Perfect Hair Forever: Why Hamburgers Should be High

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Arguably the weirdest show to ever grace the airwaves of Cartoon Network’s late night programming block, Adult Swim, Perfect Hair Forever (PHF) is a seven episode epic that follows the journey of a young boy on his quest for a better haircut. It’s also the only true parody of the anime genre I’ve ever seen.

If you’re one of those people who feels bad about stealing things off the internet, I applaud your ethics, but you’re going to need to come over to the dark side if you want to see PHF. There is no DVD, and as far as I know the show hasn’t been in rotation on Adult Swim since 2006. You can YouTube it, you can torrent it, the only thing you can’t do is buy it.

I thought maybe reviewing this show would be like reviewing ball-in-a-cup; it’s old, and if you ever cared, you already know all about it. But the fact that the torrent is still alive tells me that people are still interested in the show, and I thought I’d share my appreciation before the torrent dies and you can’t even steal what I’m talking about.

*Cue dramatic music*

A while ago, in the far-off land of “Fruited Land of Action,” young Gerald Bald Z dreams of a day when his hair will resemble that of his classmates, all of whom have brightly colored hair, unaffected by wind or water or fire. Gerald asks his… relative, Uncle Grandfather, how he himself can attain such perfect hair. “Stay true to the path and beware… well, you know… the guy,” Uncle Grandfather advises him while being distracted by Brenda, who is checking to see if the coals are hot and whose thong-covered ass is sticking out before him. From behind his back, Uncle Grandfather produces a hotdog. “Listen to the hotdog,” he says, and the hotdog begins to float and speak: “DO-DA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!”
“That’s an annoying hotdog,” says Gerald.

*Okay, cut it!*

You try concentrating with Brenda around

This is the opening scene of the pilot episode of PHF. I could go on novelizing this show for the next couple days, and it would probably be pretty funny, but let’s get into some analysis instead.

The real strength of PHF’s parody is its use of tropes. Tropes (as far as my BA in English Lit informs me) are previously established forms and character-types meant to symbolize something more (in the case of PHF, something less). Take Bob Slocum from Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. Slocum is an “everyman” character, a trope.

In PHF, Gerald is an “every-anime-hero” character at the beginning of his journey; young, weak, naive, but full of spirit. Uncle Grandfather is your typical wise-yet-dirty old man. Brenda is our anime-eye-candy, meant to be reminiscent of Sailor Moon… if Sailor Moon didn’t wear a skirt. The hotdog, Action Hotdog, is Gerald’s incomprehensible animal-companion, (well, he’s not an animal, he’s a living hotdog) like Pikachu from “Pokémon,” or Ein from “Cowboy Bebop.”

Gerald is banished from Uncle Grandfather’s apartment (trope) until he completes his quest and proves himself (trope). He begins by venturing into the forest (trope) where he comes across his first enemy, Cat Man, who threatens to “scratch his face off” but proves to be no real threat (trope). He finds a flying cloud (trope) which leads him to meditate on his journey (trope) and he arises full of determination; “I seek the ninth level of power” (trope).

There’s more, much more, but I think I’ve made my point. Moving on…

SYMBOLISM (Spoiler Alert)
After watching the show you may find yourself asking, “Does this mean anything?” And the answer is… kind of.

It’s your standard story of good (hotdogs) vs. evil (cats). Beyond this, you have to stretch for meaning.

The Good
The Good
The Bad
The Bad

Two characters on the side of good, Gerald and Young Man, are deformed. Gerald loses his ear in a sparing match with Brenda in the pilot and Young Man has his hand ripped off by the Astronomical Cat in “Happy Suck Day.” This could be seen as symbolizing the loss involved in standing against evil.

In the final aired episode “Tusk” (episode 7, “Return to Balding Victory” was a webisode) it is revealed that Coiffio, the main villain, whose hair changes colors like a mood ring on the finger of a schizophrenic, is actually wearing a wig. This could be seen as symbolizing the showiness of evil dictators, who in fact have no real power.

Norman Douglas, AKA The Inappropriate Comedy Tree, runs away from his cruel master Coiffio to join Gerald’s quest. The could be seen as symbolizing…

Okay, let’s be honest, the show doesn’t mean anything, it only seems like it might. Young Man puts it best in the webisode: “You know, I wish these hotdogs and cats were not symbolic of anything, and this was all just a dumb anime mind-f***”

It is. If you think too hard about this show you might end up in the hospital. I’ve already been, twice.

PHF first aired on November 7, 2004, in a time slot that had been promoted for weeks as the premiere episode of “Squidbillies.” (Thanks, Wikipedia) Instead of Squidbillies, viewers saw an old-school “Space Ghost” episode-ID card, with the episode title of Perfect Hair Forever. The rest is history.

Space Ghost IN...Space Ghost's appearance in PHF1, as bear food

PHF began its short life as a practical joke played on the viewers of Adult Swim. Directly following the premiere was a strange segment known only as “Anime Talk Show.” The “show” (which can be found in the special features on disc 2 of the Squidbillies Season 1 DVDs) stars Spaceghost, Earlie Cuyler, Meatwad, and Sharko, discussing the pilot (amongst other things), and included a guest appearance from The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future. “Anime Talk Show” was even more awkward than PHF itself, with lines like this one from Space Ghost:

“Okay, so explain this now, your human dad put his human penis in your shark mother’s vagina, and you sat by and let this happen? Pathetic, you’re a freak.”

Our illustrious panel

PHF “ended” after 6 episodes, a short run even for and Adult Swim show. After two years of without a new PHF, Adult Swim announced that the show would go online for a second season comprised of 16 webisodes. On April 1, 2007, posted the first episode of season 2, “Return to Balding Victory.” Again, on April 1, 2007… April Fools! True to the show’s origins, “Return to Balding Victory” was a joke, the punchline being, “Hope you enjoyed Season 2!” The other 15 episodes of the season never happened, and probably were never meant to happen. Since then, there has been no news on PHF, and almost no hope of ever seeing another new episode.

Besides the show’s humor appeal, PHF hosts a delightful and various soundtrack. Brendon Small (“Home Movies,” “Metalocalypse”) provided the opening theme for the second episode. Melt-Banana did the third, Danger Doom the fourth, Widespread panic the sixth. Diplo provided the closing theme for the fifth episode, which contains numerous musical numbers itself, including the classic, “My Life is a Failure.” The show is worth checking out for the funky music alone

PHF is extremely clever in its mockery of the anime genre, and a must-see for anime-haters and anime-fans with a sense of humor. I’ll admit that sometimes the awkwardness of the show goes too far and ends up being…well, awkward, rather than funny, but overall it’s pretty good. If you liked “12 Oz. Mouse,” you’ll love PHF. If you liked “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” you’ll probably enjoy PHF. If you held “InuYasha” dear to your heart, you might want to skip this one.

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