2004 Retrospective: Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: Aired August 2004

There was no shortage of kids my age talking about and watching Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. It’s a show that captivated me with its premise; that all abandoned imaginary friends stayed at a Foster Home, and executed on everything that its world had to offer. Everything about the world of the show clicked: the kazoo-and-piano frenzy of a soundtrack, the flatly shaded art style, and the aesthetic of the Foster Home itself.

Most importantly the show had good characters and everybody had their favorite: Bloo, Wilt, Eduardo, Coco, Mac, Frankie, Madame Foster, Dutchess, Herriman… and if you were really unfortunate you knew somebody who liked Cheese. My favorite characters were Coco and Frankie (voiced by Grey DeLisle) and they both really shine in Season 1, Episode 4: “Store Wars.” It opens with Frankie Foster struggling to organize a surprise party for her grandmother Madame Foster. Like Yumi before her, Frankie embodied this no funny-business attitude that I identified with when I was 11. She’s an overworked teenager/young adult in a house full of chaos and imaginary nonsense – and the way she coped with that was pretty hilarious.

Frankie has to go to the Mall to pick up last minute party supplies, and of course Bloo complicates things by inviting the gang along to go shopping too. Everybody has money for gifts, except for Coco, the odd, deranged, 1/3 Bird, 1/3 Palm, 1/3 Airplane imaginary friend who’s kind of the Charlie Kelly of the group. The Mall is a great setting for the episode: an elevator-musak rendition of the theme-song loops in the background, and the shops lightly parody those found in your typical mall. Victoria’s Secret becomes “Victorian Indiscretions,” and all the characters react differently to the lingerie on display (Mac and Frankie both smile but for different reasons I presume).

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Frankie finds herself falling asleep on a massage chair at Pointier Image, during which time Coco gets hired at the Mall’s foot court. With the group separated during her nap, Frankie spends the rest of the episode trying to reign in the chaos. Meanwhile Coco climbs up the Mall-job ladder, running the Information Booth in once scene and then becoming a Mall-cop just minutes later. I really like “Store Wars” as a representative episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. It balances the chaos created by imaginary friends perfectly with the stress and craziness that the human characters experience while trying to control that chaos. The episode ends with Coco giving Madame Foster an expensive gift with the money she earned by working at the Mall, though Frankie gets no such happy ending.

I’ll be the first to say that Foster’s can be a bit annoying now that I’m ten years older, but it occupied a special place in my heart back then, and it still does. The premise is just so darn heart-warming that I’ll put up with a little extra kinetic energy just to live in that world for 22 minutes at a time.

2004 Retrospective: Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi

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Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Aired November 2004

I wanted to start my 2004 Retrospective with a television show that I never really talked about with friends before, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. It was a show that I watched in secret largely because my younger brother would make fun of me for watching, and my Mom indirectly disapproved of. If you’re not familiar with the show, it follows two brightly colored J-Pop stars Ami and Yumi who are actually real-life J-Pop stars. I suppose it bothered my Mother a great deal that her 11-year old son would watch a show with two female protagonists. She would ask “What is this? Why are you watching it?” in the overly-judgey tone that she often used to shame me into abandoning things she disapproved of. I don’t know why, but I resisted the shame and watched the show whenever I could be alone to enjoy it. I remember flipping channels when people would come into the room to avoid negative comments and stares… But now ten years later, I’m going to just sit back and watch the first episode in peace, finally.

The two things I remember most fondly about the show remain the two best parts still: the J-Pop music, and Yumi. The theme song is one of the catchiest anthems of all the cartoons I watched as a kid, and the music used during montages makes otherwise boring montages fun to watch. Now let’s talk about Yumi because she’s a total badass. That’s probably a large part about what kept me around as a kid. The combat-boot, spiked-bracelet, and collar-wearing punk of the duo was the one always making the wise remarks as I remember, and I’ll be honest I totally did (and maybe still do) have a thing for punk/goth characters. They’re always level headed and wiser than their years, usually independent, and they embraced alternative clothing options. Coincidentally Yumi’s voiceactor, Grey DeLisle, also voiced Sam, another goth character that would debut in 2004’s Danny Phantom.

I can’t say the first episode is full of laughs; it first deals with a stalker fan, who inexplicably shows up wherever Ami and Yumi go. In an amazing Alien reference, the stalker bursts out of the chest of Yumi while they’re on the moon. There’s tons of great throwaway gags though, like the girls wanting to get “Pizza on a Stick” while at the mall, or Yumi learning ninja-skills from a mail-order biodegradable monkey who tragically biodegrades… As a whole the episode was entertaining enough to a 21-year old, and I take that as a sign that the show holds up pretty well. I really appreciate that the show doesn’t shy away from using Japanese songs or language on-the-fly either, it certainly lends to an overall sense of character. The songs are fun, the art’s pretty good, and the show’s packed with clever jokes – so just about ten years later I’d say Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is still work watching.