Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Sep 1st 2014
Sub.DVD - Season One
Rui, Hitomi, and Ai Kisugi are three sisters who run the Cat's Eye Café across the street from the local police station...but that's just their day job. The sisters are really the trio of art thieves known as Cat's Eye, using their smarts and athletic skills to fool the cops as they reclaim their German father's artwork in hopes of finding him one day. To make things even more complicated, middle sister Hitomi is dating Toshio Utsumi, one of the lead detectives devoted to bringing down Cat's Eye!
Based on the manga by Tsukasa Hojo, the first season of Cat's Eye, which ran from 1983 – 1984, is so much a product of its time that the only way it could possibly be more 80s is if Cyndi Lauper had a guest appearance. Despite that (and that may not be a deterrent if you're a fan of older shows), there's a lot to enjoy in these thirty-six episodes, from an impressive voice cast to acrobatic feats to an interesting back story, and while it can be very episodic, it's also a great deal of fun.
The story revolves around Hitomi Kisugi and her two sisters. The two older sisters run a café most of the time, living above their shop, while sixteen-year-old Ai goes to high school. Hitomi has been dating Toshio Utsumi since they were in high school, and he's a frequent visitor to their coffee shop, not only because of his relationship with the middle Kisugi sister, but also because he's a detective at the Inunaki Police Station, which is right across the street. This, however, is much more complicated than it seems, because the sisters are actually Cat's Eye, the mysterious art thieves Toshi is actively trying to catch. Cat's Eye is actually trying to find clues as to the whereabouts of their missing father, Michael Heintz, who was a dissenter during Hitler's regime. Somehow this lead to the dispersion of his fantastic art collection, and the Kisugis hope that by reassembling it they will be able to be reunited with their father. (The implication is that Ai has never even seen him.) To the police, however, they are just a nuisance who keeps making them look bad: before each theft, Cat's Eye sends out a card announcing what they will be stealing, where it is, and what time they will take it. Despite all of this, Toshio and his compatriots still can't catch them, and Toshi is definitely feeling both bitter and frustrated about it.
As you might be able to tell, logic does not play a large role in this show. Toshi has seen Cat's Eye a number of times, spoken to Hitomi, his girlfriend of many years, while she's in her Cat's Eye unitard and even groped her when he fell on her during a chase, and she and her sisters run a café with the same name as their art thief alter-egos, and yet Toshi has very few suspicions about them. In fact, he would have none were it not for fellow detective Mitsuko Asatani, who immediately makes the connection and continuously tries to point out that Hitomi is their best bet for Cat's Eye's real identity. Unfortunately for her, the Kisugi sisters are very adept at covering their tracks, and even when in the last four episodes she almost has Toshi believing her, nothing can be proven. Of course, since we're really rooting for Cat's Eye, this is all to the good; it can simply be mildly frustrating from a logical point of view.
The show itself is highly episodic in nature, with plot being covered mostly in the first eight and last four episodes of the season. While plot nuggets can be found in other episodes, for the most part they simply follow the formula of a heist that the police fail to stop. Not that these aren't entertaining – each theft is carried out using only the finest in 1980s technology (so many gas bombs...) and new and exciting acrobatic maneuvers, to say nothing of innovative escapes. Each sister gets a chance to shine and to show off her specific skills – Rui is the Sexy One, using her acting abilities and latent powers of seduction to charm information out of people, Hitomi is the Athletic One, pulling off amazing jumps and flips, and Ai is the Smart One, inventing one awesome machine after another, defusing bombs, and building automatons. Rui gets the least screen time, and Ai takes the most injuries, getting shot three times, while Hitomi clearly gets a thrill out of the actual chase. Whether it is because Toshio is the one chasing her or she just enjoys the excitement isn't stated, but it's obvious that she really likes the actual thefts, perhaps more than the works they're stealing.
The influence of Cat's Eye on subsequent lady thieves is evident, which certainly adds to the interest of this show for anime historians. The dynamic of the romantic interests as thief and policeman is one that we see play out very similarly in Megumi Tachikawa's 1995 manga Saint Tail as well as Masakazu Katsura's 1993 series Shadow Lady, and the idea of stealing the paintings for a very specific purpose, unlike Lupin III's greed, shows up in stories from Saint Tail to Arina Tanemura's Phantom Thief Jeanne to CLAMP's Man of Many Faces. The show also includes a character named Lupin's Bride, a clear reference to Monkey Punch's earlier thief, and the gentleman thief Slim Suspense who shows up in a later episode may also be a reference to the smooth-talking Lupin III.
Despite its vintage, Cat's Eye's visuals hold up quite well. While some shortcuts are used, such as recycling footage during chase scenes, there are many more factors that point to this being well done. Each eyecatch is different, a series of images of the Kisugi sisters doing various activities or as pin-ups, and the acrobatic feats are very nicely animated. Clothes look like they are being worn rather than as if they were painted on the characters' bodies, and everyone (who isn't a police detective) wears a series of different outfits, sometimes using the same shirt with different pants or skirts, mimicking the way real people dress rather than the same two outfits we often get in anime. Each ensemble is very much up to the minute 1983-4 fashion, recognizable as such if you lived through the period or have watched any 80s movies. When someone comes out of the water, their hair actually looks wet, and motion capture technology is used quite well during the ending theme.
And let's talk about that ending theme for a moment. It is easily one of the more bizarre features of the show, with the sisters engaged in an aerobics routine complete with instructions from an instructor: “Come on girls! Work that body! Move your head – back and forth!” The ending also features the only boob jiggles in the entire series, and I might be tempted to argue that they are also the most realistic I have seen in anime.
Apart from the opening and ending, the music in the show is fairly constant with almost no quiet moments. Strangely in the opening episode we are shown a clear shot of The Beatles' “Rubber Soul” on the record player only to never hear the album – copyright issues, presumably – and all background music is very midi-like in nature. Any English lyrics are impressively pronounced and actually make a fair amount of sense, even if at one point “street talk” is rhymed with “take a short walk.” The vocal cast looks very impressive today, with Chika Sakamoto (Nuriko from Fushigi Yugi) as Ai, Keiko Toda (Dear Brother's Kaoru) as Hitomi, and Toshiko Fujita (Chihayafuru's Taeko Miyauchi) as Rui. Voices are noticeably lower in pitch than we tend to hear from female characters today, and Ai uses “boku” to refer to herself, which really suits the character.
Cat's Eye's first season is best not watched in one fell swoop, but is enjoyable as an adventure story nonetheless. The dynamics between the characters is fun, the story always full of crazy ideas and inventions, and the macro plot about Heintz and his ties to World War II Germany is certainly interesting. If you enjoy older shows or are interested in anime history, this is definitely worth checking out.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Almost all episodes are fun in their own right, great voices, and good attention to visual details. Clear influence on later mysterious thieves if you're looking for it, interesting macro plot.
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