Otaku USA Magazine

Higepiyo translates roughly to “mustache chick” or possibly “bearded chick.” The title brilliantly describes the premise in a single word, with more economy of language than Snakes on a Plane. This new comedy series debuted in the spring of 2009 and is based on a gag manga by Risa Itou, creator of Oruchuban Ebichu (Ebichu Minds the House). At only 10 minutes per episode, Higepiyo is a weekly dose of weirdness from the NHK.

Third grader Haneta Hiroshi buys a baby chicken at a summer festival, but rather than picking one of the more normal and adorable chicks, Haneta picks out Higepiyo, an oversized hatchling with a van dyke. The chicken vendor is desperate to get rid of the strange creature, and claims that even though it has facial hair, it’s still a chick.

Higepiyo somehow manages to endear himself (itself?) to Haneta’s parents and the family takes the new pet home. Higepiyo quickly reveals that he’s no ordinary chicken – for one thing, he eats curry with a spoon and drinks from a glass. Just as Higepiyo demands seconds at dinner by tapping his spoon on his plate, the chick vendor calls the Hiroshis at home. “Even if it wants a second serving of curry, it’s still a chick!” the vendor screams desperately into the phone. I think this implies a strict no-refund policy.

Higepiyo behaves mysteriously like an old man, snacking on squid, reading the newspaper and scratching his butt while watching the news. When we first see Higepiyo, he’s sitting next to a sake bottle, drunk.
It’s implied that Higepiyo is probably an escaped lab animal. I think his DNA has been crossed with human DNA because in the second episode (spoilers!), Higepiyo speaks. Soon the hirsute avian is protecting Haneta from bullies and stealing bento boxes during a hanami picnic.

Higepiyo is suitable for children, at least through the third episode, unlike Itou’s previous sexually-explicit (and often blood spattered) series Ebichu. Ebichu featured an anthropomorphized hamster who could talk, but no explanation was given for Ebichu’s human qualities. The series was animated by Gainax and shown during the NHK’s Anime Ai no Awa Awa Hour (Modern Love’s Silliness) block. Artistically, Higepyo and Ebichu are similar, with pastel colors and flat simplistic designs.

Higepiyo‘s simple character design is oddly reminiscent of Maromi, the pink dog from Paranoia Agent, but where Maromi is designed to be cute and a little creepy, Higepiyo is designed to be creepy and a little cute. At the 2009 Tokyo Anime Fair large bags with Higepiyo designs were being given away. At first, I avoided the freebie, thinking “Why would I want such a weird bag?” but after an hour or so, I desperately wanted one. Such is the power of Higepiyo. He’s also an easy protagonist to draw, since he has so few lines.

Higepiyo is a bizarre addition to this season’s new anime lineup. It’s more weird than funny. The episode length is definitely suitable – any longer than five minutes and it would feel like the same joke over and over again. There isn’t much character development, but there isn’t room for it anyway. There are also no opening or ending credits. Ebichu, which had time for two or three vignettes per episode, clocked in at a slightly longer 10 minutes.

It’s worth checking out the official Higepyo website, and rolling your mouse over the chicken photographs. There’s even an official blog.

The Higepiyo manga, collected into a single tankoban available only in Japan, was originally serialized in Chorus magazine, the same magazine in which Honey and Clover runs. The anime based on the original manga has inspired a second manga series which debuts in Ribon magazine on May 1st.

Ebichu is somewhat well-known among America fans of Studio Gainax, although it never received a DVD release in the U.S.. Higepiyo has the potential to appeal to a much broader audience because of its lower age rating, however, it has not been made available legally on the internet at the time of this writing.

I’m still wondering why a man was selling baby chicks at the summer festival. Does that happen in Japan? Is the idea that you keep a pet chicken or do you eventually eat it or what? If so, this reviewer expects that Higepiyo will put up one heck of a fight.