Ham-ha! Are you ready for some more pintsized adventures? Muster up that ham-ham power and join me on big hamtastic adventure with our favorite rodents! It’s Hamtaro Time!
Having sat on this review for almost six months, I was prepped to drop this all together. There’s nothing current about Hamtaro, why bother? In light of the recent Arrietty hype, I thought it would be fitting to explore the world once more from a vertically-challenged point of view. There was something that Arrietty lacked, though, and that was hamsters. Let’s fix that, shall we?
Don’t listen to Kana and all her bitter disdain. Hamtaro and company did not mean to knock Sailor Moon off of the Toonami bill. Hamsters are just cuter, but I digress. Toonami fluffed up their time slot (pun intended) with these lovable fur-balls for one year in June of 2002- June ’03. This family-friendly series ran a staggering 296 episodes with a plethora of films and O.V.A.’s and a number of Nintendo system games. America couldn’t enjoy the fruits of the Ham Ham’s long run after being cancelled at the 2-season mark with only 3 copy-pasted games and no films. Sure, there was a reboot of Hamtaro titled Tottoko Hamutaro Dechu, but the story stops there (there is no word that we will see this here in the states despite Hamtaro’s 2003 cancellation). Sure, we got the short stick, but what we managed to scrounge together became a perfect medley of adventure and comedy to satiate audiences young and old.
It only takes one look to come to terms with Hamtaro’s intended demographic what with lessons in friendship, teamwork, and sharing in the form of Hamster adventures. In case you come from post Toonami days, let me give you the scoop on this adorable Hamtastic Hamventure. Hamtaro, a plump little rodent under the care of 10-year-old Laura, finds himself in a strange new house. Making his daring escape, he meets a timid yet friendly neighbor ham named Oxnard and a gruff field-ham that goes by the name of Boss. Together, along with his colorful group of hamster friends, they make a trendy hamster hangout out of a dig-out in the ground and go on silly misadventures, sunflower seeds in paw. While the humans are away, the ham hams will play.
Acting as under-foot guardians, the hamsters do everything in their power to help each other and their humans through mundane tasks and life-affecting events. Despite a few naive misunderstandings, the hamsters give it their all to find a happy ending to their day. The innocence in the hamsters’ child-like demeanor and the humans’ realistic adolescence strikes a perfect balance in the ham-to-human ratio. The charm of the series lies not only in the hamsters’ animated personalities but in the realistic portrayal of elementary-school life as described by Laura’s diary (which screams “Doug” if you ask me). Friendship, love, loss and learning; the hamsters and humans take on those life-lessons side-by-side. Its probably for the best that Laura is none the wiser of what goes on after she leaves. She really should learn to lock that cage.
Believe it or not, that pretty much accounts for the meat of the series. Think Arrietty replaced with hamsters. In fact, just as Arreitty originated from Mary Norton’s children’s books of little people in a big world, Hamtaro has a similar history. Ritsuko Kawai released the children’s book series The Adventures of Hamtaro in 1997 as a set of stories that teach children the basic life lessons of childhood through the adventures of our leading ham, Hamtaro. These books doubled as a go-to hamster-care guide fused with child-friendly stories, giving children tips on raising their pets with loving care. The books were released in America, but besides a few online retailers, these volumes are a rarity. Not much can be found on Hamtaro’s creator, either, leaving this little blurb short.
If you have stuck with me throughout the past couple of years you would know that I have a distinct weakness for nostalgic titles. Hamtaro is no different. I could say I had a fluffy little guy of my own and I always imagined he would go on adventures with his hamster friends while I was away. I would say that, but I never owned a hamster in my life. Actually, my experience with hamsters brings about a feeling of dread when I think back on my middle school science classes. One science teacher on the first floor raised hamsters and the other on the second floor raised rather large snakes. Let’s just say I saw my upstairs teacher with a burlap bag in her fist as she was banging it against the wall of her office. Those final squeaks for dear life will always haunt my dreams…. I digress. Truthfully, my love of Hamtaro is a mystery. I was a tad old for the target demographic. So, why has this franchise stuck with me like a bad itch?
The truth is in the anime, itself. The hamster designs were cute and memorable, their personalities were consistent and relatable and, most importantly, the music was catchy. To this day, I have never forgotten each and every ham ham name. The theme songs see to it that you walk away with hamsters on the brain. For years, I was pulling out the “Hamtaro! Snoozer, Howdy, Penelope, Panda. My best friends! Oxnard, Bijou, Cappy, Maxwell. My Ham-Hams! Dexter, Boss, Pashmina, Jingle, Hamtaro! Little Hamsters, Big Adventures! ‘scuse me while I work out, gotta run on my wheel!” Don’t tell me you toonami kids couldn’t hear the music in your head.
The ham-ham heroes are the energy of the plot. Following stereotypical tropes, their personalities are blatantly obvious yet endearing in every way. It doesn’t take much to catch on to every ham’s special personalities. Take a look at their names and see for yourself:
Hamtaro literally means hamster-boy. As in most children’s stories, the main hero always carries a simple descriptive name. He is our loyal though slightly naive protagonist.
Oxnard is the hungry ham that often prioritized food over all else. Though his name is arbitrary, he plays right into the perfectly timid side-kick trope.
Boss is just as he sounds. This field ham patta-pattas alone, but a loyal ham never leaves a friend in need.
Bijou is a shi-shi ham that hails from Paris. It should go without saying that she is the obligatory love interest.
Snoozer sleeps. Moving on.
Dexter is my favorite ham. A glasses-shop pet, he is quite the dapper gent though always at odds with Howdy. (Did I mention he’s voiced by Double-D?)
Maxwell is a bit of a know it all. He is a ham of good education.
Sandy and Stan are twin hams that are full of life.
Pashmina loves her beautiful scarf and cares for baby-ham Penelope
Howdy is a country ham of reliability and good hospitality. A real down-home ham.
Cappy loves his hats.
Jingle is a wonderin’ ham with a song in his heart. He is the Elvis of hams.
Panda is a panda-ham?
Alright, I think you get the picture. The cast is as varied as it is adorable. Their relatable characteristics give color to an otherwise mundane show about hamsters. Add in a few “patta-patta”‘s or “hif-hif”‘s, “kush-kush” or “ookyoo”‘s and you have a recipe for melted viewers.
If the debilitating cuteness hasn’t rendered you immobile yet, then you obviously haven’t had enough. Those of you with kids to be babysat or children to be cared for, Hamtaro is the perfect way to keep those young ones occupied with bright colors and catchy music. Beware, though, due to the episodic nature of the series, children may become bored with the show and soon enough you’ll find that you, yourself, are the only one getting amusement out of talking hamsters. Do you remember that professor and mother I spoke to last month? Barring the details, my professor approached me asking if I knew anything about Hamtaro. Her daughter enjoyed the prospect of adventuring hams and ate it up. Perhaps a week or two later, I ask if her daughter has forced her to buy her a new hamster yet and she replied with that “I saw this coming” smile saying that her daughter has moved onto finer tastes. Talking hamsters just didn’t cut it. I suppose Hamtaro is one of those “you had to be there” series.
To tell the truth, it was a chore squeezing an article’s worth on Hamtaro. One of its many charms is its simplicity, but in its simplicity lies a paper-thin concept (not to say this is bad, there just isn’t much here to work with). This series is a go-to family favorite with adventure, morals and laughs abound. Toonami treated us well with this adorable little romp, but a short one it was. With that, why don’t we bring this deal to a close.
A day late but still going strong, I hope you enjoyed a little blast from the past. Get out in the warm spring air and see the world from the fresh green grasses. Don’t forget those sunflower seeds, because you’ll need those to hold you over until next month. See you in April!