This update on the popular magical series cuts the pacing of the original down to a lean number episodes but there’s still a lot going for it. For example, shipping. Chris and Nicky debate the pros and cons of Ichigo’s trio of potential suitors in this week’s column.
This series is streaming on HIDIVE
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Nicky, I’m pretty excited about this one. After over twenty years, my favorite series about five teens who turn into animals to protect the Earth from aliens has gotten a brand-new adaptation!
…huh, Animorphs looks a little different than I remember.
Different, yep. Definitely seems to be going in a more cosplay
-oriented direction. Can’t say I hate it.
As the rule goes, you can’t fight alien invaders and environmental destruction if you ain’t cute. And cute is the name of the game
with this week’s subject, the fresh remake of Reiko Yoshida
and Mia Ikumi
‘s 2000 magical girl manga, Tokyo Mew Mew
, fittingly titled Tokyo Mew Mew New
Why they didn’t just got for broke and call it Tokyo New Mew
or Tokyo Mew Mew New New
is beyond me.
A missed opportunity, for sure. But it’s nice to see the return of this cute classic! I never got to watch much of the old mews back in the days when anime used to get butchered in order to air on American television but it definitely still has its fans and so word of this reboot initially drummed up a lot of attention.
Not to mention, while the magical girl genre served as a big gateway for many anime fans, it’s definitely not what it mewsed to be. While we still get a new Precure
every year, and some anniversary projects, they’re still a small part of the overall anime landscape rather than a pillar. Those sparkly transforming girls start to feel more akin to the endangered species the Mew Mews are trying so hard to protect. Can this reboot serve justice to fans of the genre? Let’s find out!
The throwback aspect was definitely a big part of the appeal for me when I checked this show out when it first premiered a few months ago. The production really seems to be leaning into the nostalgia element, even apart from any familiarity you have with the original Tokyo Mew Mew
itself. Lead heroine Ichigo comes out of the gate swinging 00’s gremlin energy, and it’s really charming at the outset.
And knowing this one’s formative status in the magical girl genre, it’s interesting to see these particular animals embody a place somewhere on the team-based evolutionary tree between Sailor Moon
and Yes! Precure 5
So for those unfamiliar, what’s this show about? Well Ichigo is a typical high school girl with typical high school girl aspirations. That is, to have a sweet high school romance! On her first day she gets an immediate crush on the popular and handsome kendo-practicing boy, Aoyama. Stumped on how to
approach him, her friends discover that he’s an animal-lover, and a girl she doesn’t know walks up and conveniently hands her two tickets to an endangered species exhibit. He agrees to go with her, but at the exhibit a panic ensues and Ichigo is targeted with a strange light, infusing her with the DNA of an endangered Iriomote cat that enables her to transform and fight alien-controlled animals called Chimera Anima.
Ichigo’s energetic, sweet, and boy-crazy but she’s the kind of earnest idiot that makes her easy to relate to and makes you want to root for her. She has absolutely no idea what’s going on, but adapts to being forced to wear a silly outfit, fight, and work part-time at a café quite well! I agree that she’s more charming than annoying compared to similar protagonists.
It’s worth pointing out already that this new adaptation has seen fit to update elements from the 2000’s original, so all the characters use smartphones and stuff like that. Though, one point at the endangered animal exhibit demonstrates a much more depressing update to the script.
The harrowing march of reality aside, I agree that Ichigo is a distinctive heroine. Her archetype is one that feels like it could have come off annoying from the beginning, but she instead feels earnest, especially in how even as she seems to accept her planet-protecting station (largely since it’s the only way for her to get out of spontaneously sprouting kitty ears at inopportune moments) she still pushes back plenty on her weird bosses or the even weirder aliens that come out of the woodwork to harass her.
Plus I absolutely can’t hate a girl whose first instinct upon transforming into a fancy superhero form is to go for a Rider Kick.
Catgirl of culture.
Oh yeah, this cat having some claws definitely gives her an edge. She’s not the bravest of cats but she’s still feisty. I will say that one thing that’s different in Mew Mew New
from more recent series like Precure
is that there’s a lot more emphasis on the romance elements and using that as a form of melodrama. A lot of Ichigo’s character involves being lovey-dovey over Aoyama, getting teased by Mew Mew Project head Ryou, or outright harassed by the alien baddie Kish (Quiche). Newer series tend to move away from these tropes, especially ones that make the heroine feel a bit like an object to be pushed around, but Ichigo notably usually pushes back and her feelings towards boys doesn’t reduce her strong individuality.
It’s indicative of an overall element that jumped out at me about Mew Mew New
here. I’ve been keeping up with the concurrently-airing most recent Precure
series, Delicious Party
, and Tokyo Mew Mew New
definitely feels like it’s pitching a little older than that one’s established demographic. The girls are high schoolers, rather than in middle school, and there’s just a bit more of an edge to a lot of its proceedings, from the acts of the villains like Kish, to frank mentions of stuff like suicide or depictions of inter-clique bullying that would make fellow 2000’s alum Mean Girls
Even the environmental nature of the premise is pretty dark and sadly even more relevant in today’s world! A lot of this was present in similar series like it at the time, too. As a gold-standard of magical girls, and a big influence on this series, Sailor Moon
had a lot of dark moments too! Though, never too much that a younger viewer couldn’t understand, and these despairing moments are usually followed by pleas of heartfelt optimism.
In regards to Retasu/Lettuce, the third Mew Mew introduced, her emerging manatee powers go out of control after being long mistreated by her peers. She had repressed her emotions but in her distressed state, Ichigo’s cry of friendship felt more hopeful and genuine than it would have otherwise. I think the ability to have contrast and still come out on the lighter end of things is definitely something that attracted me to many older series and may be partially why I can’t connect as easily to new ones, even if they’re fun. I was surprised at how much felt at stake.
A friend I was watching with pointed out that this episode was actually a whole arc in the old anime, and I could definitely feel the compression from a 52 episode series to a mere 12 even without that knowledge. This was still well-executed but a little rushed. Mint hadn’t even had a proper introduction by this point so they’re trying to cram her characterization alongside Lettuce’s story. A break from status quo doesn’t feel as good when you haven’t had time to establish one.
Unfamiliar as I also am with the original Tokyo Mew Mew
anime (though I did know it ran longer) that compression element on Lettuce’s story wasn’t one I picked up on, myself. Though I had clocked from chatter I’d seen elsewhere that they were making changes to characters and narrative structure, with Mint being a prime example of that. It’s another case of me liking the character as presented in Mew Mew New
, her already-recruited status working well alongside her pricklier disposition towards newbies, but I can see how skipping over her establishing story wouldn’t sit well with returning fans.
Though knowing now that the season-ender they’re coming up on is intended as the finish for this reboot, it makes the speedrunning intent of adaptational choices like that stick out a bit more.
Mint gets a more focused storyline later after her idol and fifth Mew Mew, the rising starlet Zakuro, is introduced. But I think with shows that focus on ensemble casts and strong friendships, the monster-of-the-week screwing around really helps when you’re trying to get a team to know each other and figure out who they are. There’s technically nothing wrong with the show’s current pacing even as it tries to rush to introduce all the major characters, but because there’s little time to develop some of those bonds may feel less earned than they should.
I also totally understand why this is only 12 episodes as single-cour anime and a faster pace are more standard now. Older, longer shows stretched their budget to fit episode counts or took cuts that contributed to a slower pace. An adult viewer like me and established fans wouldn’t have time to watch a super long-running show anyways. I simply wish there was more flexibility that even adding another cour would provide. Most of the characters are fun and I would’ve liked to spend more time with them. Bu-Ling has some great gags right in her introduction, for example.
Yeah, I’m already an established mark for shows like this, with my aforementioned Precure
appreciation. So I was surprised by how into Tokyo Mew Mew New
I found myself getting as I watched it. The faster pace still works and stacking a lot of the ongoing plots together makes it feel like plenty is going on in each episode (especially in regards to stuff like Ichigo’s relationship drama). But then you get stuff like Bu-Ling, who’s cute as frig, but definitely feels like the most underutilized of all the Mew Mews, as far as character arcs go.
Then again, maybe she doesn’t really need to grow anymore. She has already rejected humanity, returned to monke.
Like I think the most impact she’s had on the plot so far was in her introductory episode, where she offers Ichigo a mickey to slip to Aoyama.
Probably not the smartest way to handle an increasingly fraught teenage relationship, Diddy Kong.
I think the other character most affected by the pacing issues is probably Kish/Quiche, who’s the kind of villain you like more just because you get used to him being a familiar pain in your side! You can tell he’s a fan-favorite for his flare. The first thing he does is kiss Ichigo to toy with her and claim her as his personal plaything. Though, Ichigo isn’t too happy about this and doesn’t have any consent in these games. Having an annoying villain who flirts with you is definitely part of the package here.
Oh yeah, no convincing needed on this one, Kish absolutely works as a problematic fav.
Definitely makes a top list of “guys to avoid in irl but are fun to enjoy as a fictional character” even if it’s many people’s “baby’s first” version of that! But he’s mostly just smug and it sucks there’s not a lot of time to build a good rapport with Ichigo as he gets attached to her beyond his alien take-over-the-world duties.
The pacing on this means we spend way more time with Kish than either of the other two villains, Pie and Tart, but he still doesn’t quite reach that level of familiarity that makes a villain like this work in longer-running episodic shows. Though on the other hand it does drive up his perceived threat level and impact, which works in different ways.
Compared to the other two, who have a more methodical approach that fits with the backstory suddenly blurted out for the alien gang in this week’s episode, Kish feels much more like he’s embraced being an outright villain. And there’s the question of if he was always like that or if something developed him into that which we probably aren’t going to get to dig into!
Oh yeah, as a villain he does work at being scary. The action is actually pretty good and the battles feel threatening and climatic. I particularly liked the one where Mint has to fight her own beloved pet Chihuahua turned rabid!
After Zakuro is introduced things simmer down in order to hone in on the drama. Zakuro, as I said earlier, is an ambitious girl with a showbiz career. Mint was initially excited to be on the same team with her idol, but being a typical lone wolf, Zakuro rejects the offer, leaving Mint totally crushed by her idol crush!
Still haven’t seen Revue Starlight but I’d like to thank Kageki Shoujo!! for helping me figure out that Zakuro and Mint are totally supposed to be Takarazuka archetypes! Balancing the cool Zakuro as the heroic and noble role and Mint as a proper maiden with the upbringing to boot.
It’s a ride of an introductory episode (including, as well, Lettuce’s charming acting turn as a rock). While I’m a sucker for Zakuro’s taciturn vibe, it really is the interactions and connections with other characters that sell this story. Like I said, stacking elements together is a strength of this adaptation, so this turns out to also be our introduction at starting developments for Mint (develop-Mints?). Mostly by way of what her type is.
She has good taste for someone who shares a name with one of the most polarizing flavors of ice-cream.
Evidently, Mint is a dog person too.
Treating this story as a multi-episode arc compared to the others makes that layered approach pay off as well. We take time off from Zakuro after she rejects Mint to watch the other Mew Mews cheer the tiny little blue bird up and thus grow closer to her. It leads to that confrontation with Mint’s mutated chihuahua, and results in her resolution about needing to consider her own decisions more than she had previously. And that, in turn, is something she’s able to bring for herself the next time she interacts with her Queen, which brings Zakuro around after all.
It’s a testament to how brutally efficient the structure of this expedited adaptation can be when it’s really putting a lot of effort into tightly plotting things out.
Maid café where a stoic popstar wolfgirl pushes you around. Truly Tokyo Mew Mew was living in the year 3000 even back in 2000.
You don’t give her your order, she orders for you and you will LIKE IT! That’s real service.
Okay between her and Kish, I’m seeing how this franchise was so formative for so many of the kids who would grow up to become my anime Twitter mutuals.
Though Kish does get sent on a sabbatical for a couple episodes after this so Ichigo can concentrate on her ‘proper’ relationship with Aoyama. And while the superhero-spurred relationship drama is a natural angle given the setting, target audience, and main character type, I feel like this element gets messier. Maybe it’s a result of not getting to spend as much time with these characters? But for some reason Aoyama is a character I have a particularly hard time getting a read on.
Aoyama is a sweet boy but he seems to have a bit of a serious streak. I actually ended up liking his and Ichigo’s budding romance more than I expected. Usually, standard love interest dudes just bore me to tears. There’s a lot about communication between him and Ichigo even when they’re not properly dating, including her struggle to keep him from finding out her secret and feeling bad about lying about her double life. I can really tell that they do feel for each other. However, this all happens pretty quickly due to the runtime.
I also think part of it is that Aoyama is definitely the kind of guy who has a hard time expressing his feelings for Ichigo forthright.
I can appreciate the series at least having characters acknowledge that Ichigo’s super-catgirl identity looks like her, while still doubting the connection on account of what a doofus Ichigo herself seems to be. But it still stretches credulity when Aoyama’s failing (or simply unwilling?) to make the connection between Ichigo and this girl who looks just like her, also named Ichigo, who keeps showing up and saving him after he mysteriously loses track of her.
I assumed he was lying for her convenience to make her feel better!
That idea that there’s more going on to Aoyama than he lets on might definitely be a factor in me struggling with his character. Some of his attitude he acts out on at times can be chalked up to being a teen boy in a particularly strained courtship. But then other times his choices for shows of affection can come off…less sweet, and more possessive, or at least really friggin’ weird.
Or I don’t know, maybe my experience with other 2000’s era shoujo
-trope love interests just has me trying to read too much into what’s going on with this guy.
That’s true, it is a bit much that they’re not even dating and already participating in collar-play!
I mean, lord knows we don’t kink-shame the catgirls here, and it does seem to make Ichigo happy in the long run, so who am I to judge?
Though pet-play probably works better when you haven’t been transformed into a literal pet animal.
Which brings Ichigo’s secondary love-interest, Ryo. He’s in charge of the Mew Mew Project, aka the one who shot everyone with an animal DNA gun. I mentioned he’s a bit bossy to Ichigo but overall he’s not a bad guy and overtime Ichigo starts developing slight feelings for him too, which confuses her.
I talked about the edge this one has over some of its magical-girl brethren, and nothing quite embodies that like the bit of Ichigo walking in to suddenly be taken aback by the sight of Ryo’s ripped, shirtless abs.
kids ain’t dealing with these kinds of awakenings any time soon.
Right before scarfing down a sweet jelly donut!
Hey, his eat and drink habits also reflect mine if I’m feeling like I need to loosen up at a party.
Ryo could also learn a bit of tact. He often gets into Ichigo’s personal space and flusters her unintentionally and ends up saying rude shit like this as a gag.
But then you get moments of genuine kindness like above that really show his appeal! It’s all about that gap moe. I think this makes it more meaningful watching Ichigo warm up to him. It’s a bit more natural to unexpectedly get closer to someone casually, imo?
Thinking more about it, maybe the reason I’m so iffy about Aoyama as a love interest really is just because I think Ryo is more interesting. We haven’t gotten a ton of info on how he got into the “spiking unwitting girls with animal DNA” business
, but he definitely seems devoted to the Earth-protecting mission he’s doing it for. And you’re right that, though brusque, his feelings seem genuine.
It’s an element that makes me feel like I really did miss out by not following the original version of this series. Were there hardcore Aoyama vs Ryo vs Kish ship-wars in the 2000’s? How did they play out?
I actually wasn’t there either, so I can’t say for sure. I spent much more time on the shounen
-side of early anime internet fandom partially because I try to avoid fandom drama (a wise choice) and only learned about most things from other people or rumblings. But I quite remember other 00s shoujo
series like Fruits Basket
having savage ship battles! So I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true for this series as well. But I do know from looking that there are still a lot of people still fond of these characters and ships and their memories in fandom for them.
If I was watching this without any knowledge and this were longer so I could be more invested in it, I probably would’ve made Ryo my main pick from a narrative standpoint. He’s the most dedicated to the goals of the series and has the best chemistry and growth despite having muuuch less than the other two to work with. I don’t dislike Ichigo and Aoyama as a couple but that’s only slightly above standard school-crush narratives for these types of things. Kish is the kind of character I don’t expect to be fully redeemed, but he’s a great character type to explore. It’s notable that Ryo has a bit of chemistry with Lettuce in one episode as well.
We’ve got just one episode to go for Tokyo Mew Mew New
, so I don’t expect them to shake up the main Ichigo/Aoyama romance they’ve spent the most time on before the end there. Though even with as effective as this anime has been with its consolidated pacing, I do wonder how well they’re going to resolve everything including some of the more conspicuous kitty-shaped curveballs they’ve thrown in at the last stage here.
When Ichigo gets flustered, she ends up letting the cat out of the bag. Meaning, her ears and tail pop right out! But after gaining a considerable amount of power, she ends up turning into a full-whiskered kitty and is unable to turn back on her own! This causes her to ditch out on her date with Aoyama and all the other Mew Mews are desperately searching for their friend. While it is a bad side-effect, this won’t be a problem as long as all the aliens get defeated like Ryō plans.
It’s one of those bits that had me wondering if it was always a late-stage escalation, or if this was a recurring element as the original series went on. To say nothing of the potential for it to affect the other characters. Lettuce getting stuck as a land-locked porpoise? Mint and Zakuro’s relationship leading their bird and wolf forms to go all Ladyhawke? The possibilities are endless!
Meanwhile, we also get the alien’s true motivations. Turns out their planet’s environment sucks and they want a better one! Our pointy-eared boiz had to grow up underground huddled for shelter and warmth and that’s why they’re so goddamn bitter.
Yeah, and unfortunately, even though Ichigo is able to wriggle her way back to being a human and reach her friends just in the nick of time, not being able to portray the opposition diminishes their threat on an emotional level. But at least Kish is happy!
Good for him.
Overall, while the show looks and feels a lot better compared to the old digipaint one, I still can’t help but feel like I’ve been cheapened out when reboots end up really compressed and unable to flesh out all the things that I know attach people to a series. While this version is enjoyable even with only having a little familiarity, I don’t see it having the same staying power on its own.
It feels like a fine little celebration for the series after all these years, though ironically one that might work better for those who have a piqued interest in a franchise that originally passed them by. The more familiar fans are the ones who are going to pick up on all those shortcuts and short-changes, possibly at the expense of what they found appealing about it in the first place. On its own it’s a solid, fun, magical-girl series that distinguishes itself from its peers like Precure
. I’m enjoying it on those terms, and hope that others engaging with this cute kitty-cat cartoon can do the same.
And for all the gaps that are introduced by this one’s structure, hey, that’s left me more compelled with curiosity to look into the original version than I was before!
It also deeply saddens me that the original manga artist Mia Ikumi is not around to see it since she passed from a sudden subarachnoid hemorrhage in early March. I think many would do well to revisit it simply in honor of her life and I’m glad I was able to cover this regardless of how it wholly turned out. It’s still a series with a lot of distinct fun and heart.
Whether you love this reboot or not, keep loving what you love no matter if it’s over twenty years or your whole lifetime. If magical girls taught me anything, it’s that love is what saves the day!
Now, we’re fresh out of justice so looks like we’ll have to close up ’til we restock. Goodbye, and come again soon!