- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

Fans of a frenetic Japanese animation style, comic-book-based cartooning and toe-tapping tunes already know of the expanding legend of Puffy AmiYumi.

Part pop-culture revolution, part indie rock band, the singing duo of Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki has been a fashion and trend-setting force in Tokyo since the mid 1990s but only recently made a dent in the United States.

The two were introduced to mainstream American audiences in 2003 when they sang the animated theme song to the Cartoon Network’s ode to DC Comics’ classic teenage superhero team, “The Teen Titans.”

The pair quickly found a home last year within an animated show, “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi” (also seen on the Cartoon Network). It features Americanized, anime versions of the girls in a trio of 10-minute adventures per episode as they live the hectic rock-star life.

All that is Puffy also has begun to invade store shelves, and fans can find micro action figures and fashion dolls from Mattel and look forward to a Game Boy Advance challenge from D3 Productions, Scholastic books, DVDs of the show from Warner Home Video, and even a pricey ($124) cold-cast porcelain maquette from DC Direct.

However, the girls of Puffy AmiYumi are really cementing their popularity in the United States with live concerts. Their tour recently stopped by the 9:30 Club and left a nearly packed house thrilled by their infectious rock ‘n’ roll style.

Playing to an audience that might be seen at a comic-book convention (i.e. young children with parents, tweens, teens with multicolor hair and a few costumed fanatics), the pair took the stage looking as frenetic as their cartoon alter egos. They spent about 90 minutes blasting through 18 songs, many of which can be heard, usually only in snippets, during their animated show.

With the power of an energetic, extremely tight five-piece band behind them, Yumi and Ami stalked, pranced and harmonized with hair flying in all directions.

During occasional breaks in the action, the pair traded off reading, in broken English, from cards to thank fans, plug their Web site (www.puffyamiyumi.com), get reactions to their cartoon and try to determine which food the D.C. area is best known for.

The concert offered vintage power pop, mixing the influences of ABBA, the B-52s and Blondie as the Puffy girls gave the youngest fans a lesson in musical genres while reminding the tykes that they are not to be confused with the Wiggles.

They performed songs that have been incorporated into the cartoon, including “Friends Forever,” (from the short “Surf’s Up”), “Boogie Woogie No. 5” (from the short “Kaz vs. Katz”) and “Planet Tokyo” (from the short “Treasure Map”).

They also introduced “Song of Origin” from the latest Pokemon movie, “Pocket Monster Advance Generation: Myuu to Hadou no Yuusha,” playing only in Japan.

The duo saved the latter part of their set for a blisteringly accurate version of the “Teen Titans” tune and a Ramones-paced version of their famed cartoon theme song, “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi,” that had fans bopping in unison.

An encore included a cover version of Green Day’s “Basket Case” that sounded better than the original. The pair gushed about meeting the members of Green Day.

Fans of the cartoon and music can buy an enhanced CD, “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Music From the Series” ($18.98), which has multimedia features for use on computer systems.

With the amount of negative and explicit music pummeling today’s youth, Puffy AmiYumi presents a fresh, pop-culture package of fun that can be appreciated by all family members.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail [email protected] or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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