Author: Reiko Yoshida
Manga-ka: Mia Ikumi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: October 2011
Synopsis: “On her first date with the cutest boy in school, Ichigo is exposed to a mysterious ray that meshes her DNA with that of the endangered Iriomote wildcat. She soon discovers that she has developed super-human abilities and enhanced agility. Her new powers are put to the rest when she leads a team with four other girls, each endowed with special abilities of their own. Together, they must now protect the Earth from an alien menace known as Deep Blue.”
Tokyo Mew Mew comes on the coat tails of Kodansha’s release of Sailor Moon, offering another magical girl story for those eager for another fix. The premises between the series are similar – five girls are all granted special powers that transform them into warriors sporting cute little short-skirt outfits and oddly worded attack names. They’re charged with the duty of protecting the Earth from evil, which in Tokyo Mew Mew‘s case is a group of aliens out to destroy the Earth’s environment by possessing animals.
The story’s main character is Ichigo – a spirited young girl whose mind is reeling with her crush on classmate, and environmental activist, Aoyama. While visiting a museum with him, a sudden earthquake-like event infuses (though unbeknownst to her at the time) her with the DNA of an animal in a scene that looks a lot like an artistic rendition of losing her virginity. It’s the next day when she starts realizing something is weird. Suddenly she’s more agile, really enjoys naps and has cravings for fish. When a giant monster attacks, a young man appears and bippity-boppity-boo! She transforms for the first time.
Ichigo’s personality is ripe (no pun intended…?) for the role of leadership for her so-to-be-together group of girls. She questions the sudden change but not enough to stop her from using her new magical attack bell to defeat the enemies with ease. – “What’s this all about? Ugh, I don’t even care anymore!” – Plus she immediately strikes a cute cat-pose and comes up with her own ‘I’ll defeat you’ catch phrase that she can use in every fight from then on.
Ichigo meets the rest of her group through episodic chapters. The first she meets is my favourite – Mint – a somewhat snobbish but cheeky young woman infused with the DNA of a blue Lorikeet (a type of bird). Her snide commentary throughout is amusing along with her ‘too-cool-for-you’ attitude that’s more mischievous than arrogant. I also liked how flustered she gets in front of girls she admires or finds pretty – it’s just so darn cute!
Unfortunately I’m not really a fan so far of the other three girls. You’ve got the waifey one, the childlike one and the older, actual-arrogant one. They all join the group with a little muss and fuss but it’s fleeting. Neither feels as distinct a character as Ichigo or Mint and I find myself more annoyed than entertained by them when present. As for side characters, I’m pretty indifferent to the two young men who act as their guides and bosses but kudos to them I guess for having a way to make cute teenage girls fight their battles and dress as maids to staff their cafe. To the contrary, I do like the villain we’ve seen so far – Kish. He’s a cocky yet playful young man who’s taken a liking to Ichigo like she’s his newest toy.
Most of this omnibus book is the cast’s meet-and-greet so aside from the battles needed to spice up the drama of these scenes, there isn’t a whole lot of plot to absorb. There is some exposition near the book’s end, however, which preludes what sounds like a fetch quest to commence in volume two. To up the ante, the Mew Mew team are broadcast live on television during one of their confrontations so they’re front page news across the country. Fortunately for them their bizarre attack names (such as Ribbon Lettuce Rush) aren’t the only magic-girl powers they have so none of the group are recognizable outside their costumes.
While reading through I found Kodansha’s translation a little stiff. Even the opening line left me stumbling to read smoothly with its needless repetition – “Earth… this boundlessly beautiful planet, Earth.”. That attention was given to make them talk like girls their age was appreciated but I kept noticing odd punctuation choices that didn’t seem to match what was going on. Notably a lot of periods in place of explanation points where the picture clearly shows a character yelling. This could be something carried over from the original but either way it was disorienting.
While the content didn’t leave a big impact on me, I was really impressed with Kodansha Comics’ design work on the exterior cover. The logo is adorable, for one. It’s slick and simple, sporting a little set of kitty ears and whiskers that are cute when noticed while not being distracting. The most stand-out part of the design, however, is the use of two colours to distinguish the omnibus into two separate sections. The front of the book and left half of the spine is pink while the back of the book and right half of the spine is blue. While sitting on the shelf it immediately looks like an omnibus edition containing two standard length volumes instead of just an oversized book. I would love to see future series handled in the same fashion.
Continuing with visuals, I don’t have much to say on Tokyo Mew Mew‘s artwork. It compliments the story but doesn’t really stand out as something that will hook readers specifically. The art looks best for Ichigo who gets a lot of focused shots and poses, often more cleanly inked and detailed than everyone else. This is especially true for those ‘look at me!’ moments of speeches and transforming. I stopped on more than one occasion to stare at her panels as singular illustrations.
As far as magical girl series go, Tokyo Mew Mew has just about all the staples you’d expect. Cute girls, magic attacks, little outfits, fluffy sidekicks, love interests and aliens. Unfortunately there was nothing that really stood out to me about Tokyo Mew Mew that would make me consider it an above-average read. But, with a lack of the genre in English today, it’s still a solid buy for those hankering for more.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures