Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode
Shoujo – Magical girl, romance, comedy, action
2 Volumes (original), 1 Volume (omnibus) (complete)
Tokyopop / Kodansha USA
Berry wanders into Cafe Mew Mew and accidentally becomes a Mew Mew! Now merged with a rabbit and a mountain cat, Berry must join together with the other Mew Mews and take down new enemies. But can she handle her newfound powers and her budding feelings for her best friend?
So the female superhero team story you’ve been working is finished, and now you want to write a sequel on your own. Do you: a) keep the original main characters, b) make another team member the protagonist, or c) introduce a new character who is special and make her the leader. If you chose c, congratulations, have I got a series for you. For everyone else, Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode should be avoided.
This series has a unique backstory. The artist submitted the original story, but then the publisher and editor gave her a writer. Ikumi had some control over the story, but either the writer left or they just parted ways. Ikumi then took control of both writing and the art for the two volume sequel Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode. This post will cover the sequel only.
In Manga: The Compete Guide, the heroine of this series is called a “Mary Sue“. I could not agree more. Berry not only becomes a Mew Mew, but she is the only one to have two animals’ DNAs. Because she’s special. Despite her inexperience, she is promoted to team leader. Because she’s special. Plus she has a childhood friend who is in love with her, and everyone on the team likes her. Because she’s special. It’s really hard to argue Berry isn’t the type of character we all secretly wish we could be when we like a series (i.e. self-insertion), but there’s a reason why these characters should not be included in any sort of fiction: they’re terrible.
Some of her defenders argue it wasn’t Berry’s fault she became leader. However, the author chose to make her leader. Despite four girls who helped save the world once, the newbie is given the most responsibility. And out of the other four, three are mature, although Lettuce would probably be to shy to make decisions. Mint and Zakuro? These two have no problem expressing their opinions, and I think Mint would be the type to think, “What would Ichigo do?” in a crisis. Even disregarding the leadership position, they all welcome Berry with open arms. They become automatic BFFs. Nobody has conflicting feelings about whether Ichigo is being replaced, and nobody questions Berry’s skills. And she has skills; in her first battle, she defeats two enemies with one attack on her own with no support. Enemies remark how her power rivals Mew Ichigo’s. Everything about Berry just feels like self-insertion and wish fulfillment, two classic trademarks of Mary Sue characters.
Speaking of the other Mew Mews, their presence kept diminishing in the latter half of Tokyo Mew Mew. Here, they are barely given lines. Even when Ichigo returns, she quickly takes the back seat both in battle and as team cheerleader. Berry is the most important here, but there were already four other girls with a story to tell. There was little need for a newcomer to overtake the story, but if the author wanted to introduce a new character, the new Mew Mew should not have been the center of everything: the team, the enemies, the romance, etc.
Speaking of the romance, while Ichigo struggled with hiding her secret from her crush Masaya, Berry immediately reveals her secret and is accepted by Tasuku. It’s like this series is making light of Ichigo’s conundrum in Tokyo Mew Mew. Again, these things affect not just Berry’s characterization but the overall story. Berry does not have to suffer with keeping her secret, and this is usually a significant plotline in magical girl tales. And since this series is so short, we do not get to really dive into the enemies’ mindset. Readers get a rough idea of why they are attacking, but the series (for better or for worse) is just too short to have any kind of epic final battle.
The art is more comical this time around. Less story is packed into each chapter, making the art much easier to follow. Duke, while probably not known to the Japanese (at least the extent of the groups’ actions and beliefs), is dressed like a KKK member to an American audience. I’m kind of torn on the art, as while it’s easier to read, it also feels even more childish than its predecessor. Everything just screams generic Nakayoshi.
Again, if you don’t already own this series, you’re going to want to get the Kodansha USA version. Here’s a video comparing the two English releases. In short, Kodansha USA’s a la Mode omnibus is even better than their main series translation. Tokyopop’s version is above average for them as well.
If you want to see how a new character can usurp a series, this is the perfect example. This series is (fortunately) not essential for collectors of the main manga. If Ichigo had to be out of commission, I wish Ikumi had promoted one of the other girls instead. With four supporting heroines to choose from, I think fans would have liked to have seen one of them be brought into the spotlight.
This series makes me wonder if the author’s other works have such characters like Berry. If so, then no wonder the editors brought in a scenario writer. If not, maybe the author just didn’t know how to revisit the world she originally created?