Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Tokyo Mew Mew Review

It’s time for an old school Shojo. This one is fairly similar to Sailor Moon in many respects. It’s a classic story of 5 magical girls who fight evil in the name of justice while also trying to get through their human drama. The art’s a big improvement over the former, but aside from that it actually ends up feeling a bit weaker overall. The manga has its share of issues. It’s a fun read, but it’s hard to call it a good one.

The story starts with a girl named Ichigo. She’s been leading a normal life up til now. Things are actually going fairly well for her as well, she is finally on the verge of being happy with Aoyama. Then she is transformed into a magical girl and the two responsible for this (Shirogane and Keiichiro) let her know what is going on. She is one of the chosen warriors who must defend the Earth from aliens. There are 4 other magical girls, Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zacro. Ichigo must find them and enlighten them as to the responsibility they now have to protect the planet. They have to find the Mew Acquas and stop the demons from destroying the planet. Little does Ichigo know that this will be the easy part. Staying together with Aoyama while keeping all of these secrets will be much more complicated.

It’s definitely a very classic kind of story. There aren’t a lot of twists and turns that you haven’t seen before although I do applaud the series’ attempt to mislead you by throwing in red herrings. Trust me, there are a whole bunch of them in here involving who the Blue Knight is or who a mysterious cat appears to be. Your first instinct in both cases will likely be correct but if the series causes you to question yourself then I suppose you could count that as a win in its book.

Lets get right into why this series didn’t work so well. It’s unfortunately the romance and the fact that every character is in on it. Ichigo is one of those characters who is so charming that everyone wants her. Aoyama, Shirogane, Blue Knight, and Quiche all want to be with her. Keiichiro may also belong in that category. It’s definitely not the best way to get the romance going. Now, it could work if Ichigo just immediately denies all of them except for 1 and straightens things out. At the very least she could be like Kirito and pretend to be oblivious the whole time. Instead she always gets flustered around all of them which is a problem. She has to constantly talk to herself in order to strengthen the resolve needed on not cheating on Aoyama. Keep in mind that these two are together for most of the series so going with anyone else would definitely be cheating.

Quiche is a villain so his attempts to get Ichigo are naturally some of the trickiest. He pulls a Xellos with how quickly he’ll appear and steal a kiss. Ichigo is never able to bounce back from these moments and they seem to keep happening to her. When she is turned into a cat then another cat comes to try and steal her away several times. Ichigo just never shows any real strength or willpower to keep these characters at bay which can be pretty annoying. The scenes certainly do bring the series down without a doubt. So the romance was definitely one of the weakest ones I’ve seen in a while. It just couldn’t hold up.

At least the artwork is quite good though. It’s very clear and the characters don’t look too similar so you won’t have to worry about mixing them up. We even get some nicely drawn fight scenes as the Blue Knight took on Quiche. Most of the magical girl fights are less impressive since they tend to be one hit KO moves, but it just shows how strong their food powers are. As long as Ichigo is around you never feel as though the villains even have the slimmest of chances. They are simply outmatched and they know it.

Beyond the romance, I suppose Ichigo isn’t a bad character but even then I have to say that she is relatively weak next to most other Shojo leads. She simply doesn’t have enough confidence of charisma. Everyone walks all over her. Then when she turns into her super form she quickly turns a 180 and starts talking about peace and food. Sometimes the change is so abrupt that it’s almost alarming. I think the manga maybe dials up the cheerfulness of the characters a little too much in these moments. Especially given the circumstances at times.

As for Aoyama, he definitely wasn’t all that good either. My problem with him is that he always seems upset at Ichigo. You could say that this is because he has a hard time showing his emotions. After all in his side of the story towards the end we find out that he was never upset. Maybe it’s just how the author likes drawing him. Aoyama’s eyes appear to be glazed over and lifeless quite often. He wants to play along with Ichigo’s scheme, but just admitting that he knew would have saved a lot of grief. If he didn’t want to go that route, then just acting more cheerful would have helped. Instead he tends to be very quiet and sulky all the time. Ichigo does ditch him a lot, but if Aoyama has made peace with this then he should be fine.

The Blue Knight is definitely pretty cool though. He’s very powerful and determined to save the day. He always listens to Ichigo’s wishes even if they are quite dangerous at times like sparing one of the villains. It would have been nice to have seen more of him although I suppose his screen time was pretty reasonable. His name is also good since it’s hard to guess who is he in universe compared to Ichigo whose cat name is Mew Ichigo.

As for Shirogane, I have to give him a thumbs down as well. You can probably tell that I don’t consider the cast of characters to be a big strength for the series. He’s the classic mean guy who is constantly taunting Ichigo but it’s only because he cares. He teases her quite a bit and uses his car form to secretly still be her friend. It’s pretty deceptive and no matter how heroic they try to make him appear it is hard to sympathize with the guy. Then you have his partner Keiichiro who really doesn’t do much in the series. Honestly his role could have been erased entirely and I don’t think a whole lot would have changed. That’s how inconsequential he was in the series.

Next up is Mint who is probably the best of the cat members even if she basically stopped appearing by the end. It may be for the best since she started falling off pretty hard once Zacro showed up. Mint is also one of the slightly meaner characters as she has a rich upbringing and isn’t afraid to mention it a lot. It’s good to have a member on the team with a lot of spunk like this though and she was fun enough. At the very least she isn’t constantly distracted by romance like Ichigo is which is always good.

Then there is Lettuce who isn’t really my favorite member of the group. She’s very timid and always has a tough time doing anything without the others. In the grand scheme of things that is true for all 4 of them since they can’t seem to do anything without Ichigo. It just seems even more drastic for Lettuce. I’m thinking that having this member is another staple of the team so it was bound to happen sooner or later, but Lettuce never got much character besides that. I think the reason is that ultimately none of the members got a huge role after they joined since Ichigo began to steal all of the screen time. That’s why it is tough not being the main character.

Pudding is the worst member of the group. She can’t take anything seriously which is always a bad character trait. Comic relief characters can work, but surely you have to get serious when your life is threatened. Pudding takes this to the extreme as she could be held at knife point and talk about cake. She thanks the villains and acts super oblivious to everything. It just gets real annoying and the heroes should have kicked her off the squad for being too young anyway. Then we have Zacro who was pretty solid and if the series had went on much longer she would have probably passed Mint. She seems to be a lot more capable than the rest of the members aside from Ichigo. She already has experience using her abilities and is also a bit older than the other characters. This helps with her agility and physical skills. Zacro never really warms up to the others nearly as much as you’d expect and stays relatively mysterious even by the end.

Then we have the villains. There are a few of them, but lets just talk about the big 3. Deep Blue is the big mastermind and he’s certainly the best villain. He’s a very no nonsense kind of character and is efficient about achieving his goals. He’s crazy powerful and if not for some very specific circumstances I definitely think he would have easily won the fight here. It would have been nice if he could have appeared a little more though. Seeing him take names a few times each volume or so would have really ramped up the intensity. Then we have Quiche who is the villain with the most screen time. Unfortunately he is probably the worst villain. As I mentioned earlier he is always trying for Ichigo to no avail. It just doesn’t make for a particularly captivating motive. He’s also very skilled so if he had taken his task seriously then it would have been all over for the main characters. There just isn’t much that the heroes could really do against him and his speed.

Then we have Tart who is the counterpart to Pudding so you can probably imagine that he isn’t very good. He gets charmed way too easily so you have to wonder just how loyal to the cause he was in the first place. You can’t allow yourself to doubt your mission so easily. That’s just a big ticket to disaster 100% of the way and he knows it. A villain who was pretty solid is the stoic second in command, but his name escapes me at the moment. He’s always talking about percentages and how he’ll have to increase the dose if he wants to win. He never does and basically goes out without a fight but I still liked his personality.

Going back to the art, the fact that it is so good does help the series immensely. If its art was at the same level as Sailor Moon then the series would have likely dipped into the negative score range. As it stands, at least the manga volumes are real page turners. You’ll be blasting through the series at top speed once you start. Even if it’s a title that doesn’t ultimately hold up when you really think about it, at least it’s a fun ride in the meanwhile. I do think it’ll probably make for a fun 4Kids dubbed anime though. They can take the concept and really run with it.

Overall, Tokyo Mew Mew is a fun story with good ideas, but the romance really does bog it down here. It would have helped the series so much if Ichigo was just more independent and able to defend herself from her many suitors. As it stands, she always has to be rescued or simply succumbs to their whims until they end up running off. Playing the series straight as an action comedy would have easily made the series a lot more engaging. The drama is fine and all, but going the other route would have won the day. If you like an old school romance type manga like this one then by all means I recommend checking it out. Otherwise, I think you’ll have a better time checking out a different manga like Angelic Layer or something. That title has a bunch of action without worrying about romance.

Overall 5/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Puella Magi Oriko Magica Extra Story Review

After reviewing the Oriko manga earlier, it’s time to look at a one volume AU for it. This volume works as a What If prequel where we follow the two main villains from the last title. While the art has greatly improved, this manga decides to follow Yuma’s plot more, which dooms it in the end. Otherwise, all of the other areas of the core manga have improved so this is a good sign for future Madoka titles. Just keep Yuma’s origin out and we’ll have ourselves a winner!

The manga starts with Kirika having no friends and eventually getting Magical Girl powers. She vents out her frustrations by beating Witches until she finally finds a friend that she used to have. She saved the girl and reminds her to always have hope as she physically defeats the friend’s mental demons and heads back home. It’s a nice little origin story for Kirika and she is already much more likable than how she was in the previous volumes. The fact that her boss, Oriko, is a good guy in this series changes things dramatically since Kirika does whatever the other girl says without question. Of course, a true friend should always be willing to call someone else out so Kirika’s definitely got to work on that.

The real plot starts after this. Oriko happens to run into a little kid named Yuma, who is being hit with child abuse. Unfortunately, Yuma doesn’t want to leave the situation as she believes that being a good kid will take it all away. Oriko isn’t cool enough to break in and actually help Yuma, but at least she does give her some words of advice about the whole thing. That’s good….but helping would have been better. Especially when you consider the fact that she got a vision that Yuma was going to die. I didn’t mention it in this review yet, but Oriko’s magical ability is that she can see into the future. Unfortunately, she can’t control this ability so it happens completely at random.

Oriko doesn’t have a lot of time to rethink her moves either since a magical girl hunter in white has shown up. Her name is Sasa and Oriko is naturally on her hit list along with Kirika. The irony of all this….Oriko will have to fight hard in order to defeat this villain since Sasa has the ability to control other Witches. Still, Kirika and Oriko are fairly powerful so they should be able to handle this challenge with no problems!

So, Oriko’s a decent main character. As I mentioned earlier, she should have helped Yuma out more. Besides that, Oriko doesn’t really do anything wrong. She decides that instead of murdering every other magical girl like in the main manga, she’ll just go and fight the final Witch as best she can. We can assume that she died in this battle since even Homura couldn’t win in the TV show, but who knows…maybe she can pull it off. Either way, it’s much better than just trying to destroy someone. Hopefully the irony of Sasa trying to assasinate her and Kirika really hit home. It’s amazing how different a character can be in a what if though. The single difference of meeting Yuma before making her plan is hinted to have been the deciding point. (At least according to the volume) It’s hard to imagine Oriko’s personality changing so drastically, but it’s definitely a good thing since she was a very unsympathetic villain in the first series who was pretty bad.

Kirika’s also much better. She’ll still follow every order and while she talks about friendship, it comes across as hollow due to this. Naturally, Kirika looks a little weaker now that she’s one of the protagonists, but that’s a classic manga/anime trope so it’s to be expected. When she’s not around Oriko, Kirika is typically a lot more independent and heroic and that’s why she looked so good in her origin story. I don’t think the dynamic of Oriko and Kirika would make for great banter so I’d hope that more characters would be introduced in a long running series. Especially since the manga keeps trying to pair these two up and has a lot of teasing between them. Focusing on the action is much better.

Especially since we can finally see the action scenes this time. The art really has improved and it is leagues ahead of the first two volumes in the Oriko series. Those were almost unreadable at times while this one looks more like your standard action manga. It’s still not incredible, but it certainly rises up to an average level and is clear enough where you can easily get what is happening on every page. I was pleasantly surprised to see this.

As for the main villain, Sasa was okay I suppose. She fits the bill as the villain and her army of witches is also fairly impressive. She’s certainly very greedy since she wants all of the Grief seeds for herself, but this strategy definitely seems risky. Why go out of your way to attack other Magical Girls when there are already so many seeds to grab? Well, I guess she needed some kind of motivation. Her design was a little on the generic side though.

Finally, Yuma’s a good character. It’s too bad that she had such a tragic past though. The topic of child abuse is a little too dark for this title and especially since she actually died in one timeline. It shows that this threat was quite serious and it took Yuma too long to get out of there. It was great to see the grand parents show up and take her away. I would have liked to have seen a prison announcement for good measure as well, but this was a great start.

Overall, While this volume’s art was significantly better than the main series and Oriko/Kirika were greatly improved as characters, it was not able to beat the main title. I really missed having the main characters of the TV show around since they really held up the first manga. The fights were solid and since this was a single volume, the pacing was very quick as well. It’s an easy 7 if not for Yuma. If you don’t mind a dark plot like that, then I believe you’ll be able to enjoy this manga a lot more than the other one. If it is an issue, then I recommend checking out the two volume Oriko series instead. The art may be bad, but at least you’ll get to see Homura, Kyoko, and Mami with solid roles. They look really good and have the best scenes in the series. With this volume now complete as well, I look forward to seeing how the next Madoka manga titles fare. I’m still waiting for a definitive one!

Overall 3/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Phantom Thief Jeanne Review

Phantom Thief Jeanne was a fairly intriguing manga title. The plot is nothing spectacular on the surface as it’s fairly generic and there isn’t anything really notable about the manga aside from the final arc. I can’t say that it has aged well and Sailor Moon does defeat it, but it’s always fun to compare a new magical girl series to established ones like Madoka Magica and Sailor Moon. It’s a fairly short series so it had to cut to the chase right away!

Maron was an ordinary girl until she was given a task by God. She was to hunt down the various demons that had taken control of paintings around the world and sometimes they would possess humans as well. In order to accomplish this task, Maron was given the ability to transform into a reincarnated Jeanne D’Arc. With her newfound magical powers and an angel to help guide the way, Maron was now ready for anything. Still, can she balance this duty along with keeping up with her social life? After all, there is a lot of romance in this series and she has to stay prepared!

As you may expect, the romance is one of the things that really hurts this series. I can’t even begin to describe just how poorly it is handled the whole time. For starters, the main guy is completely unlikable and one of those mean characters who you can’t sympathize with at all. His name is Chiaki and he is (seemingly) an agent of the Devil. He is here to stop Maron from accomplishing her task at any cost. That being said, he wants to have it both ways. Chiaki isn’t willing to turn good, but he also doesn’t want to stop liking Maron, which makes for a romance plot that just doesn’t work. Maron should just defeat him since he’s in her way. Although, her powers aren’t quite That impressive.

As Jeanne, Maron seems to gain some slight super strength. She has her magical chess pieces that she can throw to help vanquish the evil spirits and a lot of other magical abilities that wouldn’t really help much against an opponent, but still look neat at the very least. Luckily, most of the enemies aren’t that physical so these abilities will work out just fine. As a character, Maron is all right, but I just couldn’t find her to be that likable. Mainly due to the drama with Chiaki, but even beyond that, there’s just not much to her character. She’s a nice person as she’s the protagonist, but she never really developed her personality and she could lose sight of the mission from time to time.

Naturally, she’s an improvement over Chiaki, but there’s not much more to say about the guy that hasn’t been said already. He’s never willing to make the tough calls so I definitely wasn’t going to find him very likable! Maron’s friend, Miyako is all right. Her gimmick is that she really wants to capture Jeanne as she doesn’t know that Jeanne’s true identity is that of Maron. She’s essentially used for comic relief here although she has a half serious romance subplot with someone else, she basically denies it for the whole series, which is certainly good.

As for the Angels, Finn is Maron’s ally. For a while, she was a very good character, but then she decided to make a big move, which involves thinking about which side she wants to really be on and that really hurt her character. She had her reasons and there were a lot of twists, but it doesn’t change the fact that she nearly destroyed Maron and did make things very hard for the heroes. I like to think that she is now a true hero who will stand by the others, but it’s always hard to forget such treachery and it really did make her go from being a likable one to just dropping out of the ranks.

Her opposite was Access. He’s the dark angel who helps Chiaki and he wasn’t likable at all either. Like his master, he spends a lot of the time just flirting and he doesn’t take things very seriously. Perhaps it is because the series takes itself a little too seriously at times, but he really doesn’t help its case. That basically wraps it up for the main characters of the series as the main cast was actually quite small.

The main aspect of the manga that actually warrants some discussion is the end of it as the author decides to make a pretty bold move. A lot of manga titles like to have their all powerful beings who are gods that mess with the humans, but this was different. See, in a plot twist, we find out that Jeanne is actually a reincarnated Eve and the God is actually the real deal. He is God, not just a fake god who was made up for the series. Naturally, that’s a pretty tricky thing to include in the series. It’s great that a series is actually acknowledging the Bible and God, but then the portrayal must be on point and that didn’t happen.

There is a big twist about the Devil. He’s not a fallen angel, but he actually is God. See, God became lonely so he basically split into two entities and that’s how the Devil was created. Riiiiiight…….that was a pretty unnecessary twist. The series tries to make the Devil very sympathetic by the end as he just wanted a friend, but cmon…that’s just too much. God is also portrayed to basically be powerless in this series as Maron is the only person keeping him from being annihilated by the Devil. Why is Evil always so much stronger than Good in these things? So, the ending was certainly very bold, but it just didn’t work out. It’s very surreal to see God portrayed as a character in a manga series so that definitely earned the series a lot of originality points, but that’s about all I can say for it. It would have been easy to fix this. Simply not have God be on the verge of death and forget about the Devil plot twist. That would have quickly changed matters in an instant.

Ah well, at least that gave me something to think about as I was reading the series. Beyond that, it is just very generic and unfortunately it is not that good. I can deal with the characters being a little bland, but the romance plots were handled rather terribly and the action scenes were basically nonexistent. The series was only 7 volumes, but it did manage to contain a lot of events thanks to how big they were so I guess I can give it props for that. It’s still monster of the week for most of the series though. The actual plot didn’t help matters much either though.

The art is decent, but I’d say slightly below average. It’s one of those Shojo styles where it can be very hard to follow what is actually happening because of how chaotic the pages can become. It’s a decent artistic effect if you’re into that sort of thing, but I actually prefer the ultra simple art styles like Bleach or Hunter X Hunter. Those really let you follow the action with ease which is why you can sometimes read a Bleach chapter in about 2-5 minutes.
Overall, Phantom Thief Jeanne is certainly one of the weaker Shojo series that I’ve read. It’s leagues above titles like Vampire Knight and Black Bird, but at the same time, I feel like this one should have been much better. In many ways, it is very similar to Zodiac P.I., but that one was simply better in every area. It was shorter, but had better characters and certainly had higher quality artwork. If you’re looking for a good magical girl title, then you should probably go with the classic Sailor Moon. If you want a fun Shojo title to read, then Zodiac P.I. is the way to go. Either way, Phantom Thief Jeanne just isn’t good enough to recommend. Of course, taking out the romance plot or simply improving it could have really helped, but alas, it was not to be.

Overall 3/10