The Two Sides Of Puffy AmiYumi

Female pop duo Puffy AmiYumi, whose animated TV show on the Cartoon Network has made them minor stars in the United States, recently celebrated the fact that they’ve been superstars in their native Japan for a decade.

In Japan, they are simply called Puffy. The pair did a brief tour of the U.S. East Coast with their band in August. It was their first tour since becoming animated characters, and the concerts were reportedly well-attended and well-reviewed.

Normally, such overseas success for a local artist is over-reported in Japan, but the tour was barely covered back home.

The American series, “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi,” has become the highest rated program on the Cartoon Network among 2- to 11-year-old girls since it debuted last December. It is not broadcast in Japan, a fact that the two singers – whose names are Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura – often joked about on stage during their American tour.

The reason is simple. “Hi Hi” is produced in the U.S. by Americans, and though it is very much influenced by Japanese anime, as is most of the fare on the Cartoon Network, Japanese TV networks do not import foreign animation, with the exception of specialty adult shows like “The Simpsons” and “South Park.”

Besides, Onuki and Yoshimura are already TV stars in Japan in their human form. For a time they hosted their own late-night talk show.

The music that Puffy releases in the U.S. is also slightly different from the music they release in Japan. The American concert tour was called “The Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Rock Show from Tokyo, Japan,” and played up the pair’s punkier numbers. In Japan, their hits are exclusively in the frothier J-Pop mode.

In fact, on the eve of the tour, they played as Puffy AmiYumi at the Summer Sonic festivals in Tokyo and Osaka, stressing that they were a rock band. Summer Sonic, it should be noted, is one of Japan’s premiere rock festivals featuring foreign acts.

Since J-Pop has never reached general acceptance in the U.S., Puffy AmiYumi are seen as being more important for possibly sparking a craze in Japanese music that might match the craze in anime. But the singers themselves don’t see that happening.

“We don’t do this all for the cultural bridge,” Yoshimura told Kyodo News after the girls’ show in Washington D.C. “We don’t think about the aspect of Japan and the United States. We just do this for fun.”

— Phil Brasor