Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, August 25, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Writer/Artist:Michiko Yokote and Pink Hanamori
Translated by:William Flanagan
What They Say
Lucia is the new girl at school. She and her sister run a public bath that's all the rage. When Lucia meets a terrific-looking surfer boy, there's just one little problem: Lucia is a mermaid-not just any mermaid, but a princess on an important mission to save the seven seas from an evil force bent on taking control of the marine world. Such a responsibility doesn't leave much time for romance. But Lucia vows to protect her world and win the heart of handsome Kaito.
Pichi Pichi Pitch is an extremely popular anime in Japan. Now it's the newest craze in the world of magical-girl manga!
The first thing that strikes me as I look at this manga is that it's probably about mermaids. Lucia is the focus of this cover, in her mermaid form under the ocean. The title of the manga is underneath her, with a bunch of sparkles and air bubbles floating around. Oh yeah, we're in mermaid territory. For whatever reason, Del Rey chose not to continue this under-the-sea motif onto the back, and it's rather bland with just the manga summary and a small picture of Lucia and Kaito near the center-right. All in all the presentation is pretty disappointing, especially considering the excellent artwork found throughout the rest of the volume. Even the cover illustration of Lucia is rather bland.
Hanamori's artwork is the most unique and interesting aspect of this manga, bar none. While it remains firmly rooted in the realm of typical shoujo with willowy characters, minimal backgrounds, and bishounen love interests, these features aren't as exaggerated as they are in many other titles. Even the character's proportions are accurate, including hands and arms, which seem to be a large problem for other shoujo artists. Perhaps most noticeably, Hanamori's female characters are a lot more...full figured, and more attractive in general, than you'd expect to find in this type of manga. You're not going to open up Pichi Pichi Pitch and suddenly confuse it with an underwater Battle Vixens or Tenjou Tenge, but considering that this series originated from a morning anime shoujo series of the same name, the amount of light fanservice that exists is surprising.
I was honestly taken aback at how much this works in Pichi Pichi Pitch's favor. It manages to do something very few manga can pull off: have its artwork appeal to both male and female readers. This is a huge accomplishment, and certainly speaks volumes about Hanamori as an artist. I found myself going back to reread a section over just to admire the artwork, which is something I do not do very often.
There's some stunted dialog and occasional subject confusion, but I can't blame that on the translator; this hardly seems like Shakespeare. Also speech bubbles often do not clearly define which character is speaking them, and I hate " I HATE - when that happens. The sound effects are translated in a small, unobtrusive font that's just right; it's small enough not to get in the way, but it's large enough that you can read what it says. A typical Del Rey release, all things considered, which is definitely not a bad thing.
It's about singing mermaids that use karaoke mics to fight evil denizens of the sea. How much story do you really expect? If story is what holds a manga together, Pichi Pichi Pitch is bound with chewing gum and half-melted glue sticks. It's almost so nonsensical that I feel dumb retelling it.
Lucia is a bubbly airhead, and the main character. Along with her sister, Nikora, and a talking blue penguin named Hippo, she runs a bathhouse while she's on land, where she's looking for her pearl, which will allow her to become an adult princess. Normally this would be a large focus of the storyline, but Lucia finds her pearl very quickly; it just happens to be in the hands of a boy she saved from drowning many years ago named Kaito. She's still in love with him from back then (of course) and he still remembers her, although he doesn't recognize Lucia in human form. While surfing one day, he gets captured by one of Gackto's minions, who's after the pearl he carries around his neck (which is Lucia's). Gackto is an evil...well, guy, who lives on the bottom of the ocean and wants to collect all seven mermaid princess pearls so he can awaken the Goddess of the Seas, Aqua Regina. When Lucia finally recovers her pearl trying to save Kaito, she realizes she's one of the mermaid princesses. She...didn't know this before. I'm not sure how one goes through life not knowing they're a princess, but let's just set that aside for now. Now she has to (along with two other princesses she befriends) find the other princesses and their pearls before Gackto does and unite them to summon Aqua Regina herself, because the mermaid nations are in trouble and she's the only one that can stop things going down the drain.
If you feel a little stupider after reading that, don't worry, because I feel ten times stupider for writing it all out. Thankfully, the main story is never really touched on too much throughout the volume. Sure, we see that Gackto has two mermaid princesses already imprisoned, which is a small miracle considering the hopelessly inept minions he has, but outside of that the whole "save the ocean" plotline is put on the backburner for a while. Which is fine, because it leaves more time to focus on the personal lives and stories of Lucia and to a lesser extent, the other two princesses. Don't get me wrong, these slice of life segments aren't going to win any awards for storytelling, but compared to the underlying story they're a welcome reprieve.
I've been pretty harsh to Pichi Pichi Pitch so far. However, this shambling, clumsy, almost mockery of a plot works for what it is, which is a vehicle to allow Lucia and friends to further their own personal storylines and then sing at a villain at the end of a chapter to stop them doing something bad. This manga could have been an enormous trainwreck, but thankfully manages to catch itself on the brink, because the mangaka realized that although you must have an overarching storyline, you don't necessarily have to focus on it. So while we get a hastily cobbled-together reason for all these characters to be where they are, watching the characters just do their thing isn't nearly so bad.
Indeed, Pichi Pichi Pitch is actually quite enjoyable, in a very dumb way. You know the premise is farfetched and the relationships are not the most carefully crafted and managed, but it doesn't take itself too seriously and is just amusing overall. It almost falls into the "so bad it's good" category.
There's really not much to say about this manga. The chapters proceed in a very typical fashion, from relationship problem to big villain fight that lasts all of two pages to relationship conclusion. All the absurdity definitely works in its favor, though, making it virtually impossible for you to take it seriously. The gorgeous art doesn't hurt the reading experience either. If you're looking for something that's clearly style over substance, and don't want to resort to the mounds of shonen manga that feature breasts and fight scenes ad nauseam, you may want to check this out. Or if you have a real thing for singing mermaids.
Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
Orientation: Right to Left