Puffy Amiyumi as Neo-Bubblegum

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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.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
September 9, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

14 Responses

  1. r. Says:

    all i know is that veronica is really hot on the keys.

  2. marxy Says:

    Well the bass keys on those transistor organs look like her – black keys with white.

  3. Gaijin Biker Says:

    I loved the Banana Splits. Do Josie and the Pussycats count?

    Back in the 70’s, it seemed like half the cartoon shows were about bands of musicians that also did something else (fight crime, solve mysteries, be vampires, etc).

  4. nate Says:

    it’s gonna be off topic no matter where I ask it, but am I the only “english teacher” amongst us commenteers?

    Im not on about momusian tranparency or anything, just wondering who these people are that got caught up in marxy.

  5. LK Says:

    Just the comenteers, or everybody?

  6. Chris_B Says:

    nate: I’m a salaryman.

    r: one of the long term cartoonists for Archie Comics had a side career as a pinup cartoon artist for the pulp mens humor mags of the 50s/60s. I have a book of his work upstairs and can check the title if you are interested.

    marxy: I always found Reggie to be just wrong as a bass player. He’s just too conceited and wanting to be the center of attention to play bass.

  7. Carl Says:

    Nate: I’m wasting my second year of life as a JET in Toyama-ken. But the money’s good.

  8. Jrim Says:

    Carl: really? An old schoolfriend of mine is doing the JET in Asahi, Toyama-ken. Small world.

  9. Magister_X Says:

    Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi is one of the worst cartoons I’ve ever seen. The low frame rate and the simplistic coloring are trademarks of the Hanna-Barbera influence, where characters who were no more than bit players were given full-length cartoons because volume counted a LOT more than quality.

    I see the two girls who probably speak 5 words of English between them and then the cartoon versions of themselves speak perfect English, sprinkled with 3 or 4 kawaiis per episode just to remind us that the original artists are, in fact, Japanese.

    GAAAAG*

    *I am a biochemist, but that is a retching noise, not a coding sequence.

  10. nate Says:

    toyama, eh? I’m 3rd year aomori ken. 017 for life.

  11. Chris_B Says:

    c’mon people, does anyone believe Reggie would play bass?

  12. jariten Says:

    The Archies? The Banana Splits? These pop culture references have gone over my head entirely. I get the feeling that i’ve got about 30 years backstory to catch up on.

  13. trevor Says:

    Chris: your right. there is no way Reggie would play bass. but since archie is obviously the main character. Reggie can’t play guitar. Archie has to. you can only have Jughead on the drums. and the keys would be to “girly” for Reggie. also, since its basicly a 50’s ideal cartoon. you couldn’t have betty or veronica playing bass. that would be soo.. un-girl. the bass is at least a guitar of sorts. [and a “big” one at that]
    but beyond all that. yes, if Reggie couldn’t play lead guitar, he wouldn’t agree to be in the band. i don’t understand why he agree’s to be in a band with Archie and Jughead to begin with.
    in modern times.. IMO. you’d give Betty the bass.. Archie rhythm guitar and vox, and Reggie lead guitar.

  14. Chris_B Says:

    Trevor: You nailed it. I think Betty would be a good rock steady bass player.