Writer: Reiko Yoshida
Illustrator: Mia Ikumi
Publisher: Kodansha (Japanese), Tokyopop/Kodansha Comics USA (NA)
Original Run: September 2000 – February 2003
Director: Noriyuki Abe
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Original Run: 6th April 2002 – 29th March 2003
Genre: Magical girl
Ichigo Momomiya/Zoey Hanson – Saki Nakajima (Japanese), Amanda Brown (English)
Mint Aizawa/Corina Bucksworth – Yumi Kakazu (Japanese), Andi Whaley (English)
Lettuce Midorikawa/Bridget Verdant – Kumi Sakuma (Japanese), Bella Hudson (English)
Pudding Fong/Kikki Benjamin – Hisayo Mochizuka (Japanese), Kether Donahue (English)
Zakuro Fujiwara/Renee Roberts – Junko Noda (Japanese), Mollie Weaver (English)
It all starts out differently to how you would expect with this genre; it starts with the lead girl in our series in a museum.
She was invited out by her school crush Masaya and when the story is introduced, they are walking around an exhibit specifically informative about endangered species around the world. Despite her date’s interest, Ichigo finds herself growing bored and disinterested until what feels like an earthquake occurs. Everyone manages to escape except for Ichigo, but she wasn’t alone: four others were caught in the middle of the quake that were also visitors in the exhibit, and witnessed a bright light.
The following day, Ichigo and her school friends have noticed some changes in her behaviour: her increased tendency towards fish, her episodes of sleep during class and even the acrobat-like reflexes. She was shown landing on her own two feet from falling from the top floor of her school; no injuries or pain. She came to the verdict herself: she was becoming a cat.
Not long later, upon meeting café owners and experimentalists Ryou Shirogane and Keiichiro Akasaka, Ichigo is let in on the reasoning behind her feline-esque behaviour: the earthquake caused her DNA to merge with that of the endangered Iriomote Cat – similar to that she had seen at the exhibit. Over time, she learnt that the other four girls in the exhibit had their DNA merged with other featured endangered species from the exhibit. When each girl’s identity is discovered, and their power unleashed, they team up together to save their world from the destruction at the hands of an alien trio and their created monsters called Chimera Animals.
THE MEW MEWS:
The Mew Mews consist of five different teenage girls: schoolgirl Ichigo, heiress Mint, shy bookworm Lettuce, entertainer Pudding, and professional model Zakuro.
Each girl was present at the endangered species exhibit when the “earthquake” occurs and soon, after being tracked down and their situations explained, they join the team to defend Earth from the horrific aliens who want to destroy all life with the use of their Chimera Animals.
They were all the final experiment of the Mew Project, a set of experiments that were started by Dr. Shirogane, Ryou’s late father, to successfully inject animal DNA into that of a human’s in an attempt to defeat the aliens. The project was started five years prior to the series’ start, and after Dr. Shirogane’s death from a house fire Keiichiro became the guardian to young Ryou and together, they started continuing the project from what remained of the deceased scientist’s research.
Throughout the run of the series, each member gets upgrades and it increases their powers as Mew Mews. From the end of the series, where they battle the aliens’ overlord Deep Blue, it seemed that their combined power in helping Ichigo – with whom the fight is the hardest – led to the destruction of Deep Blue and the end of the aliens’ attack for good.
One notable recurring character in the series is Ichigo’s classmate and later boyfriend, Masaya Aoyama. He first appeared at the start of the series, inviting Ichigo out on what at first she thought was a date; instead, it was just an outing to an exhibit in a museum. Partway through their time together, an earthquake occurs which starts the origin story of the Mew Mews.
Although the revelation of her superhero alter ego was one event Ichigo tried keeping from happening, Masaya later in the series reveals he knew since near the beginning that Ichigo was a member of those crime-fighting heroines. Wanting to spare her own embarrassment, he never told her of his knowledge on her identity.
Near the end of the series, Masaya is shown to have been a protector of Ichigo and the Mew Mews, called Blue Knight; but after his coming to terms with his heroic identity he wasn’t even consciously aware of, he is awakened as the final enemy of the Mew Mews: Deep Blue.
After Deep Blue is defeated, by the choice of Masaya’s soul, Ichigo gives her life to revive him after the battle. This results in her losing her own life before Masaya uses the Mew Aqua – a precious substance that contains indescribable power – that remains in himself to revive her. Ichigo loses her powers due to this and is once again completely human.
He is last seen studying endangered species in England with Ichigo after the staging of a “wedding” back in Tokyo planned by the Mew Mews, Ryou and Keiichiro.
There were only two people behind the Mew Project and the recent experiments: student Ryou Shirogane and his guardian-turned-friend Keiichiro Akasaka.
After an explosion at his home killed his parents, he was taken in by Keiichiro, who at the time was Dr. Shirogane’s – Ryou’s father – assistant. They moved back to Japan and in recent years, they continued the scientist’s incomplete research on the fusion of human and animal DNA to help combat against the alien invaders. The overall results were, after the injections, the Tokyo Mew Mew team.
As time passed, even with all five members of the team fighting together to help defeat the aliens once and for all, Ryou and Keiichiro continued making advancements and heightened weaponry for their aid, especially for the first found member, Mew Ichigo.
They have both shown pride in what they have made with the incomplete experiments and besides the continuation of the behind-the-scenes cover, they leave the fighting to their five strong creations.
REVIEW AND COMMENTS:
As my first completed anime watched, and my very first manga series read – including the short-lived sequel, Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode – I may act slightly biased to the series as it holds that special spot in my Otaku heart but overall, I would not rank it as high as any recent animations in the same field and category.
Despite the top-notch art style, which I know many used as inspiration for their own, and partially educational plot which focuses on the environment and importance of acting eco-friendly and respectful of animals – and I need to include the themes and songs featured as they are just my favourites in anime – I feel other elements have dragged down the success this anime could have increased to.
I say such a thing as I feel it could contribute a little more to broaden its fanbase. I understand it targets young children, particularly girls, but with how the characters interact and the plots of every chapter/episode, I feel slight tweaks could keep the series interesting for girls who grow up into young women like myself. I started watching the anime at the age of nine; I am heading to my sixteenth birthday and besides the continuation of now-and-then re-reading the manga, the anime sucked out all potential for a teen/young adult audience. I push a portion of this blame on the American company responsible for the honestly disappointing English dub, 4Kids Entertainment, for removing the Japanese elements that I personally enjoy seeing in anime because it keeps its roots and its home of creation threaded in.
Putting criticisms aside, I deem the anime a great starter for the genre, with immature characters and easy-to-understand jokes that all little ones will love.
But I will admit, it might get annoying to hear your little daughter, sister or niece repeat the words over and over: “Mew Mew styles, Mew Mew grace, Mew Mew power in your face!”
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZdOEZDEpv4 – All songs featured in the English dub Mew Mew Power]
VERDICT: Girl Power!
WRITTEN BY JOANNA COSGROVE