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Happy Birthday, Skunk Kusai

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You readers probably know that I am an affluent Osamu Tezuka fan, right? Even though not a lot of you are, though. Ever since my NOW! Comics series of reviews, you people have probably gotten to know most of the Tezuka characters...except for the following guy. I've mentioned him in passing on those reviews, and previously, featured him in manga where he was attacked by elephants and blown up by peeing robots. This, dear reader, is Skunk Kusai, a memorable cartoon character in my earliest childhood.
 
 
In case you've never watched Astro Boy, Skunk is a thief and mob leader with about twelve scary-looking guys at his side. He even has his own theme music, a slow combo of merimba and synthesizer, that plays only when he or his gang members are onscreen. Also, his birthday happened to be last Thursday, May 14th, according to his mugshot info. Keep in mind that Astro Boy, the 1980's version, starts in 2030, so he's probably 23 by the time Tobio Tenma dies. Don't call bullshit on this, but Skunk is officially two years old somewhere. I assume one of his presents includes a shotgun. We're going to follow the 80's continuum, because the 2003 anime is a horrible first example. In that one, Skunk is better-looking, with blonde hair and grey-beige skin. He's not creepy-looking anymore, which kills a great deal of his character. Plus, he kidnaps/utilizes quite a few women and little girls in that version.
 
But what are you readers going to expect of a cartoon man named after the world's most hypersensitive animal? Skunk stands out in Astro Boy; he's like No Heart in Care Bears, or that demonic horseman in the original My Little Pony...an amazingly-badass villain that constantly gets defeated by a small, cute protagonist. Skunk knows what the hell he's doing, a characteristic missing in a lot of modern cartoon villains.
 
This is probably the point where I turn this into a tribute page. And by all means, I'm going to...there are probably 400 tribute pages for each Transformer, and 25 for Aburatsubo, and right now, the Google search results for "Skunk Kusai" are pretty grim. The second and third results lead to a picture of a keychain on deviantART and a stupid video I made over a year ago. This page is on.
 
If you're Japanese (and you're probably not) or have the deluxe DVD set by Madman Entertainment, you first see Skunk working with a dude named Guiss, who looks like an offensive WWII cartoon depiction of a Jew (it exists, but I can't find it online). They build a robot boy named Atlas and it's up to Skunk to teach him...instead of being scrubbed-down with iron wool, Skunk has to describe money and send Atlas to rob/destroy a grocery store, which only yields a handful of receipt paper because Atlas is sort-of an idiot.
 
Above: Constructive Parenting.
 
All we get to see in these scenes is that Guiss and Skunk are equally bad caregivers, with most of the actual teaching done by their extremely hot maid robot Livian. In the second Japanese episode (or the nonexistant English episode) Skunk gets in a helicopter with Atlas, blows up some icebergs and makes Atlas fight Astro. Because he can.
 
 
While Guiss gets a special beat-down from Atlas, Skunk runs off to go form/meet his gang down in Tokyo. This includes a big guy with an even bigger chin, a guy that looks like a redhaired Jigen, and a littler guy with a big nose who acted as Skunk's assistant. His duties including driving the car and getting screamed at. He also was the only gang member around when Atlas came back after re-engineering himself into an adult robot. Thanking Skunk for his performance as a parent, Atlas shoves their car over a cliff, then pulls it back.
 
"I understand that you wanna dress like you did as a kid, and that's good and all...but to be honest, you're making me feel uncomfortable."
 
Skunk manages to convince Atlas to come back and join the gang, possibly happy to see someone else with a bizarre shade of skin. (Direct quote: "Why not come with us? I'll take care of you!") We don't get to see much of what Atlas does from the time of blowing a bank open to when everybody's lounging in money, but it was probably wild and wacky. Anyway, all we learn is that we shouldn't trust Skunk when he says he'll "take care of you", as it may involve at least one dramaticized onscreen death and a car chase.
 
 
Oh, here we go. The Light Ray Robot. I've mentioned the delirium of this episode before, but aside from accidentally causing a blue (!!) gender-confused robot to explode, we get to see that Skunk enjoys kicking things when he gets mad and calling people when he's at least half drunk. I mean, seriously. The more you stare at the above picture, the more you begin to realize that's not the first wine bottle that's been opened that day. And it only looks like 2:00 PM in the previous scene.
 
Oh, and there was a dude shining Skunk's shoes almost the whole time. You try and tell me the guy doesn't have power.
 
 
There's only five other episodes that Skunk appears in, all of them weird in at least one aspect. In "Frankenstein", Skunk is brooding while the little guy attempts to fix the car. Because it totally makes sense, they slip into a factory to look for new engine parts, and come across a bunch of robots making a giant robo-Frankenstein. Franko overloads and tromps out of the building, showing up on highway a little later on. Skunk gets out of the car, claims he's Frankenstein's owner and must be obeyed, then leads him home. And then they go on a crime spree. Again.
 
Oh, and when Astro & Daddy Walrus (Astro's teacher) find their hideout, Skunk leaves the gang to be massacred and flies away in a backwards helicopter.
 
Skunk adopts the "Jervis Tetch" look.
 
Not much to report in "Goliath's Head". Skunk's gang goes to a black market auction and gets the head of a really touchy robot named Goliath. Now, they don't buy it, they get it. Skunk throws his hat in the air, the guys spray some coloured smoke all over the place and steal the robot head. Later, they sit around in an old observatory before getting shot at by Daddy Walrus. Skunk gets into a tank armed with Goliath's head, drives through a wall, blows up som cop cars, is totalled by Astro and gets the crap beaten out of him by Daddy Walrus.
 
This looks like the worst David Lynch movie ever.
 
"Save the Carolina-3" was a pretty big disappointment in a few ways; for one, the gang kidnaps a 10 year-old boy named Gene and drags him to a satellite, hoping to hijack an approaching ship to get some rare metal. Then a dude with crazy teeth shoots out Gene's father's eye. In Skunk's defense, though, the man kept saying "kill me if you must", "I'm ready to die" and "I'll guard this satellite with my life" in front of his son. Plus, they must have had more than three animators working on Skunk, all of them new to him, because his face changes style and shape mutiple times during the episode. At one point, it looks like his forehead bone is falling over his eyes, or just shifting into his chin.
 
 
And "Death Balloons" makes no sense. It kind of makes you go hiss and say "Oh, crap! No, no, no!" but it's amusing otherwise. A creepy fat guy hires Skunk to make Astro Boy balloons, fly them over town, and blow them up in front of children. The fat guy's reasoning is that he wants people to hate robots (not just giant rubbery effigies) so that he can be elected as mayor after promising to destroy all robots. He hates robots because they took his job and caused him to run out of money for his daughter's medicine (and she dies, of course). Also, he shoots Astro in the stomach after making the boy take off his shirt, while he makes this face:
 
There. Now stop complaining that Skunk is ugly.
 
I actually feel bad for Skunk having to deal with this guy. Skunk obviously dislikes it in one way or another, and leaves a little balloon bomb in the man's office unless he can promise a regular pay-out to the gang. At this point I actually cheered Skunk on; I don't often switch my favour to the villain, but I also don't see a lot of mayor candidates that are shaped like breasts.
 
Did I already make the David Lynch joke? Okay, never mind.
 
Astro finally gets inside the balloon factory and floods the place, but saves Skunk...however, he lets three henchmen drown and picks up Skunk by the side of his head, dropping him on one of his own balloons.
 
The question is, where does Skunk get the giant underwater balloon-making factory? This factory is the same size of the lab in House of the Dead 3. Getting this built would obviously take time, patience, and more liquor than Captain Haddock can handle. This is where you gotta give Skunk credit for having the balls to do this. And in "The White Planet", he torches a guy's garage, has multiple raceway deathtraps, a giant robot octopus, a submarine and a gadget-filled black car driven by a man with a pointy head. And Skunk's gang is just sitting cooly in the audience.
 
 
Probably the reason that nobody seems to know him is because most people are put off by Astro Boy. Skunk's episodes appear spottily in the continuum, and the english dub is (Jay, Patty; I need to be honest) sometimes unpleasant. The actors stretch words out to fill movements ("They will talk li-ike thi-is" to seven wide mouth movements) and reuse the same voice actors. Kahlie Slick, the woman who played Light Ray, comes back as Gene in Save the Carolina-3, with almost the same voice. And the Canadian version is hard as hell to find, plus Skunk loses all "badass-ity" because of the severe editing, such with his new name "Slippery", which brings up all sorts of yucky mental images. Light Ray doesn't explode, Gene's dad doesn't lose an eye, the mayor candidate isn't such an asshole. It's not the same. NOT THE SAME, MAN.
 
"Soul City. That's where we're heading. Dancing and singing 'til dawn."
 
Readers, I'll actually encourage you to find another villain comparable to Skunk Kusai. He's creepy, has blue skin, immeasurable quantities of technology at his disposal, blue skin, and vast associates willing to be called upon anytime. The only other similar villain I can think of is Dr. Claw. Now go watch some Astro Boy...you have no excuses, now that it's all over Youtube.
 
Happy birthday, Mr. K.
 
 
 
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