Once upon a time, a boy was born from the pit of a giant peach. This boy, named Momotaro, grew up and became a great hero who protected his village from marauding ogres by conquering them on their own island territory. Centuries later in the present day, this island off the coast of Japan has come to be ruled by the descendants of Momotaro, who continue to wage secret war against the remaining ogres. To this end, a very special school has been built to trainsenkishi—ogre exterminators.
And now a new class, sixty of the most unlikely and colorful of personages, united only by their collective potential to become great senkishi, has been convened. One of them, however, is even more unlikely than the rest: Kokonose Mutsu, nine years old and self-proclaimed ninth generation descendant of ogres! The arrogant, irrepressible Kokonose is determined to win back the ancestral homeland of his people from the “invaders.” So why, exactly, is he fraternizing with the enemy?! And for that matter, why are the powers that be tolerating his presence in the first place???
Tokyopop’s release of Momo Tama is the publisher’s third title by fan favorite mangaka Nanae Chrono. Previously published works available in English includePeacemaker Kurogane and Vassalord. Chrono is a latter day master of offbeat, action-packed manga that appeals broadly to readers of all ages and both sexes, to those who have been reading manga for decades and those who are new to the medium. As one of her newest, Momo Tama is an excellent example of her brand of comics craft, combining the perennially popular school setting with action-adventure, mythology, and a liberal dose of belly laughs.
At first it seems a bit like this manga is trying to be a superficial smattering of all things to all people, and just busy enough to be thoroughly confusing. A lot of characters are introduced in the first one hundred and fifty odd pages, and their respective motivations and relative importance seem opaque. But by the end of the first volume, the story’s focus has refined itself, and it’s clear that everything, including some of the narrative obscurity that is likely to confuse readers, was all according to the creator’s plan. The progression boasts the hallmarks of a plot that is well-considered and pre-planned. Not all manga are this way, and series that have ambitions as big as Momo Tama’s are all the better and more enjoyable for it.
Of course, Chrono is most beloved for her exquisite artwork, characterized by instantly recognizable, bold, dynamic line work. She has improved dramatically over the years, so that even action scenes nowadays are intelligible and easy to visually scan. The humorous side of Momo Tama plays out most overtly in the context of the art; characters’ expressions range from the serious to the sexy to the outright silly from panel to panel, and it is arguably the silly faces that are the most delightful. The irrepressibility of all of her characters—and Kokonose in particular—are sure to please. Recommended.
Reviewed by Casey Brienza on July 9, 2012
Momo Tama, Vol. 1