The country of Thailand is not a terribly common subject in Japanese pop culture such as anime, manga, and games. While it pops up from time to time, such as in Street Fighter with the characters Sagat and Adon, or its national personification in Hetalia: Axis World Powers, it doesn’t get quite the attention of other countries such as France, China, or the United States. This is what makes the 2009 anime Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzoo all the more unusual, as it is, to my knowledge, the very first anime to feature a Thai-language opening and ending themes.
The brainchild of Macross co-creator and Satelight founder Kawamori Shouji, Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzoo is an anime about young girls who can transform into half-animal detectives. Targeted towards a younger audience compared to Satelight’s other works (Aquarion, AKB0048, etc.), the show is somewhat surreal for a kids’ anime. One year ago, the Satelight staff came to Otakon and I had to ask them the question: what would make them decide to work on a show like this that’s so far out from their past works? The response was that girls transforming into animals isn’t that different from planes transforming into robots. In a show already this bizarre, perhaps having songs in Thai fits right in.
The group responsible for all of the theme songs in Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzoo is a Thai duo called Neko Jump, which is comprised of sisters Warattha “Noey” Imraporn and Charattha “Jam” Imraporn. In total, Neko Jump sang four songs for the anime: the first opening “Poo” (Thai for “crab”), a Japanese version of “Poo” used as the second opening, the first ending “Chuai Mad Noi” (“Please Bind Me”), and the second ending “Clap Your Sunday.” The songs have little to do with the actual show, and in fact the first opening and ending were originally released in Thailand in 2006. This leads me to believe that the anime was seen as an opportunity to promote a new group in Japan—not uncommon in the anime industry. That said, there are hints of the anime in their Japan-made music videos, such as paw prints in “Poo” and cat ears in “Clap Your Sunday.”
As relatively obscure as Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzoo is, I think having Thai theme songs has probably worked out in its favor. While the show has not exactly left an indelible mark on anime fans, I wouldn’t be surprised if those songs are the very first thing that come to mind when people think of the series.
Neko Jump continues to thrive in Thailand. They have appeared in television dramas in recent years, and many of their videos have gotten over a million views on YouTube. However, in Japan they haven’t released anything since 2010. International success is never easy, but looking at how they were marketed in Japan vs. Thailand, I have to wonder if the attempt to emphasize their cuteness over their sexiness as is common with Japanese pop idols was going against both their strengths and changing trends amidst the Korean pop wave and leggy stars such as Girls Generation and Hyuna. If you look at their more recent music videos compared to what they put out for “Poo” in Japan, they emphasize Neko Jump’s sexuality much more. Maybe if their music came back to Japan they’d end up being presented differently.
Are you a fan of Neko Jump? Would you like to see Neko Jump back in Japan, or back in anime? Do you think that it doesn’t matter given their general success? I’m curious to know.