MAO-CHAN • Del Rey • Ken Akamatsu (story), Ran (art) • 13+
Adaptation of the anime series. When Japan is attacked by incredibly cute, teensy-eensy aliens, the government faces a conundrum: how can they defend themselves against them without looking like jerks? Luckily, the mad scientist Rikushiro Onigawara has an answer: send his super-cute 8-year-old granddaughter, Mao-chan, to (nonviolently) battle the aliens so the public won’t feel it’s an unfair fight. But it’ll take more than just one cute girl to fight the invaders, and so Mao-chan’s classmates Misora and Sylvie join the group (sort of representing the army, navy and infantry) and carry on their bumbling but earnest defense of the country. Meanwhile, their respective grandfathers fight for funding and bicker over whose granddaughter is cuter. There’s something undeniably twisted about little girls in band uniforms riding around on top of tanks, and if this was cranked up another few notches, it could be a satire of nationalism like Pixel Maritan. However, most readers will be disappointed by the fact that Akamatsu really isn’t kidding: Mao-chan is 378 pages of almost totally non-ironic cuteness, with little girls with teensy bodies and huge heads, fighting cute alien animals while saying “if ya please” and “dudettes” and “don’tcha know.” AGGGGH! JUST LET THE ALIENS WIN! The jokes about tracking popularity polls and seeking funding from the government seem to be slightly lost out of a Japanese cultural context, or they just weren’t that funny to begin with. Ran’s art is a fairly close imitation of Ken Akamatsu’s, but nobody else can quite pull that off without making it cheesy, and do there have to be so many old men with mustaches in this story? As a manga for actual very young children, though, it’s kind of cute. (Review by Jason Thompson – originally printed in Otaku USA magazine.)
* 1/2 (one and a half stars)
Today’s winner is Carmen N. of Indiana! If you’re in Texas this weekend, come and check out my panels on “Manga Censorship” and “The Future of Manga” at A-kon #21! (The convention, not the singer!) Or if you slaver for more manga information, check out my review of a classic manga with lots of slavering and bleeding, House of 1000 Manga: Devilman!