Neko Ramen Taisho
Neko Ramen Taisho
aka Pussy Soup
Directed by Minoru Kawasaki
Written by Minoru Kawasaki and Masakazu Migita
Minoru Kawasaki makes some of the weirdest films to come out of Japan since the last weird film to come out of Japan, which was like last week or something. Okay, Japan has a LOT of weird films, but at least Minoru Kawasaki’s are entertaining. And usually not insane enough that you can talk about them with strangers and they won’t think you are insane. If you disagree with this, try explaining the plot of Tokyo Gore Police to the person sitting next to you on the bus and see if they start looking disturbed. Minoru Kawasaki specializes in films where animals do people’s jobs. Usually, the animals are human sized, but in this film the cats are cat sized, even if they are played by puppets. Besides the animal films, Minoru Kawasaki also directed The Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit.
Neko Ramen Taisho started life as a Flash anime series. Then it became a movie with puppets, thus being superior because puppets>anime any day of the week. The English subtitlers decided to call it Pussy Soup, which is clever, but as I learned all about it and eagerly awaited it as Neko Ramen Taisho, that’s what I call it and that means I will ignore the Pussy Soup jokes.
There are some famous Japanese cats in this film, so if you enjoy famous Japanese cats, this is a sure bet winner!
Jeff II (William Thomas Jefferson II) is a supermodel cat idol whose image makes his cat food brand number 1. Jeff III (William Thomas Jefferson III) is his son who is expected to follow in his footsteps, but he is not up to the task. In fact, he doesn’t want to be a cat idol. Jeff II beats his son around after he is replaced on a commercial shoot. So Jeff III declares he doesn’t want to be a cat idol and runs away after his father says he is not a real man. Or a real cat. Or something.
After a week of not eating, Jeff III is a failure at stealing fish and a failure at catching rats. Jeff III sees his father on tv and vows to get a job. He does, as a sushi chef. He even helps train a new kid named Shuta. But Jeff III continually cannot resist the smell of shrimp and tries to eat the food, being increasingly harshly punished by the head chef until eventually he is fired. Jeff III still spends some advice time with Shuta before moving on to other jobs.
Next up is a surgeon job, which scares the patient away.
Paging Doctor Cat!
Then Jeff III is a taxi driver. Will he become a vigilante and hang out with underage prostitute Jodie Foster? No, he just drives until he sees a rat and goes crazy. Jeff III then fails at suicide by stepping into car path. Jeff III doesn’t give up and will attempt suicide again, this time by jumping off a pier. Except he is saved from suicide by a ramen chef. After cooking for the wet cat, Jeff III finds a new purpose in life learning the ropes on how to be a ramen noodle chef.
It is now one year later, and Jeff III runs his own shop, Neko Ramen Taisho, which the subtitles call the Pussy Soup Shop. Jeff III spends most of his time chatting with regular customer Tanaka about girls. Jeff III is popular with schoolgirls who take pictures but don’t buy anything. Jeff III also kicks out a film crew who try to exploit him.
His purpose in life…
Tanaka brings in a girl, Mariko, who he is trying to impress. But she doesn’t eat ramen because she thinks it is cheap. Tanaka must not be that familiar with impressing girls. Jeff III finds out his father Jeff II is now in a major scandal, and all of his commercial contracts are canceled and he is broke.
There is one of those asleep cat dolls you can buy at stores who works at the noodle shop as a part-timer named Mie the cat. He does nothing but sleep on the counter. That is the entire joke. Laugh at the joke, it is polite, and today we are being Japanese and polite, so laugh. Don’t you feel better? How about some Ramen noodles? Only 15 cents each!
Mariko arrives to learn to make ramen, even Tanaka doesn’t know how to make ramen. Jeff III about has a heart attack as she does it.
Tanaka finds a photo of Jeff III with a girl with a cat, Jeff III quickly hides the photo and tells Tanaka to mind his own beeswax. But then we get a flashback explaining everything anyway. The girl with the cat is Miki, and we watch as he delivers noodles to her house and has fantasy love sequences. Right after the flashback is over she walks in the door with the cat and orders some ramen.
Finally, the plot gets back on track. Tanaka is walking down the street when he sees a long line outside a restaurant…the Original Neko Ramen Shop Shogun! This new cat ramen hut has stolen all of Jeff III’s customers. Jeff III asks Tanaka to go in line and check it out. Inside, the ramen shop is like a nightclub and Jeff II is the cat behind the counter with sunglasses and an Elvis costume. He is making ramen like a performer with the crowd going wild. Tanaka also thinks the food is terrific.
So does Mariko, who is also eating there, but Tanaka drags her out and reports back to Jeff III. A tv crew with Jeff II pops in, dad insults his son and says he is not worthy of making ramen and he never finishes things. Jeff II opened specifically to make his son’s shop fail. What a nice father! The tv crew wants to set up a live tv competition between the cats. Father vs son. Jeff II vs Jeff III. Shogun vs Master.
Jeff III accepts, and the battle will be in one week.
After encouragement from Miki, Jeff III vows to win. He walks all over Japan to find the best ingredients. We get visuals as to all the great ingredients he picks up.
When Jeff III serves the ramen with the special ingredients, it looks great but together the ingredients taste terrible. They don’t complement each other at all. A random guy in the restaurant (who is probably a famous Japanese cook I have no idea who he is) says the problem is all the ingredients are too strong and they cancel each other out. Thanks, random Japanese guy!
Master storms off. He runs into Miki and insults them so they won’t be around him when he loses. Jeff III goes to the pier where he almost suicided. He meets the ramen cook again. He cooks him some good, simple ramen. Simple and basic is better than complex.
Now it is showtime! With your host Yakan Nabe and his assistant Marina Kuroki. The guest judges are Daisuke Chinmi – gourmet commentator, Kikumara – gourmet reporter, and Maruko Nakata – actress. Host Yakan Nabe makes many comments about Maruko Nakata’s large breasts. There must be no sexual harassment laws in Japan! I wish the competition took place in Kitchen Stadium, but what are you going to do?
The competition starts. Miki and the seaside ramen shop owner both stop by, in addition to Tanaka and Mariko who are in the audience. The cooking time is over, and the judges judge Jeff II’s ramen first. They give their approval. They then have Jeff III’s, also like the ramen, but it is hard to describe why.
It’s scoring time…
All three pick Jeff III! Surprise! Not really, but whatever! The audience is shocked and Jeff II is apoplectic with rage. The judges all say they like the simple flavor better. Everyone celebrates (except a now crying Jeff II who declares their rivalry over.) Miki comes over to hug. Everyone lives happily ever after. Until the sequel, where a Ramen-cooking dog will move in next door…
Rated 9/10 (Shuta, Sweet Ramen Goodness, Adoring fans, adorable sign, instant competition, I Just Can’t Wait to be King, Circle of Life, Blink-blink, Me being sexually harassed is totally funny!)