Ashley Dixon ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
Story: Reiko Yoshida
Art: Mia Ikumi
Categories: Action, drama, comedy, romance, shoujo, supernatural, magical girl
Anime Adaptation: Yes (Distributed by 4Kids Entertainment)
“For all living creatures…and for ourselves!”
Every manga reader has that one manga series that catapulted them into the wonderful world of Japanese comics and animation. Similar to your first true love, you may want to always cherish the memories of the series, or bury them deep into your subconscious, never to be recovered again. But this Flashback Friday, we will be focusing on one of the coolest magical girl manga ever, Tokyo Mew Mew. Written by Reiko Yoshida and illustrated by Mia Ikumi, the series has seven volumes, and was adapted into an anime series consisting of fifty-two episodes. The series experienced a lot of success in Japan and among English readers, allowing for the series to continue with a two-volume sequel, Tokyo Mew Mew à la Mode, and two video games. Young girls in America who were familiar with Sailor Moon were instantly drawn to the new addition to the magical girl genre, which was the root of Tokyo Mew Mew’s success in the U.S.
At the beginning of the manga, we meet middle school student Ichigo Momomiya, the main character of the series. On a date with her crush at a very boring endangered species exhibit, Ichigo loses track of her date and coincidentally ends up in front of a mysterious café with four other girls. After some short conversation, and after protecting one of the future Mew Mews from her bullies, an earthquake occurs. All of the girls are bathed in a bright light, which is when each of them is bonded with the DNA of an endangered species. The only bonding we see is Ichigo’s, who is now a carrier of Iriomote Cat DNA. We see Ichigo’s first day at school with this new DNA, and she is suddenly more athletic, to the point where she can land on her feet after falling from a balcony at school. Glad that Ichigo survived her fall, Masaya (her crush who totally likes her back), invites her to go clean a river. Even though she is not as much of a nature enthusiast, Ichigo agrees to help. Hoping to finally let Masaya know about her feelings for him, Ichigo’s hopes and dreams are crushed by a monstrous and huge rat who attacks both of them. If you are aware of the magical girl formula, you probably would think that this is Ichigo’s first enemy.
You guessed right!
Masaya is conveniently knocked unconscious, allowing a mysterious boy named Ryou to whisk Ichigo out of the way of the monster in order to tell her that she must defeat it. Even though she is just as oblivious to her fate as other magical girl counterparts, Ichigo works up her courage and uses the power of her Sutoro Bell Bell to defeat her first enemy.
From this point on, we see Ichigo try and keep a balance between her love life and defeating chimera animals—animals infected by alien parasites that turn them into monsters. We also get to see her recruit the other four Mew Mews who are all fleshed-out characters with fun and diverse attributes. The team ends up including the spoiled but loyal Mew Minto, shy and caring Mew Lettuce, eccentric and hilarious Mew Pudding, and the cool, role model-esque Mew Zakuro, with Mew Ichigo being the leader of the five. Even though Ichigo was not much of a nature enthusiast in the beginning of the Manga, we see her become more concerned for the Earth’s well-being. This gives her even more of a focus to defeat the aliens who are trying to infect innocent animals to bring on havoc and destruction.
While most magical girl manga differentiate each team member by having her represent an element or a planet, Tokyo Mew Mew uses a different formula—each character is named after a food. It may sound silly, but along with their individual animal DNA, each Mew Mew is named after a food that helped develop her color scheme as well. Mew Zakuro, who is bonded with Grey Wolf DNA, represents pomegranate and has a color scheme of purple. These specific profiles made for colorful volume covers and art work, adding to the fun and quirkiness of the series.
Themes within Tokyo Mew Mew, such as girl love and teamwork, are polar opposites to the usual motifs of popularity and girl hate within books written for girls in the western world. What made this specific team of magical girls so powerful is not only the DNA with which they’re bonded, (and the superpowers that came with it), but the strong friendships that are built between them throughout the series. They use their powers to protect not only their loved ones, but also to rescue the earth’s endangered species. Their dedication to protect the earth also was a memo to readers, implying that they must respect the planet on which we live and the species that live with us, a message that still applies today.
Tokyo Mew Mew didn’t experience immense worldwide success like other manga, but it followed in the footsteps of its predecessors by having a plot line driven by girls, instead of only having two or three important female characters throughout the series, which happens much too often in action manga. It also reinforced the idea that girls do not have to give up their femininity in order to be powerful.
By showcasing characters with diverse personalities, Tokyo Mew Mew helped show young girls, and young women, that they will be able to find the power within themselves to be their own heroes