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[Cyberteam in Akihabara]
AKA: アキハバラ電脳組 (Akihabara Dennougumi), Akihabara Cyber Team
Genre: Tamagotchi-based pseudo-magical girl show
Length: Movie, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Section 23 Films
Content Rating: PG-13 (violence, fan service)
Related Series: Cyberteam in Akihabara: The Movie
Also Recommended: Angelic Layer, Corrector Yui, Digimon 02, Saber Marionette J
Notes: There is a tie-in shoujo manga, Akihabara Dennou Gumi PataPi!, by Kotobuki Tsukasa, that ran in Nakayoshi magazine just ahead of the TV series.

This review has been updated to reflect the R1 DVD release from Section 23 Films.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Cyberteam in Akihabara

Synopsis

Well, there's this junior high in Akihabara, which, for the uninitiated, is the district in Tokyo where they sell all those high-tech goodies that the rest of the world can only drool over. The new fad among the students, as illustrated on a television ad in the first episode, is the Patapi - an intelligent cyber-pet that you can train to do *anything*. And, like her classmates, Hanakoganei Hibari wants one too - but unlike her friends, hers doesn't come from a store, but a prince she'd seen in her dreams. And yes, it's real, and "Densuke" has mysterious magical powers that allow it to transform into a powerful fighter that looks suspiciously like an adult version of Hibari herself (when it's not being uncooperative and mischievous). Naturally, there has to be a "bad-guy" agency to deal with, the mysterious Rosenkreuz organization. And Hibari's friends also get magical Patapis. Get ready for the weirdest magical girl show since ...well, anyway, it's weird.


Review

Imagine - your Tamagotchi, or Rocket the Robot Dog, or whatever, has magical powers that enable you to fight evil. Which means you don't have to do the transformation bit yourself, sparing you the embarrassment of being naked on Japanese TV! That's the premise of Cyber Team in Akihabara, which is an insidiously cute show with a generally fun plot, and a surprisingly deep premise, that really doesn't distinguish itself from the shoujo pack other than that.

Still, that doesn't mean it's bad at all. In fact, Cyber Team in Akihabara is quite fun to watch, and packs plenty of humor and camp in its episodes, though some of it has actually been excised from the North American release.

The ad campaign for the Patapi itself, in the very first episode, was so patently hyperkinetic that it's hilarious (anata no Patapi, MINNA NO PATAPI!!!), especially for those who have seen actually ads for Japanese toys on straight-from-television-fansubs of, say, Child's Toy or Saber Marionette J. It was true to life, and a spot-on parody of the real-life Tamagotchi craze. However, these are completely absent from the DVD ... they have been very obviously edited out. In their place are still frames of Patapis that are parodies of the photo-booth (purikura) phenomenon. Still amusing, but not nearly so much as the original broadcast. As it stands, the Patapis themselves are mutant little things reeking of merchandising, but they're cloyingly cute enough to carry the whole premise along.

The characters, too, are pretty fun (and really, really cute!), and often fire off jokes that are perhaps too wordy for proper translation. It's a lot of very Japanese nonsense, rather like Urusei Yatsura, but in a far less traditional setting. The girls also have the distinction of having some of the gosh-darn longest last names I've seen in a while for a sentai team. (Hanakoganei? Higashijuujou? How many syllables was that again?) A bit over the top, and maybe a bit much for its intended audience, but at least it's something different than what we're used to seeing.

Perhaps detracting from the show a bit (okay, in retrospect, a lot) is its insistence on having a little something for the male audience - sure, the girls themselves don't transform, but it seems every two or three minutes on this show, one of them HAS to have a panty shot or otherwise compromising situation, which may be par for the course in Japan, but raises a lot of eyebrows in North America, where underage fan service of this sort comes off as more than a little tawdry. It's pretty obvious, too, in a wink-and-nod sort of way ("Oh, grandpa, don't look there!"). Ewww. And, of course, the Patapis magically transform (in the usual long, drawn-out scene, of course) into really busty (and lightly clad) versions of their owners, which doesn't really improve on that situation. Of course, the female villains are also about to fall out of their own outfits, too. (Come on, people, haven't you heard of bras?!?)

The music never called itself to my attention back then or now, and the animation quality is actually very unremarkable, especially for its time. Frankly, in the new DVD release, it looks downright dated, which is somewhat depressing for a mid-90s show. The episodes themselves are also dreadfully formulaic (I'm the villain, and I shall be defeated in this episode, only to show up next episode with another evil scheme! Hah!). However, the actual content isn't bad, and Cyber Team in Akihabara does deserve a look if you're into this genre and want something more than flowers and shoujo bubbles. It's an original twist (or at least would be for a mid-90s show), and it's funny, but it seems to lean more toward merely enjoyable than genuinely good.

Funny premise, fairly well-executed, but it ends up at about average. Those less tolerant of 'cheese factor' may wish to stay well away from this show.Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Surprisingly dark-toned, but bloodless fight scenes, and more than its fair share of fan service, mostly panty shots and peeping. No nudity though. Older children and above, because it's mostly harmless. Mostly.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub; R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/26)
Cyberteam in Akihabara © 2000 Kotobuki Tsukasa / Kodansha / KA*NON / TBS
 
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