I discovered Puffy (Amiyumi) on my first trip to Japan in Summer 1996, and the fact that they inexplicably have their own American cartoon on the Cartoon Network has weirded me out for the last year. But now that I’m home and have a chance to watch a bit of the show, I realize that I approached the whole thing from a skewed perspective: Hi! Hi! Puffy Amiyumi has almost nothing to do with Puffy, the Japanese band.
And once you can convince yourself that the “band” is just a cartoon “front” for studio musicians, everything starts making sense in a Neo-Bubblegum dreamworld.
I love The Archies, Lancelot Link and the Evolution Revolution>, and The Banana Splits — all late ’60s/early ’70s Bubblegum creations where the cartoon stars (or live action chimpanzees) would play groovy, vaguely-psych pop songs. Their output tends to borrow Acid Rock instrumentation and boil the whole era down to its most warm and fuzzy cartoonish tendencies. Sgt. Peppers or Magical Mystery Tour make good color palates for animations to begin with, and the emphasis on melody crossed easily over to children’s music. Take the Archies’ “Get on the Line” — with that funky bass hook and peace-love-and-understanding lyrics. The only way you can tell it’s not a real “counterculture” single is the fact that it came out in ’69 — by which time all the “beautiful people” were on heroin or getting killed by Hell’s Angels at Altamont.
Puffy’s entire musical career starts to make perfect sense when viewed through the perspective of Bubblegum music. Andy Sturmer’s excellent songwriting has proved him to be more “Sugar, Sugar” than “All You Need Is Love,” and if someone handed me a “Very Best of Puffy Amiyumi” CD as if it were a ’70s Japanese Bubblegum compilation, I’d probably stop blogging and start a terribly-unprofitable reissue label. Ami and Yumi make more sense as American cartoon characters than real people, and my least favorite part of the show is when the real Ms. Ohnuki and Ms. Yoshimura pop up on the screen. Who are these Japanese girls?!? The last thing I’d ever want to see is the real Jughead — even if he was an awesome drummer.