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In Case You Missed It : Samurai Pizza Cats

Back in the mid-’90s, a trio of anthropomorphic cybernetic pizza-delivering felines introduced Western audiences to the sillier side of Japanese anime. Samurai Pizza Cats is a mix of pop culture references, absurd humour, and breaking action. Before Saban brought the series to Canada in 1993 and the U.S. in 1996, Samurai Pizza Cats was ‘Kyatto Ninden Teyandee’ (Cat Ninja Legend Teyandee). Set in Edoropolis, a city that combines Japanese  culture with futuristic electronics, the original series stars a trio of pizza-delivering cats — Yattarou, Pururun, and Sukashii — attempting to foil the machinations of an evil fox bent on taking over the city. While Kyatto Ninden Teyandee contains its own brand of humour, the series takes itself a little more seriously than the Western version.

The series originally aired in Japan on TV Tokyo from February 1, 1990 to February 12, 1991 for a total of 54 episodes. Saban Entertainment picked up the North American rights to the series in 1991 and produced a 52-episode English adaption. The English version of the series first aired in 1993 on YTV in Canada and in 1996 in the United States on first-run syndication.

Lacking information and proper translations of the Japanese episodes, Saban opted to have new dialogue written for the English version, making it more whacky and frenetic. Names were changed. Edoropolis became Little Tokyo, and the three main characters became Guido Anchovy, Speedy Cerviche, and Polly Esther.

The series was set in Little Tokyo, a mechanical city which fuses feudal Japanese culture with contemporary culture, and is populated by cybernetic anthropomorphic animals. The city is nominally led by Emperor Fred, a doddering eccentric. The city’s actual leadership lies in the hands of the city council and the emperor’s daughter, Princess Violet. The council is headed by ambitious Prime Minister Seymour “The Big” Cheese, a rat who constantly plots to overthrow the Emperor. Big Cheese is aided by his inept minions: trusted adviser Jerry Atric and Bad Bird, the leader of an army of ninja crows.

Unknown to the prime minister, council member and palace guard commander “Big Al” Dente has learned of his designs on leadership, but is unable to prosecute him for treason because of the plausible deniability he maintains. Instead, Al Dente enlists the services of Speedy Cerviche, Polly Esther, and Guido Anchovy, three cyborg cat samurai who work in the city’s pizzeria, along with their operator Francine. Known collectively as the Samurai Pizza Cats, the three are assigned to stop Big Cheese and his evil henchmen’s plans to take over Little Tokyo.

The English version of the series first aired in United Kingdom on ITV in 31st August 1991, with repeats continuing until 1995. In Canada the series first appear in 1993 on YTV and in 1996 in the United States on first-run syndication. The series was broadcast on Australian television on the weekday Seven Network morning kid’s wrapper programme Agro’s Cartoon Connection from April 1992. A repeat run occurred in the same time slot in early 1994.

Various toys and model kits were released in both Japan and Europe by Bandai, the latter usually being reboxed versions of the prior. Action figures for the Samurai Pizza Cats and the Rescue Team (the Japanese originals came as model kits comparable to today’s Gundam toys, while the European figures came pre-assembled). In 1991, Tecmo published a platform video game based on Kyatto Ninden Teyandee for the Famicom in Japan.

The main characters of the series were also intended at one point to appear in the Wii fighting game Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars. The game’s producer, Ryota Niitsuma, was quoted in an interview as saying: “One of the main anime we got more requests for than any others was Samurai Pizza Cats… I wanted to see that, but we couldn’t reach an agreement.”

If you never got an opportunity to watch this show back in the 90’s, it was a great little animation. Something worth checking out on DVD if you ever get the chance. The idea and execution was great, and I think it warrants a 2000 version. Is that something we can expect? With reboots all the rage these days you never know…

neillfrazer@hotmail.com

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Written by Neill Frazer

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