animefringe may 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
Tokyo Mew Mew - Catgirl Saves the World

I don't like to hide dirty secrets, so I'll begin this article by purging myself of an awful truth. I've watched Captain Planet. Superhero shows always attracted me, and sometimes it was the only cartoon playing in its timeslot. For the most part, it gained my attention--if not my admiration--by default. For those of you who missed out on the flying blue environmentalist with a near-mullet, the show was mainly concerned with bashing kids over the head with morals and messages. Now, there's nothing wrong with such objects, but preaching is an activity best suited for church, and I was already spending an hour there each week.

Tokyo Mew Mew shares many traits with Captain Planet. It contains an environmentally friendly message that children and adults can appreciate. Periodically, factual information about actual endangered species is presented as a sort of break from the action. This manga can also be thought of as one that can easily appeal to kids, in particular. There's even a team of 5 members -- each with unique powers -- that binds together to covertly battle for mankind.

However, this manga is a completely different animal than its somewhat dated, moral-toting, English-speaking relative. While the theme of protecting nature from our own destructive habits appears, this is a character-driven manga, not a morality play. Readers will come to this manga because of the cute and interesting cat-eared heroine, Ichigo, not because it may teach them a valuable lesson.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that this is mindless fluffy tripe. Not by any means. I'm just saying that the moral is woven deftly into a story that would be engaging even if it lacked a message. The fact that there's more to this story than simply...story, is a nice bonus to an otherwise entertaining tale.

In the beginning, Ichigo Momomiya is a rather typical 11-year-old. Her current heartthrob is one of the most attractive guys in her class, the multitalented Masayo. Unfortunately for her, Masayo seems to be far more focused on constant ecological awareness rather than her girlish charm.

On an innocuous trip to the local museum, Ichigo can put up with the boring endangered species exhibit that Masayo is so excited by simply because she loves being with him. However, the simple jaunt to the exhibit unexpectedly raises Ichigo's concern for rare animals. Out of nowhere, the young girl is hit with a mysterious energy beam that momentarily disorients her. While she wasn't harmed by the phenomenon, the next morning she begins to suspect that it had some effect on her. Suddenly, she feels a great affinity towards cats. In particular, she has an inordinate amount of trouble staying awake in class. An accidental fall leaves her unscathed as her newly enhanced reflexes allow her to land softly on her feet. And, needless to say, fish is now her favorite meal.

Eventually, the people responsible for her feline enhancements track her down and explain her situation to Ichigo. As it turns out, a hostile alien race is trying to conquer the Earth.

This is not a good thing.

Rather than land on the planet with guns a-blazing, the subtle creatures instead infiltrate their target by infecting the bodies of animals and attacking humans with them. Ichigo is told that "Aliens are using animals as biological weapons against us," and then she is given another shocking revelation -- it's up to her to defend the planet.

Ichigo wasn't quite the target her benefactors was aiming for, but her positive attitude toward her newfound abilities proves that she is a worthy one. Due to their greater than average will to survive, five specific endangered species were chosen to be merged with five unique humans in order to fight the possessed animals on their own terms. Bound with genetic material from a Wildcat, Ichigo (codename "Mew Mew") has been given the power to cast out the domineering alien presence and thwart the impending invasion.

However, she will be needing some help along the way. The good news is four other people have been endowed with other endangered animal genes, granting them powers of their own. The bad news is their identities are not yet known to Mew Mew or her employers--it's up to her to find her companions.

Thus begins the tale of Tokyo Mew Mew, a story that promises to be action packed and endearing, with an admirable theme of environmentalism along the side.