Here’s an idea: let’s make a movie that combines a number of the more gag-inducing, cutesy aspects of anime with some unusual and compelling traditional animation techniques. Then we’ll throw in some nods to the “furry” contingent (where every character is an anthropomorphic dog or cat with varying sex drives), and add a contrived conspiracy theory dealing with an ancient cult and a present day mega-conglomerate. What we end up with will most likely look something like “Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space,” an often unfathomable look at one feline’s elliptical quest for understanding.
Tamala is the titular jumpsuit-wearing cat from Meguro City, Tokyo, on what is known as Cat Earth in the Feline Galaxy – being a dog person; I knew I was in trouble from the start. Cat Earth (and, indeed, much of the Feline Galaxy itself) is run by a corporation called Catty & Co., which controls 96% of the world’s GDP. This is the kind of percentage that probably gives Nike’s Phil Knight nocturnal emissions.
But Tamala cares naught for balance sheets. Instead, she wants to travel to Orion where she can unravel the secret of her past (we’re told later she has some hidden connection to an obscure cult that worships a being named Minerva – no, not that one). But her journey has scarcely begun before she is forced to land on Planet Q, a world torn with strife between cats and dogs. While there she courts the gentle and slightly confused Michelangelo (whom she insists on calling “MoiMoi”), and is eventually eaten by a sadistic police dog named Demeitri.
Relax, I’m not spoiling anything, though I suppose I would be if the film made any sense. What plot there is takes the viewer from scene to scene in a highly annoying arbitrary fashion. We leap back and forth from the grating lead character (Tamala resembles nothing so much as a doe-eyed Strawberry Shortcake reject, albeit one who talks like Betty Boop with Tourette’s) to several other, slightly more compelling settings. One is an impressive Fritz Lang-inspired dreamscape which offers hints of the impending arrival of a robot avatar of Minerva named Tatla, who bears an eerie resemblance to Jet Jaguar (had Megalon actually showed up, this movie would’ve easily received my highest rating). Other scenes are reminiscent of old Max Fleischer cartoons. Tamala, on the other hand, is depicted with a truncated range of facial expressions and movements – the modern-day equivalent of a Hanna-Barbera character. Indeed, the level of secondary animation (and the spare ambient soundtrack) is such that you’re actually disappointed to leave the dialogue-free scenes and return to the simplistic plot. The principals travel back and forth in time and come back from the dead until one character decides to eschew traditional ‘reveal’ methodology and sits Michelangelo down to explain, in excruciating detail, the connections between the cult of Minerva and Catty & Co.
My conception of “punk” must differ from the creators of “Tamala 2010.” The lead character is feisty enough (she says “f**k” a lot), and even skateboards, but she’s owned lock, stock, and oversized eyeballs by the Big Evil Corporation. The movie itself is apparently little more than a marketing exercise for something called the Tamala2010 Project, which plans to (according to the web site) “grow into a grand scale pop culture and merchandising business.” I can’t read Japanese, so this could all be an elaborate hoax (a la the Blair Witch), but it sure sounds like the film is merely one aspect of a concentrated promotional effort to establish Tamala as a 21st century Garfield, only with more swearing and less lasagna.
And this time around, Odie has some serious sado-masochism issues.