Mike's totally subjective and completely biased mini-review
Isn't she cute?
Meet Kazuya Saotome, a second year electrical engineering student with a keen interest in robotics. Currently he's fixated on "Project Doraemon" and his cute squid-shaped robot Ikariya. His tom-boy neighbor and daughter of the landlady, Kasumi, sneaks in his window to see what he's up to and witnesses yet another failure. She reminds him about a test he's late for, and he runs off to school, but is so tired from his Ikariya work he sleeps through the exam.
We're introduced to his 'best friend and worst enemy', the rich and flamboyant Koutarou Nanbara. Nanbara gives him a DVD-RAM which he proclaims will connect to a secret site to speed up his pc, but it turns out to be a nasty virus. The virus takes control of his computer and connects to a strange website, the CyberDyne Corporation, where an order is placed. Moments later, the virus attack appears to have passed, and there's a strange knock at the door. A delivery girl appears with a package. Kazuya doesn't pay much attention, but when something in the package begins asking to be let out, he complies. When a pair of eyes from inside the box look at him, he panics and the contents fall out the window, but fortunately he saves the 1/6 size figure from falling to the ground.
The small girl introduces herself as May, a 1/6 scale robot maid from the CyberDyne corporation. She thanks Kazuya for saving her, and then calmly recites her end-user license agreement, much to the shock of Kazuya. She begins showing off her talents, which include such useful things as remote control of TV sets, when her battery charge runs down. She explains to Kazuya before passing out to plug in her backpack charging unit. Sadly, it fell out the window and broke. So Kazuya grabs the soldering iron and hacks together a charger that plugs into May's USB port, giving her a cute tail.
The story from here is relatively predictable. Kazuya can't pay the $1.5 million invoice for Cyberdoll May, and eventually Cyberdoll Sara is sent to repossess her. Sara gets sidetracked when she discovers how delicious ramen noodles are, and forgets about her assignment. Nanbara discovers May at Kazuya's apartment, and is on a mission to steal her and proclaim her as his own creation. After Sara's failure to recover May, despite hooking up with Nanbara, Cyberdyne sends another recovery unit, Cyberdoll Rena, to retrieve May instead. Rena ends up liking the cute squid-bot Ikariya, and stays in Kasumi's apartment, completely ignoring her mission. Maybe sending a Cyberdoll with the personality of a 9 year old wasn't so smart. So, then, they bring in the big guns, Cyberdoll Kei, a scientific genius with an IQ of 50,000. Initially successful at getting access to May, when she notices May's unpredictable, un-cyberdoll-like behavior, she is intrigued and delays the recovery for more study. Meanwhile during this recovery effort, May has been living with Kazuya, learning and growing emotionally, becoming more human all the time. However, all good things must come to an end, and reluctantly, May is returned to Cyberdyne for non-payment.
Shortly thereafter, a strange man in full body armor appears, introducing himself as "Cyber-X" from CyberDyne corporation. After a brief conversation, and a glass of milk, Cyber-X agrees to allow Kazuya to have a free Cyberdoll for 'research purposes'. He asks for his May back, despite the fact that Cyber-X tells him that they have much more advanced models than that. Kazuya is insistent, and Cyber-X makes the order for him. Some time later, a delivery girl appears with a small box, which Kazuya rips open only to find a USB cable inside. Initially Kazuya is upset, but then realizes that the delivery girl is May, who's been returned to him in a full-size body.
Not long after this, yet another Cyberdoll appears in Kazuya's apartment-Cyberdoll Mami. Mami is chronologically older than the others, and more mother-like than anything else. She seems pretty insistent on making sure everyone is having fun, interested in Kazuya's romantic interests, and asks May to make good memories because she 'doesn't have much time left'.
Kazuya and May go out on a date to the amusement park, which they visited before when May was 1/6 size, and truly begin emotionally bonding. When they return, they discover all the other Cyberdolls have been stricken with a terrible virus that threatens to wipe out the contents of their memories. Curiously, May is not affected. Everyone, even Nanbara is willing to help the effort. May suggests that transferring the virus to her would save the others and not hurt her, but there's not enough space in her memory. The future president of Cyberdyne (and Nanbara's future decendant) "Commando-Z" mentions that there's a secret empty memory area in all Cyberdolls, and May offers that space to load the virus into. The virus appears, and it turns out to be Nanbara's nasty virus from the DVD-RAM he gave Kazuya. Kazuya, with the nick-of-time help of Cyber-X, is able to destroy the virus and the Cyberdolls return to normal almost immediately. May seems passed out, but she says to Kazuya, "I'm fine... master!" Cyber-X angrily points out to Commando-Z that the so-called-empty area is where Cyberdoll memories are stored, and May, by allowing the virus to run there, willingly sacrificed her memories to save the others. Kazuya is depressed as May recites her license agreement again, but the moment touches everyone, and they all agree that there will be many new good memories to create together.
There's a lot to like here. It's a very cute story, which is probably the most important thing. There's a lot of comedy associated with having a 1/6 scale maid programmed to do things like cleaning, cooking, etc. Especially the cooking stuff, like headbutting eggs to crack them open, and various mishaps you would expect to encounter when you're only about a foot tall.
The story moves along quickly and nobody could accuse it of dragging along, but I think it could have done with another two or three episodes.
This story features perhaps my favorite sci-fi theme, namely, machines that struggle with the complexities of what it means to be human. This theme is handled with humor and a delicate touch. Ultimately its really the human characters who learn the lessons as well as the artificial ones.
Cyberdoll Sara has a 'horrible Hiroshima accent' (which in the English dub emerges as a horrible Southern accent--a close analog), she eats 30 bowls of ramen at a time, and has a cellphone built into her hand--microphone in the pinky, speaker in the thumb. A very silly character.
I like the fact that Cyber-X, while he appears to be a musclebound guy wearing skin-tight silver body armor, is actually a little fat guy wearing a zippered silver jacket and blue jeans.
There's a lot more good points, but I won't spoil them all...
The fan service level is very high. Lots of panty-shots and over-animated breast jiggle. The only saving grace is that Kazuya is played well as a nice-guy 19 year old undersexed and overworked college student who is embarrassed at his own staring and leering. The scene where Kazuya has to undress the 1/6 scale May to figure out where the USB port is borders on disturbing.
Nanbara and Hanagata (from Saber Marionette) are one in the same. The only difference is that Nanbara is not gay. Everything else is the same. Funny? Yes. Original? No.
Rena's supposed to be 9. Why is she romantically interested in Kazuya?
High Tenchi-Muyou factor: Haven't we seen the "bunch of jealous girls interested in impressing a reluctant guy" theme too many times before? If it weren't amusing with the robotic twist, it would probably bother me more.
There's a disturbing reference that implies that Cyberdolls are capable of reproduction. Talk about anatomically correct...
Cyberdoll Mami speaks short English phrases on occasion. The subtitlers cleverly reversed this, so when (in Japanese) Mami says "That's right!" they subtitled it in English as "Sou desu!". While to me that was clever, presumably someone who is watching the subtitles doesn't understand Japanese and would have no idea what that means. (It means "That's right!", by the way, in case you were wondering)
The theme song is cute, J-pop stuff. After about the 8th time you hear it in the short span of commercial-free TV episodes, you'll find you don't want to hear it anymore. I think Pioneer should have cut the openings and endings out like they did on the Battle Athletes Victory DVDs.
From the "I must have missed that" Department:
There's a completely unexplained time travel story here. The software that runs all Cyberdolls, including May, was developed by Kazuya, despite the fact he (and apparently nobody else in the present) has ever seen or heard of a Cyberdoll. Cyber-X, Commando-Z, and Mami are admittedly from the future, but the actual relationship as to where and when the CyberDyne Corporation is is never explained. Apparently May, Rena, and Sara are also from the future, however they curiously don't know about what is to come. Maybe this was explained in more detail the comic book, but its ignored in this short 10 episode series.
Despite a few shortcomings, this is a keeper in my small DVD collection. If
the theme weren't about machines becoming human, though, it would have been
dismissed as just another tenchi-muyou-ish show. If you saw and liked Saber
Marionette J, which has numerous similarities (although much longer and more
intense), you'll probably enjoy this as well. Most of the characters between
the two series have a one-to-one relationship.
Mike's Totally Subjective Rating:
Ordering Information (USA)
The Japanese release was on 5 DVD's, 2 episodes each, except for the last one which had the bonus episode as well. A box set of all 5 was released that included several special edition postcards. (and yes, it costs a whole lot more than the 3 DVDs do here)
The DVD features were combined so they fit on 3 DVDs and not 5. If the layout of the Cyberdoll Data Appendix seems to not make sense, that's probably the reason.
"You must agree to the License Agreement Terms before you use this
"I'm Cyberdoll May, pleased to meet you"
Interesting reaction--wait until he sees the invoice! These things aren't cheap!
So, where is that USB port anyway?
Maybe we don't want to know where that USB port is after all...
...but wherever it is, its held in pretty tight!