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.