Lively new shows from overseas -- Kiddie shows from far off lands are breathing new life into the genre, from ''Sailor Moon'' to ''Bananas in Pajamas''

By Ken Tucker
Updated October 13, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Too many kids’ shows right now are lazily derivative of John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy, in both the distended-animation style and sick-joke attitude. Where to look for something different? Why, overseas, where imports such as the Japanese cartoon Sailor Moon and the Australian live-action series Bananas in Pajamasoriginate.

In Sailor Moon, a blond-ponytailed young Japanese schoolgirl is nutty about mall shopping and comic books. But when villains threaten to destroy the world, she turns herself into the superhero Sailor Moon, whose magic headband becomes a deadly Frisbee. Sound weird? It is, to an American sensibility: This is blithe surrealism cast in animé (i.e., Japanese animation) and dubbed into English. The colors are eye-poppingly bright, the pace is deliriously swift, and Sailor Moon — whose popularity in Japan equals that of the Power Rangers here — is both sweet and campy.

Bananas in Pajamas is certainly an accurate title. Two actors dressed in big banana costumes and garbed in sleeping togs sing, joke, and offer simple lessons in spelling, math, and politeness. It’s sort of Barney Meets Fruit. Except that B1 and B2, as they call themselves, don’t have that annoyingly goofy laugh, and their grammar is impeccable. Owing a lot to English music-hall tradition, Bananas is edifying fun.