Tokyo Mew Mew Anime Review
Toukyou Myuu Myuu
US Release By
Magical Girl Action/Drama
52 23-minute episodes
2002-04-06 to 2003-03-29
Ichigo is a typical 13-year-old junior high school student in Tokyo, Japan. Typical, that is, until the day when she is granted superpowers by a secret organization (well actually it's just two guys, but they are very well organized and supplied). While on a date in a park with her boyfriend Aoyama, Ichigo becomes a target of the the "Mew Project," infusing her DNA with that of an Iriomote Wildcat, which grants her special abilities and powers. Teaming up with four other girls, Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zakuro, who are also infused with the DNA of various animals and join the team as series progresses, Ichigo and her companions are tasked to defend earth from a group of genocidal aliens, who are unleashing deadly monsters in Japan by mutating normal humans and earth creatures into monstrous "Chimera Animals."
Meanwhile, the girls maintain their cover and raise funds by working at a restaurant in the park called the Cafe' Mew Mew, which is actually a secret hideout for their group and run by the two men in charge of the project. (Though how a place with the exact same name as the group could be considered a "secret hideout" is never explained.)
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What we have here is yet another shoujo TV series about a bunch of cute, color-coded girls with super powers defending earth from aliens while trying to lead normal lives and deal with personal problems in the process. It's such a blatant, laughably unoriginal rip-off of similar anime I suspect it may have been done on purpose to give the show some comedic value. If that was the intent, it succeeded; it's self-aware enough to poke fun at its own absurdity. On the down side, it's an exact copy of Sailor Moon, all the girls' powers are nearly identical, and the whole thing is pretty much a string of repetitive monster-of-the-week battles. On the positive, it's actually a good rip-off as kids' shows go; in addition to not taking itself too seriously, the characters are reasonably likable, the villains are entertaining, and the budget is high, apart from re-used transformation sequences.
Overall Tokyo Mew Mew is a fun and entertaining TV series aimed at young viewers, despite a multitude of flaws and having almost no original concepts. For fans of light shoujo/Magical Girl anime, Tokyo Mew Mew should be very appealing.
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Anyone who is familiar with anime should be experiencing some deja vu after reading the plot synopsis. Everything about Tokyo Mew Mew practically screams "Typical Magical Girl Anime!" What we have here is yet another Shoujo TV series about a bunch of cute girls (distinguished by different colored outfits and hair styles) with super powers defending earth from aliens while trying to lead normal lives and deal with personal problems in the process. But this description by itself is insufficient, not because Tokyo Mew Mew has some concepts that make it stand out, but because it's a massive understatement. It doesn't even begin to describe how laughably unoriginal this show is. Tokyo Mew Mew is such a blatant rip-off of other anime of its kind that I suspect it may have been done on purpose to give the show some comedic value. If this was the case, it succeeded.
Pointing out everything unoriginal in this show would require me to document the majority of every episode, so I'll just stick to the key concepts. I'll do this by showing its similarity to "Sailor Moon," which is probably the most well-known of all Shoujo anime. There are probably other shows this is ripping off as well, but this comparison by itself should be sufficient.
Tokyo Mew Mew is about a five normal young girls (the same number of girls in the first season of Sailor Moon) who are granted special powers to defend the earth from the forces of evil (just like the Sailor Senshi in Sailor Moon). With some exceptions, most episodes start with the Mew Mews going about their normal lives and dealing with normal issues until an alien and/or Chimera Animal shows up to spoil their day (just like most Sailor Moon episodes). Upon discovering the monster, the girls morph into Mew Mews, which involves a somewhat long transformation sequence in the same background animation each time, regardless of where they are (just like the Sailor Senshi in Sailor Moon). Then they do battle with the monster, sometimes also with the aliens controlling it (Just like in Sailor Moon). It usually involves the Mew Mews having some trouble at first, but eventually they gain the upper hand using their charge-up special moves which involves the characters saying a few words in English and, just like the transformation sequences, are also shown in the same pre-rendered background regardless of where they are (Just like the Sailor Senshi in Sailor Moon). Then Ichigo is called upon to finish it off with her charge up move, "Ribbon Strawberry Surprise" (Just like Usagi's "Moon Tiara Action" in Sailor Moon). The Mew Mews are also occasionally assisted by an unknown warrior called the Blue Knight, who shows up to save the day when Ichigo is about to face certain defeat (Just like Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon). In the end, the girls emerge victorious, order is restored, and the aliens go back to their lair to lick their wounds and prepare their next attack. (Just like in Sailor Moon.)
I could go on, but I think I've made my point. If you are looking for some original concepts, you won't find any here. Even Ichigo's catchphrase "For the future of the earth, I'll be of service, nya" is a little similar to Usagi's "In the name of the moon, I will punish you." But this by itself it not enough to destroy the show. After all, Shoujo anime in general is hardly known for having a wide range of original concepts. The category itself is aimed at young girls who might not be familiar with the other shows this series copies and might be willing to forgive it even if they are.
So is Tokyo Mew Mew worth watching if you are willing to disregard the fact that it a complete copy of Sailor Moon in nearly every conceivable way? If you like watching cute magical girls defeating alien monsters with the exact same action moves over and over again, the answer is yes (the massive popularity of shows like Sailor Moon proves there are quite a few people who do). But even in this case, it still has some glaring weaknesses that really drag it down.
One of my main gripes with the show is that the Mew Mews don't display a whole lot of skill or distinction in their actions moves. The premise of the series is that Ichigo and her companions are granted special abilities by having their DNA infused with that of various endangered animals, an Iriomote Wildcat for Ichigo, an Ultramarine Lorikeet for Mint, a Finless Porpoise for Lettuce, a Chinese Pinyin for Pudding, and a Grey Wolf for Zakuro. This might have worked out really well if it gave each mew their own distinct unique abilities to contribute to the team (like in X-Men), but it doesn't. They have different looking weapons and charge up moves, but their powers all pretty much do the same thing: zap the bad guys. The only key distinction seems to be that Ichigo's "Strawberry Bell" weapon (if you can call a heart shaped ring a weapon) is the only thing capable of finishing off the monsters at the end of the battle. The fact that each member of the group has only one special move that takes a few seconds to charge up, involves the same words in English, and is shown in the same pre-rendered background each time doesn't help matters either. You can only hear phrases like "Ribbon Mint Echo!" or "Ribbon Lettuce Rush!" and then see the same robotic animations that follow for a limited number of episodes before they start to get old, which is a problem because they are in almost every episode in the series.
Another problem with the show is that it contains the same problems that other typical magic girl anime shows do. The aliens in Tokyo Mew Mew have the ability to teleport to seemingly any place on earth, yet they insist of carrying out all their operations in the one place that the Mew Mews are around to defeat them (Tokyo, Japan), and always within walking distance or a short drive away from their location. Furthermore, with some exceptions, this show largely uses the standard "Monster of the week" formula. All the aliens usually do is summon one monster per episode by turning a regular earth creature into a Chimera animal, which proceeds to cause destruction and chaos, but is always defeated by the Mew Mews before it can cause a single human casualty. Not only is this unoriginal, it seems silly considering the idea is that the aliens are trying to exterminate all humans. Even if the Mew Mews were not around to defeat it, how would one large monster or a group of small monsters in Tokyo cause the end of the human race? After about 20 episodes of this, the aliens finally try to hatch a few plans that could cause massive death and destruction if successful, but still would fall well short of global genocide. Not that I was expecting massive death in a magical girl show, but I think the bad guys should have been able to come up with some rational plans to accomplish their goals. Fortunately, they do seem to get the idea after a while. Eventually, they switch tactics and decide to concentrate on gathering a mysterious form of energy on earth called Mew Aqua so they can resurrect their leader "Deep Blue" (Just like Queen Beryl's energy stealing minions in Sailor Moon), culminating in an epic showdown over the last few episodes that is somewhat more dark and violent than the rest of the series. And as with virtually every other magical girl show, it never occurs to the aliens to attack the girls during their long transformation scenes or action charge up moves. Or at the very least get the heck out of the way.
Yet despite all its flaws, Tokyo Mew Mew is still a fairly entertaining kids show. I consider this way better than its predecessor, Sailor Moon, regardless of how many concepts it steals from it. Tokyo Mew Mew proves that there actually is such a thing as a good ripoff. And in this case, the ripoff is better than the source material. Regardless of its unoriginality, Tokyo Mew Mew still provides everything fans of Shoujo/Magical girl anime would want. If you like shows like Sailor Moon and others of its kind, then I can't imagine any reason you would not like this. Tokyo Mew Mew has good character development, interesting personal stories, comical and likable characters (both good guys and villains) and good animation. Even people who are not fans of the genre can find some entertainment here.
Another thing that helps Tokyo Mew Mew overcome its weaknesses is the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are quite a few genuinely funny moments in the series, and you can tell the creators were well aware of how absurd the whole thing is. The comedy in the series works out fairly well, and can even appeal to older viewers of the show. In one episode, the aliens fight the girls in a library and attempt to defeat them by reading from dull books and boring them into submission. Their plan nearly succeeds, but doesn't because one of the Mew Mews (Lettuce) is a total bookworm and thus immune to the effects. Another episode involves the Mew Mews' floating robot sensor unit, Masha, attempting to prove his value to the team in battle despite being only 2 feet tall and not having any offensive capabilities whatsoever. Amusing story concepts like these are very well used in the series, helping keep the show cute, lighthearted and funny, as it should be.
The characters in the series are a likable, if somewhat unoriginal bunch. The main protagonist in the series is Ichigo, who starts out as the sole Mew Mew and recruits the other team members over the course of several episodes (just like Usagi in Sailor Moon, I'm sorry I just can't resist pointing these out when I see them). As one might expect, she displays all of the traits of a typical Shoujo heroine: Sweet, caring, and dedicated to helping others but clumsy and prone to emotional outbursts when angered or surprised. The series focuses very heavily on Ichigo's personal life, primarily her relationship with her boyfriend Aoyama, who is a Kendo champion and the most popular boy at his school. She starts to have problems as the series progresses, partly because her life as a hero causes many conflicts in her schedule, but also because she has problems controlling her special wildcat powers whenever she gets intimate with him. Her cat tail and ears often pop out at extremely inconvenient moments, and at one point the series, kissing him actually turns her into a cat. This can get repetitive, but it does create a lot of genuinely funny moments. Despite her lack of originality, she actually managed to play the part of the main character decently well.
Her teammates are pretty typical. We've got a smart, but shy and insecure girl (Lettuce, who is just like Ami in Sailor Moon), a snobby rich girl (Mint), a young annoying brat who almost always refers to everyone, including herself, in third person (Pudding). Fortunately, there is a bit more to them than their typical traits suggest. Each character has their own various conflicts, sub-plots, and backstories, ensuring that they have bigger roles than merely supporting Ichigo in battle.
There was one Mew Mew I found to be particularly interesting, Zakuro, the oldest and most mature member of the team. Although only 15 years old, she's already in the middle of a successful modeling career and initially has no interest in joining the team, preferring to concentrate on her career during the day and fight evil alone at night. Eventually she changes her mind, but remains cold and anti-social throughout the entire series. I got the feeling that she secretly hated being around the other girls, working at the Cafe Mew Mew, and basically everything that life as a Mew Mew involved besides fighting the aliens (which is very understandable). But at the same time, she displays that deep down she is vary caring and dependable person. She is also always ready to test the commitment of other team members whenever their morale starts to waver.
Tokyo Mew Mew has some entertaining villains as well. The main one, Kisshu, is a fairly competent warrior who also has some romantic feelings for Ichigo. Apparently he doesn't realize that repeatedly trying to kill Ichigo, slaughter her friends, and purge the planet of all humans makes him an undesirable suitor. Fortunately this doesn't hurt the show. On the contrary, it gives the show some good comedic value. His teammate, Taruto, is in almost the exact opposite situation. He has no apparent interest in any Mews (at least not at first), but his repeated attempts to kill the girls and wipe out mankind doesn't prevent Pudding from trying to befriend him. In fact, it seems that the more he fights her, the more likable he becomes. The third main villain, Pai, is supposed to be the brains of the group. He's always planning for the next attack and gathering data about humans, though I can never figure out what data he's gathering, nor how he plans to use it. Fortunately, he's a fairly good fighter as well and does come up with some decent strategies near the end of the series.
Tokyo Mew Mew also benefits from a high budget. The animation quality is very good. It's really a shame that the show relies so heavily on the same backgrounds for the transformation and action moves, because I'm sure they could have made them really good looking if they had chose too. The sound and music quality is fairly good as well, though the beginning and ending songs were way too cute and sappy for my taste.
Overall Tokyo Mew Mew is a fun and entertaining TV series aimed at young viewers, despite a multitude of flaws and having almost no original concepts. Considering how many weaknesses this show has, that by itself is an accomplishment. For fans of Shoujo/Magical Girl anime, Tokyo Mew Mew should be very appealing. Still, anyone watching this show will probably find themselves wishing the creators did a little more to make it stand out from the pack.
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Almost a complete clone of Sailor Moon, and it shares similarity with others in the Shoujo genre such as Mermaid Melody.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a comic series of the same name written by Reiko Yoshida with art by Mia Ikumi. It is available in English from Tokyopop.
The main characters are all (in Japanese) named after food; Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Pai are all obvious; Ichigo is Japanese for strawberry, Zakuro is the word for pomegranate, and Kisshu and Taruto are probably quiche and tart.
A few years after its release in Japan in 2002, the American company 4Kids Entertainment picked up the rights for the first half of Tokyo Mew Mew, made an English dub, and released it in the United States in 2005 under the title "Mew Mew Power." Unfortunately, this version shares yet another thing in common with Sailor Moon: It was heavily "Americanized," just like what DIC did with Sailor Moon in the early 1990s.
In Mew Mew Power, all of the characters are given American or European names, the beginning and ending songs are different, every reference to Japan is removed, the content is heavily edited, and some parts of the series are re-written with American cultural references. For example, when Ichigo (renamed as Zoey Hanson) receives her robot sensor unit (called Masha in the original version) in episode 2, she says "I shall call him, Mini-Mew", a reference to the part in the second Austin Powers movie where Doctor Evil says "I shall call him, Mini-Me."
At this time, 4Kids only has the rights to the first 26 episodes of the show. Reportedly, 4Kids is trying to obtain a license for the second half as they don't want Mew Mew Power to be cancelled and end at episode 26. However, the second half of the series is a bit more dark and violent than the first, and many fans of the show feel it may not be able to tone down these aspects of the program for American children's TV standards (DIC and Cartoon Network had similar problems with Sailor Moon).
Understandably, 4Kids' choice to change Tokyo Mew Mew into Mew Mew Power and heavily "Americanize" the show has upset many fans of the original series. Some have even launched a campaign for an uncut release of the show. For more information on this subject, you can visit Mew Mew Power Uncensored, a website made by fans of the series which compares and discuses the differences between Tokyo Mew Mew and Mew Mew Power.
As of 2010, Tokyo Mew Mew still hasn't been released in North America on video, in any form apart from its run on TV. A few DVDs of the Mew Mew Power version have been released in other parts of the world, however.
US DVD Review
As of 2010, no US-release DVDs of the show exist.
Violence: 1 - Mostly just harmless magic fights, but the characters do occasionally take some physical beatings, particularly in the second half of the series.
Nudity: 0 - Nothing.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Nothing objectionable.
Language: 1 - Surprisingly, this show does have some profanity, but it's pretty rare.