#1 An excellent mahou shoujo cast
Aliens are invading earth, using a strange parasite that turns the animals we know so well into monstrous mutations of themselves. A secret organization has created the Mew Mew project, whereby five girls are infused with the spirits of endangered animals to help fight off these aliens and the monsters they are creating. What follows is a magical girl show that doesn’t exactly surprise in any way, using a lot of familiar concepts and themes that are easy to understand. What it lacks in originality and innovation, it instead makes up for with sheer cuteness and being really competent at what it does.
The five core characters are all fun and see a lot of development throughout the show’s 52 episodes. Ichigo is a typical school girl with a crush on the coolest guy around, but who is really awkward and kind of a klutz. She gains the powers of an Iriomote Wildcat, granting her much agility, but forcing her to deal with keeping her tail and cat ears hidden at all times. She is the protagonist of the story and sees the most development, which we’ll get back to in a bit.
Mint is a girl hailing from a lot of money and is very confident in the kind of person she is. She consistently refuses to perform actual work at the cafe and often seems aloof, yet reveals herself to be an intelligent person over time that really does care for her friends. She has the powers of a Blue Lorikeet, owing to her being a ballerina.
Lettuce is a timid girl who becomes a finless porpoise, an odd choice considering she has no particular connection with that animal. She is first introduced as the gopher to a group of bullies, but quickly escapes this situation and becomes a much happier person after joining the Mew Mews.
Zakuro is a professional model and actress who gains the spirit of a lone wolf, and is therefore very confrontational and initially wary of cooperating with the rest of the cast. Even after joining she remains kind of distant and is notably more mature than the other girls. Not exactly a team player, yet she often surprises when she does decide to help out or offer the girls emotional support when they are facing hard times.
Special mentions has to go to Pudding, a much younger girl who was already monkey-like even before she gained a spirit. Pudding is hyperactive, acrobatic, and almost always in a good mood, which her VA Hisayo Mochizuki pulls off fantastically. While her antics could get a bit annoying, the delivery of her lines was always adorable and very entertaining.
Not only do these characters fight aliens and monsters together, they also work at the Mew Mew Maid Cafe where they face challenges of a different kind. The show also features a lot of team-building, as the girls are initially strangers that do their own thing, whereas by the end of the show they are the tightest of friends and fight like a cohesive unit.
The girls are adorable, get to wear all sorts of cute outfits, and watching them grow was a great experience that certainly keeps you watching through those 52 episodes. Mahou Shoujo at its finest.
#2 Ichigo’s romantic ordeals
Ichigo has a crush on Aoyama-Kun, a cool and dependable guy that does kendo and is popular with everybody at school. Her romance is one of the slowly-developing stories that spans the entire show, which starts out a bit generic as her just fancying the same dude as every other girl in class, but quickly grows more complicated from there.
Even when the two begin to hit it off and the romance becomes more genuine, her duties as a Mew Mew often make it hard for her to spend time with Aoyama as well. Dates end up canceled or ruined, and she even begins to find it hard to just look him in the eyes because of how guilty she feels. On top of that, her dedication to Aoyama is threatened by other boys in her life, such as Ryou Shirogane who commands the Mew Mews and is really ambiguous about his feelings towards her, or the alien Kisshu who intends to spare her from his plans of destroying humanity to make her his bride.
While it took me a while to warm up to Aoyama as his own character, I really started to like the guy by the midpoint of the first season. Many of the show’s best episodes involve him in some way and especially episodes that set up some conflict between Ichigo and him are some of the anime’s best. Ichigo is also an adorable protagonist that I really grew to like, so rooting for her and Oayama to eventually get together was a big reason for me to stick with the show.
Even then, the alternatives are appealing as well and sympathetic characters in their own right. Ryou Shirogane has a tough guy attitude to him and often acts disinterested, all while working his butt off to keep the Mew Mew project going and help the girls to the best of his abilities. While rare, on occasion we get to see him at his most genuine when he has his guard down, and it’s those moments that really sold me on his character. Kisshu is also interesting because his passion for Ichigo at first just seems like he’s trying to confuse and tease her, forcing himself on her, stealing kisses, and just always being around when it’s the most uncomfortable. He’s definitely a villain and while I did get around to liking the dude, his storyline just goes in the craziest directions and I ain’t going to spoil any of it.
#3 Strong, standalone episodes
Tokyo Mew Mew follows a weekly, episodic format wherein the vast majority of its 52 episodes are standalone stories. You fire up any random episode and chances are you’ll witness a cool, little adventure take place in the span of just 22 minutes. These may push the overall story forward a bit or you might run into an episode that turns into a two-parter, but most of them will be self-contained.
While this does leave the plot as a whole a little underdeveloped, it also makes this show easy to digest. You get to experience a lot of adventures with the Mew Mew crew, and that honestly helped endear the characters faster than if they did one long, ongoing story. This way the show stays much more interesting, as you get a pay off to a storyline every few minutes instead of building up to something big over the course of hours. And if any single storyline doesn’t click with you, at least it’ll be brief and you have another shot with the next one.
These episodic stories are also really darn good and often focus on developing the main characters. One of my favorite episodes deals with Lettuce’s passion for her hobby being used to exploit her, another with Mint’s strained relationship with her brother. These are great stories that have an impact on the characters involved, and make sure everybody in the main cast gets multiple moments to shine throughout the entire show.
Another great quality of them is that I could see how this would be appealing to people of all ages. I am in my twenties myself and I’m not ashamed to admit I was taken in by some of these stories. It’s obviously directed at a younger, mostly female audience, yet I could also see young boys get into it for the same reason we watched Sailor Moon back in the day. Yeah, it’s a bit girly, but it has action and comedy you can just get behind.