The Super Milk-Chan Show (Adult Swim Version)
It's easy for a reviewer to get all excited about something different in the world of anime. For all of anime's unique plots and interesting characters, just as in any entertainment business, in some fashion we've seen it all before. So when something just catches me off-guard, I almost praise it for doing just that. In the case of The Super Milk-Chan Show, I've tried to give myself a little distance in reviewing it. Because it did catch me off guard. At first, it was terrible. Then it was just weird. Then it was hysterical. Then offensive. Then just plain funny.
And all of this from running essentially the same plotline through every single darn episode.
So here's where I tell you the plot of every Super Milk-Chan episode--and no, this is not a spoiler, since these things happen every blooming last time. Milk, a self-absorbed, potty-mouthed 5-year-old sits at home watching TV with her long-suffering companion, a robot named Tetsuko, and an alcoholic green slug named Hanage. Her landlord, an effeminate, thin guy resembling a colorful Q-tip, comes to collect six months of back rent only to be tricked into running away. Then The President calls. (And yes, it's just The President, short apparently for The President of Everything.) The President has some sort of job for Milk to do, even though she has no superpowers or any skills whatsoever. After a lengthy talk where The President makes a fool of himself, Milk goes to the King's Idea Laboratory to get help with the President's quest. Sometimes she gets help from the rude Robodog; mostly, though, Tetsuko just gets insulted by Dr. Eyepatch, a bizarre skeletal scientist who may (or may not) be Tetsuko's creator. Everything then gets solved, almost invariably without Milk's help, and they all go out for sushi afterwards.
And yes, this happens every single episode. What I haven't told you is what makes this whole scenario funny. Frankly, I'm not sure I can.
There are two versions of The Super Milk-Chan Show available in the United States. One is a direct translation of the original Japanese show, which is running during Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, and that's the one I've seen. It's possibly not the best way to see the show, which is odd considering my typical preference for shows to be closely translated and unadulterated. Why? Because there are bunches and bunches of obscure Japanese cultural references everywhere, and they are left untranslated. Don't know that an episode's title is a reference to the ridiculously long Japanese title of the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko? You miss a joke. Don't know that Kochikame is a hugely popular manga series with over 52 volumes? You miss a joke. (And of those two jokes, I had to look one up on the Internet, and I've been watching anime for what? 20 years now?) It doesn't mean that a lot of it isn't still entertaining, but all sorts of in-jokes will be flying over your head. From the discussion on the Adult Swim boards, it's clear it has some fans and tons of haters.
The second version, packaged together with the first in the DVD version of the show as "100% Whole", is a new creation by ADV Films that loosely follows the original while making the jokes culturally appropriate, adding live-action material of the English dub team trying to make this thing work, and slapping in profanity and vulgarity to try and make this show seem as wacked-out edgy wooha-zing-zopp as the original seemed in Japan. I haven't seen it, but depending on who you talk to, it's either a travesty or the only real way to see the show. Eventually, if I do see it, I will put up a separate review.
In the meantime...back to the original version of The Super Milk-Chan Show. Does it work? Most of the time, believe it or not, it does. When a certain episode is really going, my side aches by the time it is done. It is so off-center, so out-of-nowhere, that I can't help but laugh. In particular, The President is easily the best character on the show. He's an idiot, but an amazingly lovable one in the context of the show. Typically, how much I like any given episode of Super Milk-Chan depends on how much The President shows up. I'd watch a show with him and Hanage the slug any day.
That being said, this is not a show for those who don't appreciate the bizarre and the offensive. There are bits of the show that just make you stare at the screen and laugh in trying to comprehend the random meaninglessness of what you've just seen. You'll either find them wacky or cringe-inducing. And then there's the matter of these characters themselves. Other than The President and Hanage, they aren't nice. Milk abuses virtually everybody with a trademark insult I won't print on a G-rated site. Tetsuko, despite being an slur magnet, can get off some snide remarks of her own. Dr. Eyepatch and Robodog are about as boorish as you can get. If you are easily offended by people behaving badly, don't even consider this show. If that weren't bad enough, from time to time the subject matter goes into crude territory expected from South Park. I mean, the Japanese have insults, but they don't have what we would consider swear words per se, so when the show has to occasionally be bleeped out on cable pretty much directly translated from Japanese, that should tell you something.
But there's one other problem that the show has...when it's bad, it's really bad. When I watched the first episode, I nearly wrote up my review and gave it an F. (I'm not the only one who almost threw in the towel on this show due to its first episode; check out Chris Beveridge's take on it at AnimeOnDVD.com, who refused to watch any more of the original version after surviving the first twenty minutes.) No other episode is quite that awful, but there have been a couple others that just don't go anywhere. When that happens, it's just painful. This show is not content to merely fly; it either soars with the eagles or crashes and burns.
Although I'm going to assign a letter grade to this title, please don't take it as a recommendation or a dis either one. This show is so strange that I couldn't honestly tell whether or not my best friends would get it or not. There are times when I'm just tempted to shut it off. But I can't help but watch it just to see what the heck the crazy people who made this show are going to do next. When it's on a roll, there's almost nothing funnier. And when it's bad, watch out.
To conclude, I can say only one thing...I've been told by friends in the know that this show is like drugs without drugs. If you can understand that phrase, you're probably in the right place to watch it.
The Super Milk-Chan Show -- profanity, occasionally strong adult situations and discussion -- B-