Manga-ka: Shinobu Ohtaka
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: May 2009
Synopsis: “Momoko is the only child of the Kuzuryuu clan, a powerful martial arts family with inhuman strength. But strong as she is, her father fears a woman will never be able to master the skills of the family. Unless Momoko marries and bears a capable heir, the Kuzuryuu line is doomed to weaken and die off! With this mission in mind, Momoko is sent to the rival Inuzuka clan, where she is to marry the son of their mighty leader. But Koushi Inuzuka abandoned the martial arts long ago. Now committed to his legal studies, the last thing Koushi has on his mind is marriage—especially not to the world’s strongest bride!”
Sumomomo Momomo proved an odd title to review. After some previous exposure to this title in Yen Press, I found it a generally entertaining and well done work, but representing some elements of manga some fans could do without. As yet another young couple find themselves forced together by their martial artist fathers, we’re greeted with speedy action scenes, nonsensical fighting moves, and yet more examples of the haunting spectre of Moe.
Koushi gives us a different shonen manga hero, one who has no interest in fighting, yet isn’t entirely spineless. Obsessed with becoming a lawyer, he is constantly quoting laws when faced with bullies, if always getting beaten up. A sarcastic tone and can’t-do attitude make him a nice change of pace from the go-getters of fighting manga and the bland stand-ins of moe manga. His use of water-bottles to fight a villain with a cat-like personality adds another amusing element, as ludicrous fighting moves are negated by a slick, intelligent hero.
Meanwhile, Momoko’s uncanny strength calls back to the days of Urusei Yatsura, when heroines weren‘t useless waifs. While her father calls too “weak”, Momoko is constantly saving the day with horrifying feats of strength by accident. A rather humorous chapter included her using martial art skills to leap over a building in a competition with a narcissistic gym teacher. Cheerily buzzing about the screen, her unreal nature is heightened by the artist’s choice to draw other students in a more realistic style. You feel sorry for Koushi as this strange creature interrupts his civil service goals.
However, these elements are then counterbalanced by some more questionable choices that bring Momoko back into line with current shonen manga trends. Momoko’s design makes her appear far younger than Koushi, although flashbacks show they’re the same age, and her juvenile clothing doesn’t help much either. Momoko’s reciting text from sex education books and subsequent overly visual pleas to have Koushi’s child, coupled with her appearance, lead to some scenes that this manga could of done without. Koushi flatly refuses, which gives the scenes humour, but one is still left with an odd aftertaste. Arranged marriages have been a common shonen manga plot device since Ranma, but I think this work could of done without some of the sexual elements, especially in light of Momoko’s youthful design. I suspect this is due to the series being aimed at older teens in Japan, appearing in Young Gangan. The fact that other characters don’t have these elements, and Momoko seems to be a parody of how Moe girls act makes one wonder if these elements were meant to be a farce, but they still remain things that will put some off of the title.
The art is generally strong, with some intentionally ugly character designs for Momoko and Koushi’s parents and assorted gangsters, as well as complex backgrounds that give the series lots of variety, contrasting well with the more traditional looks of the lead characters. The fights are spot-on parodies of the ridiculous nature of shonen battle manga, and readers are left with a good hook as mysteries appear regarding the cute class president and a growing number of martial artists who want to take out Momoko and Koushi, preventing a marriage that would end a war amongst assorted clans.
Packaging is a step above other publishers, with nice thick paper that seems to be becoming endangered elsewhere, and a colour insert, all done up in a good solid binding. The white cover gives the art some good contrast, but might get dirty over time. The spine has a small symbol atop indicating it’s inclusion in the Yen Plus line, a nice touch that will make the assorted series look nice when shelved together.
This is a work that hits some marks, and would be recommended if not for the above mentioned questionable qualities. If you don’t mind these aspects and are a fan of fighting manga, you might want to check it out.