There are some comics that defy example and expectation. Take for example, Chew, an American book written by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory. It has a fairly simple premise, but it manages to be a book of suspense, mystery, action, and sometimes a bit of horror. And it’s freaking hilarious. All these different traits make it a great comic book, but don’t necessarily make it easy to classify. In some sense, that’s the same way Sumomomo Momomo is, except, that where Chew manages to mix these ingredients up into a great comic, the result from Sumomomo Momomo is a bit more schizophrenic and pervy in its final presentation.
Sumomomo Momomo follows the lives of Koushi Inuzuka and Momoko Kuzuryuu, two children of the greatest martial artists in Japan, and heirs to martial arts techniques of great power. Momoko’s father, fearing her to be too weak to continue the bloodline of the Kuzuryuu clan, decrees that she should be married to the son of the Inuzuka clan. Koushi, unfortunately, is no martial arts fanatic. Having given up the ways of the fist, Koushi attempts to lead a “normal” life by studying to become a lawyer and generally keeping out of trouble. All this changes when Momoko comes into town. Now Koushi must try to deal with his fiance’s strange habits, go to school, and not get assassinated by anyone who wants to prevent the two families from being bound by marriage. Generally, this is how characters get added to the cast – anyone that fails to assassinate Koushi ultimately becomes part of the dynamic duo’s posse. Generic shonen harem comedy hijinks ensue.
This would generally be fine. I’m a huge fan of shonen harem series like Love Hina and Ai Yori Aoshi. The issue that I’m having with Sumomomo Momomo is that it’s so… oddly illustrated.
For a shonen manga, the series illustrations are very rough (this isn’t the issue, I’ll get to that in a minute). There are tons of speed lines and caricaturized pictures of tough guys with insane amounts of muscle, all paired up against the relatively normal looking Koushi. It’s amusing, but it’s not the best art in a manga I’ve ever seen, and I am not particularly attracted to the heavy line-work and sketchy drawings.
When you couple this with the extreme illustrations of Momoko and female friends, that’s when things get dicey. I know, I know, the story says she’s in high school, and she’s around 17 years old, but visually, I’m not convinced. The way that she is consistently drawn makes her look as though she’s 11-13 most of the time, and that’s where my chagrin comes from. Momoko is constantly asking for, ahem, intimate attention from Koushi (who always refuses), but it’s disturbing, because she looks so young. Other characters get into these situations as well, especially the class rep Sanae, whose martial arts power comes from her embarrassing costume. Really? The illustrations are cringe-inducing.
Generally, I’m a fan of the comedy and less fan service-oriented bits. There are a few good scenes where Momoko in her childlike enthusiasm is quite endearing. The storyline is interesting enough, especially the parts where Koushi is forced to confront his downfalls as a person, and come to grips with his situation as a member of his clan and as a person in danger. It’s clear that being around Momoko is helping him to grow as a person, and their interplay is comedic and can be quite heartwarming. The juxtaposition of Momoko’s small stature and her extreme abilities as a martial artist also brought a few grin-inducing moments. The problem is, unfortunately, that these positive moments are greatly outweighed by images of small, female characters in sexually vulnerable positions, saying sexual things, and other similar situations.
I’m not sure if Sumomo Momomo wants to be this way. I imagine that this book was written to appeal to the otaku fandom that’s so fond of lolicon and moe back in Japan. It’ unfortunate, because there really is some decent writing here, and with different illustrations, I think that this could be a pretty cool manga.
All in all, I cannot recommend Sumomomo Momomo. What could be a fairly interesting book plays up its fan-service to an extreme, and it makes the content almost unbearable. Yen Press has done a fine job with the production of this book, but even the star treatment for this manga would not make the content any less slimy.