It is time for another round of "Is this really an anime?!" The show where I review the most questionable entries on MAL's anime list and also try to determine whether or not they should count as anime. Last time we looked at the Transformers Movie from 1986. Today we will be looking at Cheburashka: the anime!
Cheburashka is a popular Russian cartoon character created during the 1960s in the Soviet Union. However, Cheburashka never gained the same international popularity outside the Soviet Bloc countries that the 1960s American cartoons did. Like with automobiles, the Soviets decided to protect domestic products by banning all foreign
competition, in this case any cartoons from the West. Which is why Cheburashka is referred to by every Polish person I've ever met as "that fucking stop-motion rat that the Russians forced us to watch!" Despite the fact that Cheburashka is unknown in most countries and absolutely despised in countries like Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic etc, Cheburashka remains extremely popular in Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Armenia, ...and Japan for some reason! For reasons that NO ONE knows, Japan is the only country that isn't a steadfast ally of Russia, yet absolutely loves Cheburashka. As a result, it was only a matter of time until Cheburashka got his own anime. This anime was written, directed, and produced in Russia, but used Japanese animation, voice acting, and music composition. By contrast, the Transformers movie from 1986 only used a Japanese animation studio and EVERYTHING else was American. It is questionable whether or not this is an anime, but it is fair to say it is MUCH closer than the Transformers movie.
Cheburashka is a monkey like creature with giant ears that lived on a tropical island before accidentally falling asleep in a cargo box full of oranges and being shipped to Moscow. Once in the big city, Chiburashka has episodic, 3 minute per episode adventures with his friends. His most commonly recurring friend is the talking crocodile named Gena, who wears a bowler hat, plays the accordion, and often bemoans the fact that one's birthday only comes once a year. Each episode is an independent event and no effort is put into really developing the characters or creating an overarching plot. However, it IS very adorable and was aimed at very small children, so it seems a bit silly to be THAT harsh on it for being what it is.
The art is actually really well done in how it captures the look and feel of the original, even though the original was stop motion animation. This actually still looks and feels like a real Cheburashka cartoon, for which the animation studio deserves some serious credit.
The Japanese voice acting is of course very cutesy and the soundtrack is what you would expect in a show for small children. It isn't exceptionally good, but isn't grating either.
Sometimes ratings have to be relative and take into account the target demographic and primary objective of the series. This was a short sketch cartoon aimed at small children to get a few laughs and be cute and innocent. Did it accomplish exactly what it wanted to? Yes it did. Would I say this was one of the greatest children's shows I have ever seen? No, but it certainly wasn't bad. I actually gave it an extra point for not doing anything to piss me off, which children's movies and shows tend to do...a lot. Ultimately, I give this series a well earned 6/10.