Buttobi CPU: I Dream of Mimi
There is a comedy subset that exists almost exclusively in Japanese animation, one that I will now officially dub the "unexpected magical lovers" genre. This includes many different shows--Video Girl Ai, Oh My Goddess, Urusei Yatsura, and Tenchi Muyo among them--but all include the same theme. All of them include a hapless young man who unintentionally becomes the center of a young woman's attention, and that girl will not go away despite any efforts to get rid of her. These girls almost always have some uniquely special "magical" power that defines them, and this power is used either for their man's best interests or to keep control of him. Now the shows vary from here. Sometimes the guy wants nothing to do with his heroine and does everything he can to get away from her, and other times he's more than happy to have a new girlfriend, but almost invariably they wind up together for (or in spite of) their efforts. However, I cannot think of any examples in recent Western storytelling that come even close to this genre. Perhaps it's a holdover in a society once based on arranged marriages that would have put young men and women together in similar fashion; regardless, it's still a big seller in anime. Buttobi CPU: I Dream of Mimi takes this well-worn premise and moves into the realm of the sex comedy. Unfortunately for the audience, the jokes are tired and the concept overused. It benefits from having some sweet main characters, but falls apart because of lazy writing, boring fight scenes, and unimaginative artwork in sequences that could have been amazing if done right.
Akira is a typical high school kid (despite the translation's best efforts to make the characters college age) who is all set to buy the coolest computer on the market that just happens to be on sale to the first few buyers. Bringing every last cent he's ever earned with him, he is devastated to find that the model he wants is gone. Dragging home, he is accosted by a mysterious stranger on the street who offers him what he thinks is going to be the PC of his dreams. When he opens the box, however, he is surprised to find not the latest Pentium but instead a fully functional, completely realistic, naked robotic girl! As her owner, she's completely dedicated to him and his wishes, but to keep her operational, she needs "user input" on a regular basis. (I said this was a sex comedy. You figure it out.) Initially reluctant, Akira eventually starts to care for this strangely sympathetic android, which he names Mimi. Things get complicated, though, trying to explain to his friends why exactly he doesn't have the great computer they want to play games on and where exactly Mimi comes from. Mimi's not one of a kind, though, and soon she and Akira enter a computer world where they meet some less than friendly American automatons that are more than willing to take out the cute twosome to carry out their scheme of dominating the world computer market. Will Akira and Mimi's love conquer all? You betcha.
Although this show was created in 1997, it has the look and feel of much older anime in general, possibly due to its basis in an earlier manga by Area 88 creator Kaoru Shintani, who appears to be slumming after writing that far superior series. The first episode is basically an introduction, and though not much occurs overall, it's minorly amusing in the way many B-level anime are. However, the second and third episodes deteriorate quickly once Mimi's rivals are introduced in a woefully underdeveloped concept of cyberspace. It dissolves into a series of pointless battles with characters that are stock villains with no background or purpose beyond a few casual sentences. (Some audiences might also be put off by the bad androids being Americans in what appears to be what the Japanese might have as their idea of the stereotypical businesswoman in the US.)
What really derails the series is the thread of believability that unravels completely before the show is over. There are so many holes that destroy any credibility that I can only mention a few. You're telling me that computerized women are available on the open market and nobody's heard of them? And that they can bring normal humans with them into cyberspace without a second thought? And that they can with the push of a special button make their malfunctioning compatriots disappear into thin air? Anime always stretches things somewhat, but since we're sitting in present-day Japan, even an attempt at believability would have been helpful. If the artwork had been better or the music even remotely catchy...but such hopes are dashed. Although a few segments have a nice look, for an OVA, there isn't much animation at all--in some scenes, it looks like it was a chore just to get the animators to make the characters' lips move.
One could infer from what I've said that the story of Buttobi CPU is really just an excuse for sex scenes. However, they are mild overall, containing no content beyond what one might see in a particularly frisky R-rated movie--if they did, you wouldn't be reading about it on The Anime Review. The story here is too involved, attempts too many lame computer jokes, and takes up too much of the show to say that it is just about sex...it's just too poorly executed overall to be of much use to anyone.
A retread of a popular theme can still be done well. Buttobi CPU isn't. In some ways, it's too bad, because the way the characters are developed, it could have been an enjoyable series. If they had dropped the whole sci-fi battle element, gotten to know Akira's friends, and taken everything in a more realistic direction, we could have had something worthy. As it is, despite being vaguely watchable, even a rental of Buttobi CPU is questionable when far more enjoyable comedies in the same vein are available. Pick up the wacky but romantic Video Girl Ai instead--you'll thank me for it later.
Buttobi CPU: I Dream of Mimi -- nudity, strong sexual content, mild violence -- C