Reviewby Lissa Pattillo,
Milton finally finds the Japan he always dreamed was out there - Akihabara! While he and Miki traverse the otaku's world with glee, Reiko follows along and reminders a time when her own misconceptions hurt her (not to mention others preconceptions about her). While the trio surround themselves with cosplay and figurines, Jody finds himself in the company of the Morimoto. The yakuza has survived a run-in with the yakuza-slaying, sexually-driven 'Gill' responsible for bringing Milton and Jody to Japan in the first place and he's out to live it up with the same sex, drugs and violence that fuels his everyday with Jody in tow. Everyone takes their final grasps at sex and acceptance in the final volume of Peepo Choo.
In case you've forgotten what kind of show you're in for when jumping into a volume of Peepo Choo, the opener here – which takes off right from the end of the second – wastes no time reminding you. The gentle-giant during the day, yakuza-killing war machine at night stands briefly crotch to head against the maniacal yakuza member, Morimoto, after having just finished off another victim. Said victim remains decapitated and impaled a top his murderer's more unexpectedly deadly weapon before the beast makes his exit in a glass-shattering, blood-splattering show of outright gratuity. He leaves Morimoto untouched in his wake to save the young man for our entertainment later, a switch-hitter twist on the story's most prevalent element that ends up being one of the best parts of this final volume.
Peepo Choo hasn't felt like the most thought-out manga since the get-go – different aspects of the story never felt sufficiently relevant enough to another, past some overlapping characters whose importance to each others situations was minimal at best. Even if they had overlapped, the yakuza story somehow crossing paths directly with Milton's cultural experience, it would've been a horrible mess which speaks to how much the two elements simply don't mesh in a single series. This final volume doesn't make up for the often slapdash execution, but it does bring Peepo Choo's stronger points to a predominantly satisfying finish by continuing to explore the culture shock they share.
The first half of the series played heavily on Milton learning the harsh truth that Japan wasn't the fanciful, colorful, anime-obsessed culture he'd expected. It also wasted no opportunity to sprinkle atop the story a varied array of other cultural stereotypes played equally for laughs and contrast. In this third volume, Jody finds himself in the extended company of Morimoto - booze, drugs, prostitutes and all the trimmings. Jody thus bears direct witness to Morimoto's obsession with what he perceives as the gang-culture of America - a YouTube-inspired idolization of the violence, swearing and gang-signals that also translates to his body being covered in a variety of tattoos ranging from offensive, to silly, to simply out of place. It works with Milton's earlier preconceptions of Japan to really bookend the series with a focus on two characters with similar problems from very different lifestyles. The parallels are amusingly similar and relevant to fans of anything around the world. They also harken back to the first volume where Milton struggled amidst other inner-city teenagers at home and Jody lashed out at customers in the comic store he worked at, not to mention Reiko. In fact almost everyone this story takes time to focus on suffers from one distinct misconception or another which reinforces the concept as Peepo Choo's most prevalent theme.
By this time however, Milton has found peace with his discoveries of the true Japan and revels in his hobbies amidst those who share them (aka, he gets taken to Akihabara). With one of the leads now appeased with his place in the world, the story shifts to focus quite heavily on Reiko who has really started warming up to Milton and his exuberant passions. She joins Milton and her friend, Miki, as they peruse the otaku-capital of Japan. Through a series of sad-faced flashbacks and present-day enthusiasm of those around her, Reiko finds the happiness that the life of a busty supermodel couldn't offer her. Despite the heart-warming aspects her story brings to the book, it's a little odd that the focus shifts to her of all characters during such a crucial time in the story's climax. As a result, the story winds up feeling off-balance; this is time that could've been spent giving the other characters a more fleshed-out conclusion.
The artwork hasn't evolved too much over the series' three volumes and Felipe Smith is just as unapologetic about everything he draws. He revels freely in each opportunity to draw huge breasts, extra-disturbing imagery of sex and violence and exaggerated expressions that literally ooze from every pore if the situation calls for it (or sometimes even if it doesn't). It compliments the subject matter in a way it's hard to imagine any other style doing and the variety in the character designs makes it near impossible to mistake one character for another, which is beneficial in a story that hops around between characters so often (and so abruptly). Unfortunately there are some glaring anatomy issues that really test your ability to dismiss what looks like sloppy art as just being part of the book's style. It's hard to tell sometimes what's intentional and what's just victim of a tight schedule.
Love the fan service or not, this volume proves you can definitely have too much of a good thing. Regardless of any assumed intent to be a play on the stereotypes of anime itself, the roller-coaster curves and ballooned breasts of Reiko are often a disproportionate distraction more than anything else. The same can be said for the violence; it's still fun to see just how far over-the-top Smith is willing to go, but it can still be a bit much. There's also Milton and Miki who at the age of 16 still look like they'd be in elementary school. The combination of these two particular visuals makes it extra gross when Reiko rubs her body all over Milton in the hope of proving all men are pigs.
Putting side the series' cruder moments, at its heart Peepo Choo is like an epiphany trying to find form. The culture-shock revelations experienced by the characters, no matter how exaggerated, feel inherently true to life, as though they're inspired directly by the creator's experiences. It's unfortunate though that the parallel "yakuza killing" storyline, which probably would've been much better as a separate series, feels like little more than a neglected side project that wraps up far too quickly at the end. More killing, more insanity and more "WTF?" moments, but the ending is far from satisfying as many unanswered questions are left hanging beneath thinly veiled resolutions.
Though this marks the end of the series, the volume finishes with an open-ended tease that there could be a continuation (or you just want an author-endorsed scenario that can lead to Morimoto finally getting the butt-kicking he deserves). Ultimately Peepo Choo was a crass and crude experience but certainly not vanilla or forgettable. The combination of culture shock and outright shock make for in-your-face social commentary that amuses as well it potentially offends. For a series with so much potential, it's regrettable that a lack of overall focus fails to serve either of its stories in full.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Great cultural commentary showing the same story played out through very different eyes and circumstances; an in-your-face charisma that's never short of memorable and an overall package that definitely qualifies as unique
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