I’ve been looking forward to this one, because Tokyo Mew Mew was the very first manga series I collected and read to completion. I was pretty young when I read it (probably early teens), but I have fond memories of the characters and stories, and I look forward to riding the wave of nostalgia.
Tokyo Mew Mew (written by Reiko Yoshida, additional writing and art by Mia Ikumi) follows Ichigo Momomiya, a twelve-year-old girl who, after being infused with the genes of an endangered breed of wild cat, must save the earth from the threat of aliens who seek to conquer it. With four other girls, Ichigo must navigate the difficulties of saving the world with the perils of maintaining her personal life and keeping her superhero identity hidden from those she cares about – especially her crush, Masaya. This series ran from 2000-2003 and was complete at 7 volumes.
I think my early adoration for Sailor Moon sparked an appreciation for Magical Girl stories in general, and that’s probably what drew me to this title in the first place… and so many years later, though I’ve aged out of the targeted demographic, I still enjoy it!
For the first three volumes, the story walks familiar ground – girls magically become superheroes and find themselves thrust into dangerous situations where they must fight to save the city from extraterrestrial forces – but contains the right balance of humor, action, and drama to weave a compelling narrative. It’s more lighthearted than similar titles, but has a decent share of serious moments, and juggles the “save the world!” message with the “OMG DOES HE LIKE ME OR NOT??” teenage drama in a way that doesn’t seem particularly stale or overdone. Now that the story is pretty much all set up, I’m looking forward to some more action in volumes 4-7; my memory of what happens next is spotty.
Ichigo is a likable heroine, and though she’s the main focus, her teammates are well-developed and get their own bits of page-time, and each member of the Mew Mew squad has a distinct personality, so no one really fades into the background. It’s tough to devote enough time to each character in manga with a pretty sizable ensemble cast, but all of the supporting Mew Mews – Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zakuro – have their psyche explored at least a little bit in the first three volumes. Masaya is also a quirky, and somewhat unusual love interest for Ichigo; he’s dense (as all twelve-year-old boys are), but shows signs of a deeper awareness and just seems like an overall decent, honest fellow thus far. My least favorite character way back when I read this the first time was the alien Kish, and that remains true today – I still want to punch him in the face. Some things never change, I guess. Only now I also kind of want to punch Ryou, as well.
The art leans more to the “cute” style, but it’s pleasing to the eye, and the costumes and character designs for the girls are well done and aids their development as characters. The whole “fruit and pastry” theme is interesting and the design of the villains and the aliens are neat. I have never understood why 12-year-olds need to wear revealing costumes in manga like this, but in the case of Tokyo Mew Mew, it’s not as bad as others.
The main thing that stuck out to me is the way the story presents a message about literally “saving the world” – by caring for the environment, and treating the earth and all of its inhabitants with respect – as Ichigo and the girls battle the Chimera Animas and Kish and his goons. There’s even a bit of background to the aliens that alludes to their motives in a more sympathetic light, which is . It’s a unique way to spread the message of environmental preservation and the importance of aiding endangered species, and it does not feel as though it’s shoehorned in – it flows as a natural part of the story, and hopefully, when new young readers discover this series, the idea of caring for our earth will resonate with them.
Tokyo Mew Mew presents a fairly standard Magical Girl story with a unique, environmentally-conscious flair – a sweet pastry with a tart twist – and I look forward to delving into the last 4 volumes to see if the series maintains its charm throughout.