The Spring 2019 Manga Guide
Momo's Iron Will
What's It About?The Inuwashi family are some of the most popular, liked and beautiful people attending their local high school. But ultimately, they couldn't care less. All the two brother-sister combo want to do is stay isolated and together, luxuriating in each other's company. In fact, they're willing to go to insane lengths to maintain their little ‘castle’. Momo, the sister, has taken to espionage and surveillance and British special-ops training to make extra certain no impediments or underserving people come between her and her brothers, and her brothers keep a similarly close eye on her.
But this idyllic little Eden has begun to be threatened by a new arrival: Their next-door neighbor, a boy Momo's age who knows all about Momo and her practices and seems to want to do everything in his power to make sure the strange game of policing her brother's lives continues no longer. But how does he know, and what reason could he possibly have for caring? And what lies at the root of the Inuwashi siblings a-little-too-deep affection of one another? Either way the battle to preserve the household has commenced.
Momo's Iron Will is an original manga series by Lalako Kojima. It is published by Kodansha, retailing for for $10.99 digitally.
Is It Worth Reading?
I had quite a few thoughts while reading the first volume of Momo's Iron Will, not the least of which was, What, this story again? Given that “this story” is “twin brothers are in competition with each other to marry their younger sister, who also likes them” the “again” part might be a little surprising, but this is, in fact, at least the second time I've read it, and possibly the third. Specifically, I'm reminded of Izumi Kaneyoshi's 2002 manga Sonan Janaiyo, but the point here is that this book isn't one I didn't like specifically because of its plot. It's uncomfortable, but I feel like I've read worse.
No, the issue here is that Momo's Iron Will desperately wants to be funny and doesn't quite succeed at it. Both Momo and her brothers, twins Chihiro and Chiaki, feel that they have to put on acts in order to win each other's love, rather than trusting that who they really are is good enough, while at the same time enacting ridiculous levels of security and protection to keep potential romantic rivals away. This means surveillance pigeons, hidden GPS trackers, and, in the case of Momo, a bomb she can have launched from space with pinpoint accuracy. It's so over the top that it's clear that it's meant to be funny, but the characters are all so difficult to like that it falls flat.
By the end of the book, however, there does seem to be a little potential in the form of the boy who aims to take Momo away from the twins. Not that he's great shakes either – he's clearly been spying on the whole family and in fact moved close to them in order to fulfill his goals, plus his whole plan to make Momo fall for him seems to be built around being an outright asshole to her. However, all of this is tied to his own abandonment issues and the fact that his parents appear to have been abusive – when he met Momo when they were little, she was the impetus he needed to change things for himself, and she thus took on a greater importance than she perhaps should have. This is what's behind his single- minded pursuit of her, and it makes him a more interesting character, although not necessarily a good one.
What we're left with is a story that's trying too hard to be funny, a group of unlikable characters, and so much bizarreness that I can't quite tell what the author was thinking. The art's nice, and volume two does have the potential to move in a firmer direction, but I can't say that I'm excited to pick it up and
I'll confess, after reading the first few pages of Momo's Iron Will I was a tad filled with dread. Oh no, I thought, is this going to be a creepy incest thing? And it kind of is. Kind of. Like, the love the two brothers have for the sister is framed as more romantic than familial (with them constantly arguing over who gets to ‘take her as their own’), but that notion never graduates past the ideation phase. And even then, the manga does acknowledge that the bond between them is uncomfortably strange and deep (which is the central joke; our main female lead underwent British spec-ops training and is willing to laser houses from satellite orbit to keep her brothers ‘protected’). The core theme of the manga seems to be the way family relationships can degrade or toxify due to tragedy (with the inciting incident for their overprotectiveness being the death of their parents), but even then, that's more mysterious window-dressing than actual exploration.
The manga's occasional slips into pathos are one of its most baffling components. Some of my favorite series ever start off as light, goofy comedies before slipping into turgid drama, but in those it's justified by character; in series like Fruits Basket and Trigun, the characters have hidden depths and extra dimensions that the myriad tonal shifts hinge on. Not so here. The central cast are shallow as puddles, and seem to have no interests or thoughts outside of what the comedy demands. And without this additional legwork, the moments where Momo's Iron Will gets serious scan as either unearned (like with the aforementioned death in the family) or straight-up ridiculous (like the antagonist homewrecker's motivation being that the main female character was nice to him at a park one time). There just is nothing to care about here beyond laughing at sheer absurdity which, while effective occasional, doesn't inspire anything like the long-term investment the narrative demands. Momo's Iron Will, despite is absurdity, slid in one ear and out the other. There were a few jokes I laughed at, but aside from that it is as average as a manga series can be. I'm not a fan of this premise (despite it being nowhere near as squicky as it could have been) and it's tonally inconsistent and more than a little puzzling. I'm not sure why it exists, but if you see any potential in this…well, maybe you'll like it more than I did.
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