’t imagine trying to sort all my garbage into 44 of them. Guess this explains why Japan looks relatively clean and sanitary compared to a lot of other countries.
Skully don’t you look so sad, 44 categories ain’t so bad! So the highlight of the episode is the Recycling song showstopper and I had to know…fact or fake? Japan has a high population density, and is not has a small land mass but holds land as sacred. That is why Japan is one of the highest in terms of incineration of waste at about 80% of waste which is comparable to the rate of US landfill dumping. Japan actually does have very strict recycling and zero waste tolerance; they in general don’t have many trash cans and expect citizens and tourists alike to carry baggies with them to dispose of trash and are very anti-liter.
In many of the high population cities a lot of their trash, recycling bins are actually transparent as a reaction to a domestic terrorist attack in 1995 where the assailant concealed weapons in such bins. As for the 44 bins being true… no, but actually yes. Japan for the most part is very conscious of waste and it is typical you will see a range from 5-7 different recycling bins. EXCEPT for the town of Kamikatsu in Shikoku (has a population of 1,300 people) has you guessed it 44 recycling bins. It’s actually up to 45 now, so yeah Kappa Mikey is referencing some facts about Japan. As a clarification it is just a small sector and not the national policy, it would almost be like treating an Amish community to represent the entire US. [I’m going to leave some additional reading material on the subject below the article, don’t say K at the Movies isn’t an educational program!].
Hold on, what’s a paratrooper doing down there?
Ozu is sly, very sly. Gonard and Lily deserve each other tbh, they’re both cute when they’re together.
That’s maybe one of the reasons why this episode is interesting is that their dynamic is almost non-existent throughout the series so getting to see those to together in an unexpected fashion was honestly really fun.
Well Mikey got caught in the act. I still ship him together with Mitsuki though, their photo montage is just perfect for romance. Someone get Guano another Pokemon for him to be with.
Wait, why would Mitsuki stick embarrassing photos of herself in a photo album. Surely, if she’s ashamed of them, she would probably have tossed them out.
Woah remind these characters never to get on Mitsuki’s bad side. She’s got this very Starfire vibe to her as in she’s kind-hearted and benevolent on the outside but goes ballistic when someone gets on her bad side.
Yeah that’s so true and a really great comparison. This episode is very mixed for me because I think they fumbled the ball a bit. The set up is just very clunky, I think it would have been more impactful if they used the fact that Mitsuki has a lot of embarrassing photos of Mikey into the conflict. Nobody likes being embarrassed so I think the audience would understand where Mikey was coming from if he tried to intentionally get rid of the scrapbook and then took it to far and threw it away without realizing how meaningful it was to Mitsuki. Instead it is a complete accident and that just soften the lesson as the character doesn’t have to take full ownership of their actions.
That said, the ending is…perfect. Mitsuki is still somewhat upset with Mikey and Mikey understands that. He gives an earnest apology and tries his best to make amends in his own way. It was nice and refreshing to see the situation play out in a genuine mature manner and I respect that they went with a subtle but wholesome end.
So, a cast consisting of a boyscout, a gentle giant, a tsundere, an outgoing but very friendly love interest, and a talking animal sidekick? Yep, this is your standard anime cast. It’s kind of a shame that the Gonard and Lily pairing didn’t stick and I kind of wish that wasn’t the case; opposites attract after all. All in all, it feels like your standard kids show episode where there’s a problem that needs to be fixed, characters get into arguments over that problem, and they all make up in the end.
How do you feel about Kappa Mikey’s portrayal of anime/anime culture?
I feel it has this very overexaggerated portrayal of anime especially with regards to its characters designs and the way its comedy and facial expressions are handled. In spite of this, the dialogue and use of storytelling is very Western in style and almost feels natural rather than trying to constantly make pitiful attempts at pulling apart anime tropes even if the characters embody the various anime stereotypes (ie: Gonard being viewed as a thick skulled, but gentle giant; Lily being a tsundere; Mitsuki being very similar to characters such as Sakura; etc.). In a way, it’s almost as if it’s trying to parody only the aesthetics of anime rather than its use of tropes or its dialogue. The designs themselves look very much like something you’d see in a low budget harem anime and it very much shows.
I feel that overall, Kappa Mikey seems to satirize or focus on its portrayal of Japanese culture than anything anime related. The series that Kappa and his pals star in is an obvious nod to Super Sentai shows of the olden days, the various trash cans (possibly?) an exaggerated representation of Japan’s attempt at sustainability measures, and Gonard being paired up forcibly with Lily being part of idol/seiyuu culture (in Asian countries, when two actors full with love with one another, its treated as if it’s a major big deal over there).
Since Kappa Mikey aired in 2006, what since then do you think would be parodied or referenced if it was made today?
Oh wow, if it aired now and tried to parody anime culture as it is today, I’d imagine even Adult Swim would be hesitant on airing it.
I’d imagine it would make fun of a lot of the more absurd elements of anime culture, namely its obsession with incest, waifus, beach episodes, enormous mammaries, characters containing gallons and gallons of blood in them,100-year-old lolis, and in trying to set up a massive harem for its main character. But in doing so, I’d say it would probably strip Kappa Mikey of its status as a show for children, for obvious reasons.
Do you think anime reviewers such as yourself should give Western animation more of a chance?
Absolutely! People are forgetting that while anime culture has influenced Western animation to a greater degree, anime in the first place wouldn’t have been brought to the limelight if not for Disney. Without films like Snow White, Cinderella, Jungle Book and so forth, we wouldn’t have all these anime shows and movies at our disposal.
Not to mention that while Western Animation is a cesspool of garbage right now, there are still some great shows that people should give a try. To name a few, I’d recommend checking out: Avatar the Last Airbender, Teen Titans, Samurai Jack, Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman, Primal, and Justice League.
What would you do to most improve Kappa Mikey?
Most definitely the animation style lol! I mean, I get it’s supposed to be an affectionate parody and all, but even as a kid I wouldn’t touch this within a mile radius because of how low budget it all feels. Going back to the “if it was not made in 2006” question, I kind of hope that if Kappa Mikey were made today, it should keep the design of Mikey, but put him into a world that almost feels like its animated by Kyoto Animation or Ufotable, with Japanese characters that have very striking and beautiful character designs, and environments that look almost picturesque. Given how Japanese anime have this feel of beauty in both its environments and characters these days, I’d feel it would be more effective and distinct seeing the simple, cartoony Mikey interacting with the more complicatedly drawn, and realistic versions of all his Japanese co-stars. Especially seeing that Japanese animators are constantly innovating with regards to how visually impressive they can make anime look while Western Animation consistently uses more simpler designs and backgrounds.
Maybe it’s just me but I think it would be kind of sick to do Kappa Mikey but the reverse and have a Japanese exchange student come to America. It would be kind of cool if how old the character was determined their art style so senior citizens are rubber hose, adults are Hannah Barbara younger characters are either thick outline geometric style or the perceived Calarts trendy design. Then you have our protagonist who is a refined anime style and we can get flashbacks of life in Japan which is all anime-esque. I think that would make for pretty good art direction that isn’t a gimmick as it would more just be to emphasize the fish out of water aspect of the story and using troupes more to distinguish the cultural disconnect than just for pure comedy.
Was there anything unexpected or surprising upon viewing or revisiting Kappa Mikey?
I expected it to just be a show that pokes fun at anime clichés and tropes but came out having watched a show that tries to educate its audience on Japanese culture or just outright satirizes it as a whole. In a way, it seems less about anime and more about Japan in general. So, I’d guess that was a surprise for me at least.
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?
It’s definitely a good introduction. It feels like a very early 2000s anime in terms of the way everybody looks, and it’s got some nice insights into Japanese culture. Recommending this to someone who has got absolutely no clue about Japan as a country would probably get them slight interested in checking it out at least. Though, I’d honestly say Teen Titans is probably a better watch – that’s what got me into anime at least, that and also Kingdom Hearts.
Is there any Western animation series you’d recommend to someone who loves anime?
Avatar: The Last Airbender for fans of the shonen genre, Teen Titans for fans of superhero anime, Code Lyoko for those who like a nice blend of 3DCG and traditional 2D animation, Wakfu for fans of adventure anime like Made in Abyss, Samurai Jack for anime fans that are more interested in the artistic side of it, Castlevania for fans of darker anime like Berserk, and Megas XLR for mecha fans that want to see a more affectionate parody of the subgenre. I’d say those are a no-brainer as far as recommendations go.
Maybe it’s a bit of the Pygmalion Effect at play (my struggle is ENG/LIT not Psychology) and hence all of my guests have really homed in on the anime audience emphasis. I feel we can’t talk about great animated shows and have nobody bring up who lives in a pineapple under the sea. I know it’s reputation now a days as the 2nd yellow protagonist show that’s never going off the air but this show is great. Spongebob Squarepants is an animation icon the early seasons are literally a master class of comedy with punchlines still being memes and inside jokes years later. The later seasons still show flashes of creativity or at least dedicated animation work. It’s hard because it is pure comedy but I think there’s great examples of different types of humor and establishing character iconography that Spongebob is a universally appealing show that should be mentioned as a recommendation.
Favorite character, or one that stands out to you?
Mikey because he feels perfectly out of place for the narrative and for good reason. He embodies exactly what a person suffering from culture shock would feel like. I do love that he serves perfectly as an audience surrogate for those wanting to get to know a bit more about Japan as a country.
Mikey won the chance to be the star of his own anime, how would you fair as an anime protagonist?
Depends on the anime. For a show about a Westerner first getting a taste of Japanese culture, I’d rate it a 7. But for any ordinary anime, it’s a 2.
As my panel of experts it is up to decide is Kappa Mikey GOOD or BAD?
In my ideal world, I would have preferred to see this kind of show on Adult Swim so they could go full out with satirizing the anime medium. It’s strange seeing a kids show try to tackle it since anime in general has a lot of NSFW content in it. For what it’s worth, it’s good for younger audiences and its educational as well. I like that they try to educate you on Japan’s geography and the importance of environmental conservation; it’s really something children these days need to be brought up understanding.
Also, I love that Sean Schemmel is voicing Gonard. Sure, it’s a departure from his role as Goku in the Dragonball franchise, but it’s very fitting.
Fun fact time: Mitsuki is voiced by Carrie Keranen who went on to many anime roles. Some noteworthy roles was as Satsuki in Kill La Kill and as Misato in the Evangelion Netflix dub. You can also find here doing voice work in these series as well: Madoka Magica, Miraculous, Erased, Your Lie in April, Pokemon, and Fate/Zero.
Overall, I think it’s an okay attempt at trying to cater it to children, but I expected a bit more. It’s not my kind of show, but I could probably get why children would be entertained.
Some of my collab partners urged me to do a full recap where I summary what the collective conclusion was and I don’t know if that is really necessary. Let’s recap:
- Iniksbane – abstained
- Scott- alright/passable
- Aria – good nostalgia but cringe worthy at times
- Jon Spencer – pretty awful
- Skully – okay
If I were to summarize my feeling it would be that it is upsettlingly unambitious given the pretty neat concept, but for what it is it’s a somewhat amusing comedy. I think as a whole we’ve felt that there is much more to anime then what is captured in Kappa Mikey and that’s fine but for Pete’s sake could Kappa Mikey please look just a little bit less ugly. Kappa Mikey is a show where I literally found Deviantart fan drawings that look much better than the show.
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!
Thank you so much for having me on board! I should do more of these collaborations in this lifetime. They are a joy to participate in.
Thanks again to my Lily Mu crew:
It was an honor to experience the Kappa with you all. Collabs are always fun but to be honest I think I’m ready to get back to making content on my own. Wait a minute, has there always been a big shiny red button there. Well there is only one way to find out what that does so don’t mind if I do.
Oh no where am I now?
Japan Recycling Info: