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Kappa Mikey

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Kappa Mikey
[[File:Kappa Mikey|250px]]
Kappa Mikey Main Characters
Genre: Adventure
Comedy
# of episodes: 52
Running time: 22 minutes approx.
Original run: February 25, 2006
-
September 20, 2008
Kappa Mikey is an American animated/Anime sitcom geared toward families and is created by Larry Schwarz. 4Kids Entertainment is the worldwide licensing, marketing and official promotional agent. The show was Nicktoons Network's now Nicktoons, first original half-hour series, to be followed by other Animation Collective shows like Three Delivery, as well as Edgar and Ellen and The Secret Show. It premiered on Febru
Full Kappa Mikey Theme Song02:27

Full Kappa Mikey Theme Song

ary 25, 2006, and Nickelodeon aired several reruns and premieres as a promotional movement from August 20, 2006 to January 2007. It is MTV's first global acquisition. The entire show is currently available on iTunes.

Kappa Mikey was marketed as "the first anime to be produced entirely in the United States", according to press releases from MTV, Nicktoons Network, and various other sources, as the term anime in English is generally reserved for animation originally produced for the Japanese market. It uses Japanese animation and culture as inspiration for its concept, rather than being "true" anime. As a matter of fact, the series is a homage/parody of the Japanese anime genre. On February 16, 2008, during their "Music Week", Nicktoons Network aired their first and only original television movie, an hour-long Kappa Mikey musical entitled "Kappa Karaoke". Officially, the episode's title is "The Karaoke Episode".

The last three episodes aired after a rather long hiatus. These episodes were aired in September 2008, and declared the series finale on September 20.

Title

The show's title is a variation on the word kappamaki, a type of sushi. It is suggested that it was the inspiration for naming the title character Mikey, and uses the prefix kappa. Like Mikey, who is a 'fish out of water' in Japan, the kappa creature itself is a water demon who can live on land. The kappas first appeared on this show in the episode Mikey, Kappa, on August 5th, where the origin of the title was explained. Mikey also shares his name with the actor who supplies his voice.

Overview

The series centers around Mikey Simon, a 19-year-old actor who just graduated from high school and is from Cleveland (Ohio). He embarks to Japan after winning a scratch-off card contest to star in the country's formerly popular anime series, LilyMu. In doing this, he rockets the show back to the top of the ratings, and becomes Japan's biggest anime star.

Segments of LilyMu are seen at the beginning and end of each episode, but the show focuses primarily on the actors' and producers' lives off-set and Mikey's adjustments to the new world he has entered (similar in concept to The Famous Jett Jackson on Disney Channel). The humor comes from the fact that because Mikey is an American, he actually stands out visually from the other cast members, similar to the mix of styles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. While most characters on the show are drawn in an anime-inspired style (thin outlines, big, detailed eyes, small mouths, and all ten fingers), Mikey (and all other American characters) is drawn in a retro-inspired American cartoon manner (thicker outlines, single black dot pupil eyes, a larger mouth, and only eight fingers). The humor is delivered in a rapid pace, and also consists of light satire, incongruity, slapstick, character quirks, and a fair amount of gross-out humor.

Production

Kappa Mikey is different from other cartoons produced in the mid-2000's, in that the property was owned by the studio instead of an agency, the animation was not out-sourced, and the episodes were written by a full-time staff. After producing Internet-based projects and television spots, this was Animation Collective's first ever television series, and was produced in New York City starting from the summer of 2005[1].

An early test pilot was made for a pitch to MTV Networks, where the character designs and backgrounds resembled more like those found in Perfect Hair Forever. Much of the current cast was voicing their characters even this early in production. When the deal didn't go through, Nickelodeon eventually picked up the project, and the show was tweaked heavily in order to be aimed at a younger audience.

Voice talents were usually local, and for the most part, the show was recorded at Manhattan-based NYAV Post, which Michael Sinterniklaas owns. Larry Schwarz, along with the other executive producers, oversaw all phases of production, but only had writing credits on the pilot episode, Mikey Impossible, and A Christmas Mikey. All the episodes were directed by Sergei Aniskov. The instrumental score was composed by John Angier, who also wrote the lyrics to The Recycling Song, Ori and Yori's hits, Living With Mikey, How Did We Get Here?, and the songs in The Karaoke Episode.

It was animated in Adobe Flash, with some moments of CGI rendered in Maya. To further emphasize the contrast in animation styles, one group of animators was assigned to the anime characters, and another group was in charge of Mikey and the other American characters. The vehicles on LilyMu and around Tokyo, as well as the weapons, the Gonard balloon, Pirate King's ship, the Karaoke Genie Machine, etc..., were created in Maya and exported into Flash using the Toon Filter. The backgrounds were modeled in Maya, and texture, details, and clouds were added in Photoshop. Some of the backgrounds were inspired by actual locations in Tokyo.

The show's anime-style characters perform with large comedic overuses of face faults, such as a face and/or body turning into an exaggerated general appearance, or becoming much smaller. This allowed animators to have more control over how a character looks and acts than on many other Flash shows, and they didn't always have to be on-model. The show uses clichés common to anime, including the sweat drop, lines over the eyes or no eyes at all, big heads, flaming eyes, bodies becoming smaller (or super deformed). Sometimes Mikey will try to do these things, which was one of the show's running gags, but cannot due to being drawn in an American style.

Characters

Main article: List of Kappa Mikey characters
Character Voice Actor
Mikey Simon Michael Sinterniklaas
Gonard Sean Schemmel
Guano Gary Mack
Lily Annice Moriarty
Mitsuki Evelyn Lanto
Ozu Stephen Moverly
Yes Man Jesse Adams

These characters are modeled on cartoon stereotypes, to varying extents. The show also features secondary characters and extras, mostly in crowd scenes, whose designs are directly inspired by famous anime characters, but who are different enough to avoid copyright infringements. Sometimes this is done to spoof the films and television programs intentionally, such as the character Masaka Masako, whose appearance spoofs Yubaba (or her twin, Zeneba) from the film Spirited Away, or Takashi Katashi, who shares a similar appearance and name with Kakashi Hatake from the anime Naruto (the person standing next to him could be Sakura, note the clothing). On another episode there is an anime version of Ami and Yumi from the TV series, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi (which was running on Cartoon Network at the time). Also in the final scene of the episode entitled 'Reality Bites' there is a person in the crowd that looks like a persocom from the anime Chobits. Other times, it is done to continue the show's original concept, without any intention behind it.

List of episodes

Main article: List of Kappa Mikey episodes
Seasons Episodes First Airdate Last Airdate
Season 1 26 February 25, 2006 April 28, 2007
Season 2 26 June 9, 2007 September 20, 2008

DVD Release

A Kappa Mikey DVD was released on 18 September 2007 under Starz Home Entertainment. It includes the episodes Lost in Transportation, Easy Come, Easy Gonard, and The Man Who Would Be Mikey, all from the first season, as well as bonus material, including a music video of 'I'm Alright' from Battle of the Bands, wallpaper, an interactive game parodying Hollywood Squares, and a How-To-Draw-Mikey tutorial.

In 2008, the Animation Collective site advertised a 2nd DVD that was scheduled be released sometime later that year. However, that announcement has been erased, leaving the exact release date to be unknown. It would've included Season One in its entirety, with DVD extras, and would've been considered more of an "official" volume than the last one. No further announcement has been made as the status of this DVD.

Cultural Errors

  • Being made in, and for, the United States, every character speaks English, and most do not have Japanese accents except for Ozu.
  • Americanized creative liberties with Japan abound in generally every minor detail, even though Japanese characters are used in signage, and the Tokyo cityscape looks accurate.
  • The top, or near-top, of Mt. Fuji is not covered in snow or ice, and no characters are clothed in winter outerwear while climbing it in the episode The Bracemaster.
  • Raccoons, which appear in the show now and then, specifically in The Phantom of the Soundstage and The Man Who Would Be Mikey, are not found in Japan. However, Japanese raccoon dogs, or tanukis, do exist in Japan and may instead be the creatures depicted, which would be consistent with the mischievous nature of these creatures in Japanese folklore. In The Masked Tanuki, Guano's costume resembles a raccoon, even though it is named after the former.
  • Football is featured as a discipline at the Mount Lebaniku high school in "Back To School". Football is not practiced in Japan, however, a related sport called kemari is played on occasion.

Dancing Sushi Spin-off Series

A spin-off mini-series of Kappa Mikey was made for Nicktoons, called Dancing Sushi, and focused on the antics of the three main sushi beings that originally appeared in the bumpers of the show.[2]. They are given names, and a fourth female sushi named Meep was added to balance out the cast. Twenty-six 1-minute episodes were made, with 3 web-exclusive episodes currently out now. The series is currently running on networks outside the United States, with no announcement for when this series will run in the United States.

References

  1. Animation World Magazine
  2. It's the Dancing Sushi !!!!

External links

NickToons Network / NickToons
Nicktoons OLd Logo
Kappa MikeyVoltron ForceThe Secret ShowMaking FiendsZevo-3Speed Racer: The Next GenerationNFL Rush Zone: Guardians of the CoreWolverine and the X-MenIron Man: Armored Adventures

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