The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Tokyo Mew Mew New
How would you rate episode 1 of
Tokyo Mew Mew New ?
Community score: 4.0
What is this?
Ichigo is out on a date with her 'crush' when suddenly she's involved in an odd incident in which her DNA is merged with the DNA of an almost extinct wildcat. When four other girls' DNA is merged with the DNA of four other almost extinct animals, it's apparent that they're part of a much bigger plan. Ichigo and her friends have been chosen to become a part of a secret project called the "Mew Project." Their mission: To protect the planet from aliens who are using animal to attack humans.
How was the first episode?
I'm surprised at how little I enjoyed this one. Maybe it's the fact that I never watched the original, which in turn excludes me from any kind of nostalgia. Almost nothing in this episode deviates from the standard magical girl formula in an interesting way. More than that, I just hate when newborn superheroes know how to use their newly-discovered powers right from the start, so excuses like “you should already know the words” just feel like the pinnacle of lazy writing to me.
But I think the real reason this didn't strike a chord with me is simply because of its target audience—i.e., children even younger than our middle-school-aged protagonist rather than a nearly 40-year-old man like myself. To me, its messages for environmental conservation seemed so entry-level that I couldn't help but roll my eyes, and the idea that Ichigo has apparently never even heard of endangered species or the environmental problems humans have caused just felt silly. But to a young grade-schooler who may not know about these things, it could be an eye-opening moment.
So viewed through that lens, there were a few aspects I did appreciate. With Ichigo we have a girl who is in love with the idea of love rather than any specific person—something common in many young children. It doesn't really matter who she attaches her feelings to; what attracts her to Masaya is nothing more than his face. She's already decided she likes him even before she knows anything about him. It's not like she shares any interests with him—hell, as I mentioned above, she doesn't even understand what his interests are when she learns them. But what's good about her is that, when he flat out asks her about how she got into conservationism on their date, she doesn't lie or deflect: she tells the truth about her ignorance. Rather than her lying for the sake of narrative drama, we see things work out due to honesty. It's a good lesson for kids to subconsciously absorb.
But all that said, this episode sends a pretty clear message that it is not for me. However, that doesn't mean that young children, fans of the original, or magical girl fans in general won't find something to love here. By all means, give it a try and see for yourself.
Okay, raise your hand if you thought the title of this remake of Tokyo Mew Mew was Tokyo Mew Mew Mew rather than Tokyo Mew Mew New, or if you misread “Chimera Anima” as “Chimera Ant” in the subtitles.
Or was I the only one? Please tell me I'm not…
I was a high school senior when Tokyo Mew Mew debuted as Mew Mew Power in English, busy with extracurricular activities and college applications, and while I was an enthusiastic anime fan even back then, I had little time for a hacked-up dub of a series aimed at elementary school children. Because of this, I went into Tokyo Mew Mew almost totally fresh, knowing almost nothing about it besides its catgirl theming and dessert-flavored naming scheme. I had no idea that it was going to be Captain Planet but with ruffles!
The environmental themes of the show are more relevant than ever, and I'm happy to see it presented for young children in a way that hopefully won't reduce the urgency of the matter. After all, there is no faster way to a young girl's heart than a) pink frills, b) sweets, and/or c) cute animals; I'm sure the Venn diagram of these three things cover the vast majority of preteen girls. There are also, of course, cute boys, which should take care of the rest, and none so much as the protagonist Ichigo Momomiya. Ichigo is downright boy-crazy. In fact, we learn that she's looking for love, and about a half-dozen factoids about the school heartthrob Aoyama before we even learn her name. I know a degree of boy-craziness is normal for the age, but I'd like for her to have something, some kind of interest or skill that's not determined by the boys around her. After all, she's not interested in the environment or saving the world. None of that comes to her by choice. It's all just thrust on her because she wanted to go on a date.
There's also some mild fan service that, though it wouldn't be worth a second thought in a different series, I found vaguely discomfiting in something aimed at, once again, preteen girls. Why is Ichigo's, uh, mew mew mark (?) on her inner thigh? And during the transformation, the camera lingers for a long time on her legs, drawn with a positively loving amount of detail that the animation for the rest of the episode lacks. It's only a brief flash, and the episode does a lot of things well, between that and Ichigo's positively obsessive interest in boys to the exclusion of all else, I can't help but side-eye it a bit.
I've been growing steadily more excited for Tokyo Mew Mew New as its premiere approached, and while the issues I had with the original manga and anime remain, I'm still a very happy magical girl fan right now. Falling between Sailor Moon Sailor Stars and Futari wa Pretty Cure in terms of best-known series of the day, the original Tokyo Mew Mew combined an environmental message with classic magical girl sensibilities – something that's perhaps even more important in 2022 than it was in 2000, since we've apparently done a terrible job of learning the lesson. While the exact method by which Ichigo is transformed into Mew Ichigo in this episode isn't gone over (though there's a pretty troubling aspect to it), we can still extrapolate that she's somehow been infused with the power of some sort of cat, and the fact that it happened at an endangered species exhibit means that the chances are good that said feline is, in fact, endangered. So Mew Ichigo and Mew Mint aren't just warriors for love and justice – they're fighting for environmental justice as well.
Not that Ichigo has much clue what's going on. She's too busy trying to live what she thinks is the ideal high school life, which in her case means “tricking the cutest boy in school into thinking she's into the same stuff he is.” It tracks with her age, honestly, and the bigger issue is what Mint's angle is – Mint (and presumably Ryo and Keiichiro) is more than happy to take advantage of Ichigo's crush on Aoyama-kun to lure her to the endangered species exhibit so that she can force her transformation, along with, presumably, three other girls'. Since Ichigo has exactly zero say in the matter, there's definitely something more than a little disturbing about it; there's no reincarnation aspect and a much dodgier “chosen one” approach than in most other shows, because Ichigo doesn't get to accept her magical girl job. Even Kyubey gave Madoka a choice.
On the other hand, the situation is pretty dire. Ichigo may be more concerned with Aoyama having been conveniently knocked-out in the best magical girl tradition, but his passion for environmental issues is already starting to rub off on her, somewhat to her surprise. And while she's off-balance after her transformation, she's also not entirely stupid; she just doesn't realize that Keiichiro, Mint, and Ryo have already experimented on her to make her transform. In terms of magical girl staples, it's interesting that Mew Mint is already a superheroine when Mew Ichigo, the leader of the group, gets her transformation, and it's not hard to see this series' designs as influencing those shows that came after it; it's got a much fluffier look than age-mate Prétear and a group make-up that looks much more similar to several in the Pretty Cure franchise than anything else. If you're a magical girl afficionado or a fan of the original (either the show or Mia Ikumi's manga), this is definitely worth checking out – it's not the strongest first episode, but it's laying the groundwork and is both a fun throwback and an even more relevant message than it was before.
I certainly won't be the first to say it, but I'm deeply disappointed in this new version of Tokyo Mew Mew. I mean, come on guys, “Tokyo New Mew” was right there and y'all went with just sticking “new” at the end? Amateurs. Thankfully the rest of this unexpected revival project is pretty fun. I'm not terribly familiar with the first anime or the original manga, but on vibes alone this most certainly captures the feeling of an early-2000s magical girl show. There are of course some compromises for the sake of modernization like smartphones and the like, but otherwise you could crop this show to 4:3, play it in 144p resolution, and convince me this show was coming to Fox Kids in October, 2002.
It's certainly a nostalgic experience – or for younger viewers, a peek into what a lot of magical girl anime was like back in those days – and that charm manages to carry a lot of this premiere. The overall plot is pretty standard: your excitable everygirl winds up chosen to don some magical powers to fight a nebulous evil that corrupts and attacks the innocent, sprinkle in some cute boys on the fringes, cue fight scene. Ichigo herself can probably come off as annoying or simplistic, but the variety of her expressions and her overall sincere demeanor managed to win me over by the end of it. I especially like that she owns up to not actually knowing much about conservation to her crush once they're on their date, and that instead of causing friction it becomes a bonding experience. It takes an opportunity for drama and instead turns it into a way to build both the character and its themes, which is really refreshing.
Speaking of, something I never picked up through osmosis was just how upfront Tokyo Mew Mew is with its environmentalist messaging. It's made to be consumed by kids, so of course things are kept simple and straightforward, but I was still taken aback by how much detail this episode went into before transitioning to the more familiar magical girl fighting stuff. It's also kind of mortifying that basically all of the issues brought up here are just as relevant in 2022 as they were back when the first anime aired, but I also wonder if this new series will take the chance to modernize or update its take on the topic. Will the girls have to take down a crypto-mining operation to cut down on carbon emissions? Will this quintet of cat maids sabotage fossil fuel infrastructure? Probably not, but it's an interesting angle that this reboot could potentially delve into.
Outside of radicalizing the youth through the power of anime cat girls, this is altogether a fine premiere for an outsider. It's lively, featuring some great transformation sequences and a pleasant aesthetic. The setup is familiar, but delivered with an earnest energy that can easily sweep you up in it. And in general it's just nice to see more of this kind of magical girl series running, after Pretty Cure has had to carry the torch on its own for a while. I imagine fans of the original don't need any prompting to see this new series, but if you're a newbie like me who was curious, it's definitely worth checking out.
I never caught on to the Tokyo Mew Mew bandwagon back in the day, since I was still of the age where I failed to recognize that cutesy-poo magical girl anime were barely one or two degrees removed from my beloved Power Rangers. Still, that doesn't keep this updated remake of the original anime from feeling like a blast from the past, despite its modern coat of paint. The Tokyo Mew Mew of 2022 is a heaping helping of classical magical girl goodness, and any genre aficionados will likely get a huge kick out of it.
Ironically, where I was a bit too young and immature to appreciate the fun of Tokyo Mew Mew in the early 2000s, the biggest problems I had with this new premiere stem from me being a little too old to fully embrace the earnest high school romance tropes that our heroine Ichigo is so obsessed with living out in her own life. While Ichigo herself is a perfectly likeable protagonist, even if she can be a bit much at times, I simply found myself getting a little bit bored with the premiere's extended introduction of her quest to fall in love and smooch hunky boys. It isn't bad, but it's formulaic in a way that is best appreciated when you haven't seen the same story beats and character archetypes played out over and over across the decades. The same goes for the show's environmental themes; I can get behind any attempt to try and educate the masses about our increasingly dire environmental situations, but I can't pretend that watching Aoyama educate Ichigo on the basic concepts of “endangered species" and “pollution" was entertaining.
Thankfully, things improve quite a bit once Ichigo stumbles into her magical cat-girl powers and fights the nasty giant rat that is ruining her first date. Ichigo's transformation is well-done, unsurprisingly, and the overall aesthetic and power-set of her and Mint's Hero modes are quite fun and cute. The production values for this premiere are solid, and should definitely appeal to folks who can't quite vibe with the more dated designs of the '02 version of the anime.
While I can't comment on how well this first episode does in adapting the source material or recreating favorite moments from the original, I think it's safe to say that the new Tokyo Mew Mew will attract plenty of fans, new and old alike. I don't know if it's the kind of show I will personally be going back to revisit, but anyone in need of some magical girl goodness in their lives would do well to check it out.
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