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Even these tapes cost something

  Samurai Pizza Cats
 
1991 | Saban International Services, Inc.
Samurai Pizza Cats Saban and Entertainment UK

Who do you call when you want some pepperoni? Would be an obvious way to start this, so instead I'll ask the question;

What would happen if the Pizza Cats met Dogtanian? After all they're both good guys so they should get along, right? What is stronger animal instinct or human morality?

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Set in feudal period Japan in the city of Edoropolis home of a community of robotic animals called animaloids. The city is ruled over by the senile Shogun Tokugawa who's seat of power is envied by Prime Minister Ko'on no Kami, a mecha fox. Together with his sidekick Karasu Gennarisai and his squad of Karasu Ninja Crows Ko'on no Kami causes mayhem around the city in a plot to dethrone the Shogun.

Fortunately for the good animaloid citizens the government has a secret weapon to use against these schemes - the Secret Ninja Team Nyanki - the Disciples of Justice and Victory. Three cats, Yattarou, Pururun and Sukashii who run the local pizza parlor are launched into action from the restaurant's giant roof mounted revolver, whenever there is trouble. They are always ready to defeat the enemy with their unique fighting ability and weapon skills.

Fearless leader Yattarou fights with the magical youtou masamasa sword capable of unleashing a devastating blow whenever he senses a great injustice has been perpetrated, Pururun fights evil with love using her power to draw in unwilling foes before dispatching them with her razor sharp claws. Finally ladies man Sukashii defeats opponents using a heavily equipped Kabuki Umbrella.

The show was animated by Tatsunoko and debuted on TV Tokyo February 1990 running for 54 half hour episodes. The title translates as Cat Ninja Legend Teyandee, Teyandee being an old Edo period slang exclamation. The show never took itself too seriously, often breaking for an anachronistic history lesson and often ending with the villain of the piece literally exploding with rage.

Kyatto Ninden Teyandee was successful enough to spawn the usual range of merchandising; chief amongst them a number of snap-together kit-like action figures that, through their construction style design, allowed kids to add addition armour and weapons to the characters mimiking the transformations in the show.

Other spin offs included a Famicom game from Tecmo, a handheld electronic LCD game and a Manga one-shot. Various episodes of the TV series were available on VHS from King Video.

The recently formed production company Saban, brought Kyattou Ninden Teyandee to the West in 1991 under the new title Samurai Pizza Cats.

KNT had a distinctly Japanese historical setting and anachronistic humour that wouldn't translate well to Western audiences so the writers took an unusual step when adapting the episodes: they chose to completely ignore the original Japanese scripts and instead make up the dialog semi based on what was happening on screen and with only the faintest references to the plot.

The original Japanese show was already a comedy but Saban's version took it to the next level creating almost a self parody.

Rebranded as the Pizza Cats, the main characters all received new names; Speed Cerviche, Polly Esther and Guido Anchovy fought against Big Cheese, Jerry Atric and his Ninja Crows. All the music was replaced with a new score by Saban founder Haim Saban and Shuky Levi, and several edits were necessary to tone down the more aggressive violence. There was a somewhat sporadic attitude towards removing the Japanese text from the show and it was sometimes even turned into a plot point. For instance, in one episode the heroes recieve a note but are unable to work out what it means since it's written in Japanese.

Of the 54 Japanese episodes, 52 were localised, the two missing were clip shows, and were first broadcast in Canada on YTV. Following a successful start Samurai Pizza Cats moved to the USA and eventually the UK, where it was shown on ITV's Saturday morning kids show Motormouth. In another unusual move, when the rest of Europe received the series it was the USA edit of the show and not the unaltered Japanese original.

Samurai Pizza Cats proved to be a cult success and a small number of the Japanese toys were rebranded and sold in stores but the Cats never managed to make a big or lasting impression. Poor marketing and a lack of confidence on Saban's part wasn't helped by the continued and unstoppable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze, a series that received good humored digs from the Samurai Pizza Cats.

A single video cassette volume of four episodes (1, 3, 8 & 9) was released in the UK while America received a 'movie' edition edited from the first two and last two stories in the series. Many years later several episodes recieved a DVD release but the whole run has never been made available to own.

 
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee Soundtrack Kyatto Ninden Teyandee VHS   Sukashii Action Figure
The Japanese OST CD
 
Japanese VHS release
 
Sukashii or Guido in action figure form
 

Episode 1
"Secret Ninja Team Nyanki Dispatch" or
"Stop Dragon My Cat around!"

The debut episode opens with Speedy and Guido competing to deliver a Tuna and Liver Meatball pizza to the lovely Lucille. The forth wall gets broken early on with Guido complaining that he has a clause in his contract preventing slapstick humour and Speedy greeting Lucille with the line "To other people you may just be a hand painted animated character but you mean a lot more than that to me".

The two cats squabble over who is best for Lucille and which is a Pinko or a Neo Fascist but their fight is soon interrupted by, as the narrator states, "... the most hideous creature our animators could draw." A giant metal dragon hangs in the sky and dances somewhat oddly before crashing through the nearby scenery. Buildings totaled in his rampage include "A retirement home for aging Ninja Turtles" (a robot turtle loses his shell and flees to the cry "Cowabunga!"). Trust me, that was edgy stuff to a nine year old.

A meeting of local shop keepers is called (actually the Tokyo Parliament). After a number of toe curling puns Big Cheese proffers that they prevent the attacks by making the robot dragon Vice President "... then we'd never see it again!" In the original dialog he actually remarked that Al Dente may be a "Homo" since he boasted of 'having men' who could solve the problem. No surprise that joke didn't get translated. To Big Cheese's annoyance the decision is made to send in the Pizza Cats.

The dragon attacks again, in a 60 second sequence of mostly reused footage and still images. The Pizza Cats are fired into action (literally) using the animator's old favourite - a stock launch sequence. They arrive just in time to find Mecha Dragon knocking over the same building for a third time while an identical set of onlookers flee once more. Who says TV anime is cheap?

Guido blinds the Dragon's operators with a bright light from his Sunspot Umbrella while Polly Esther burns the machine back to its skeleton with heart shaped Shurikens. Without their fearsome machine the Crows are left to fight alone but are no match for the Samurai Pizza Cats. During the battle a number of attacks deemed unsuitable for a Western audience hit the editing suite floor along with the only onscreen appearance of the narrator.

All that remains of the Dragon are its legs which attack independently (and in bright daylight) giving Speedy the perfect opportunity to unveil his signature finishing attack using his magical Ginsu Sword. At last the Dragon is completely destroyed and Bad Bird makes a quick exit.

News of defeat causes the Big Cheese to explode in anger. Something that happens with frightening regularity (at least once per show).

Samurai Pizza Cats
don de la mancha
the tales of la mancha
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee

Episode 3
"Dig, Dig a Hole and Dig More!" or
"Underground, Underwater, Undercooked"

Guido and Speedy are once again racing to meet Lucille, this time at her tea house. The Pizza Cats are fortunately blessed with the ability to run without moving their legs, they speed-hover several inches from the ground thanks to 'Jet Hover Shoes'. It looks cool and it saved Tatsunoko a lot of time and paint!

Lucille is not home but left the boys a note (in Japanese in the original, paw prints for the rest of the world). Somehow Guido reads these two prints as saying "gone shopping". Elsewhere in Little Tokyo Lucille boards a subway train which is soon hijacked by the Ninja Crows and driven to a secret hidden location. News of the disappearance fast reaches the Pizza Cats who head into the tunnels to investigate.

"There could be a monster or UFOs or mutants. Who knows, this is a cartoon, they can do anything they want!" Guido whines.

Not far away Bad Bird's plan is being put in action. The newly recruited commuter slaves are being forced to assist his robots in digging a tunnel. A quick conversation between Big Cheese and Jerry Atric covers the plot details - the bad guys are tunneling to an underground safe full of gold that Big Cheese read of in a library book.

Back at the amateur excavation Bad Bird upsets Lucille (but not through whipping her - honest) and she unleashes a barrage of missiles, one of which reaches the Pizza Cats revealing her location. This scene also contains an example of the original's difficult to translate humour. In the Japanese script an old man asks for water and Lucille brings him a worm; worm and water being very similar words in Japanese. In English, the sequence has him asking for a firm body and being presented with a worm body.

After very little digging the vault is reached. Bad Bird presses a button to open the vault doors. Wait, why would the vault have doors facing into solid dirt? Never mind, the doors slide back to reveal not gold but goldfish. A giant one. It seems there was an all important word missing from that old book!

The Pizza Cats arrive and drive the bad guys away but find themselves blocked in. A distress signal is sent for one of the Support Team to assist and Meowsma O'Toole is soon on hand to dig them out. The Samurai catch up with Bad Bird and a short battle ensues destroying the villain's digging robots and teaching him a lesson for using slave labor.

Once more the narrator is given the final word..

"And so ends another day of crime fighting, crow bashing, robot wrecking and causing large rodents to self-destruct."

Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee

Episode 8
"Kind of a Drag" or
"Scary? Ko'on no Kami's Secret"

The Big Cheese is as incensed as ever, this time over an intruder he believes to have been a spy. Guido runs into the spy while out delivering pizza and with his help she avoids capture by the Ninja Crows. The secret samurai insists on walking the young woman home explaining "This doesn't seem to be a safe cartoon for you".

Lover boy is so besotted with Ruby that he doesn't realise they are being followed by Bad Bird. Big Cheese's lackey follows them all the way back to her broken down shack then races back to report its location.

The Big Cheese is reluctant to let on why he wants this girl so badly. In reality it's because she walked in on him as he was secretly dressing up as a woman and Cheese fears his terrible secret will soon be out. What he doesn't realise is that Ruby is far sighted and saw nothing. The writers claim this cross-dressing to actually be his costume for the lead in Sound of Music, but I don't believe them. Never the less Big Cheese orders one of his expensive, and soon to be junked, robots to be sent to Ruby's apartment block, Ginger Towers.

Word of this Mecha danger reaches the Pizza Cats who waste no time, except for the full one and half minute launch sequence, racing to her rescue. Falling short of their target, and the stairs proving too much for them, the team call in Bat Cat. The flying feline arrives just seconds before Ruby and her dad become cat paste and sweeps them to safety. With the innocent bystanders clear the Samurai Pizza Cats spring into action to take out the Ninja Crows before facing off against this episode's robot foe.

Speedy's Magical Ginsu Sword cleaves the wrecking machine in two leaving Bad Bird in a cloud of dust. Big Cheese saw the whole thing from his tower and as if yet another defeat wasn't already too much to bear, he catches sight of Ruby wearing her glasses and comes to realise this whole exercise has been needless from the start. Cue explosion.

Guido gets a disappointment too when Ruby's fiancee Bucketlips turns up, destroying his hopes of getting with the rescued maiden.

Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats

Episode 9
"Double Trouble for Princess Vi" or
"The Princess is excited! Everyone is Worried!"

A big festival is being thrown in Little Tokyo and Princess Vi wants to see it. Taking a tip from Superman she devises a clever disguise and slips out but her crafty plan doesn't pass the notice of Al Dente or Big Cheese who both plot to catch her.

Al Dente has trouble convincing the Pizza Cats to take the job since they are more concerned about the increased revenue the festival will bring their Pizzeria - they do have day jobs after all. The only way he can get them to help keep the covert princess safe is by agreeing to man the shop himself.

Princess Vi finds herself dining with Lucille coincidentally at the same restaurant where Bad Bird is waiting tables. He sees through her disguise immediately and drops something mind altering into her drink. We can all learn an important lesson from this: always cover your drink - or you may find yourself hypnotized into believing you're an unemployed dentist. Unfortunately for Bird he used the wrong powder and the Princess's mind remains unclouded.

Unaware of this foul-up, Big Cheese and Jerry Atric put phase two of their plan into action - get their shape-shifting associate Big Bert to take on the Princess's appearance and place in the palace.

Vi and Lucille visit the theatre next, unaware that Bad Bird is perched in the rafters preparing her assassination. By another lucky coincidence Speedy is also sitting around in the roof and, having spotted Bird's evil scheme uses a smoke bomb to clear everyone out of the building. Unfortunately he loses sight of the Princess.

Joining up with the others Speedy calls in General Catton to help locate Vi. Catton's plan is to draw a crowd by launching fireworks from his backpack cannons. Sure enough Vi is amongst the onlookers and Bad Bird's plan of using his own deadly fireworks backfires.

Delivering the Royal runaway home everyone is shocked to find her already there. Vi confronts her double and Big Bert reveals his true form. The cats attack but Bert has them beat by taking on his attacker's appearance. What can they do? Same thing they always do - Speedy's signature stock attack - and Big Bert become as big pile of scrap.

Crisis averted.

"Chalk up another one for the good guys!"

Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Samurai Pizza Cats
Pizza Cats
 
Missing videos Missing videos

Pizza Cats Vs. Bad Bird
The first of their weekly battles against one of Big Cheese's robots.

Big Cheese in Drag
Dressing up for a 'stage audition' Seymour is caught doing his makeup.

 
Good animation
 
A wacky production that is actually funny
  Great dubbing
  Fun characterisations
 
Maybe too many puns for some people? I dunno

For a show that stated "They've got more fur than any Turtle ever had!" every week, it was hard for a young, radical Ninja Turtles fanatic to admit to himself that he enjoyed it. Maybe that is a good example of how great Samurai Pizza Cats was, despite the fact I wanted to hate it, I really couldn't. And what does that line mean, anyway?

It really has been fun rewatching this video. The daft humour is still funny and not at all dated or grating as I had feared it may have become over time. It's not often that a kids cartoon tries to be out and out ridiculous and manages it without becoming irritating, but Pizza Cats is one of the few! How many childrens cartoons can boast the phrase "neo-fascist" in their script?

When kids TV has got as safe as it has now, it's hard to believe that there was a time when a cross dressing, clearly gay, villain was ever allowed on Saturday mornings. Youngsters these days are really missing out! Fantastic fun as a kid and still good now, it's a shame it wasn't so well supported by home video. But now we have the internet so reliving the good old 90's has never been so easy. Quite simply, the best thing Saban has ever done.

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