#1 Consistently poor theming
Tokyo Mew Mew is a show that plays around with many ideas to base its story around, all of which I find interesting concepts that the show then proceeds to do absolutely nothing with. The story goes that earth is facing an alien invasion from a species of dark elf-like villains that are mad about humanity polluting the earth. Rather than sending armies to take over the planet, they send a special kind of parasite that turns the animals of earth into monstrous versions of themselves referred to a Chimera Animals.
A hidden organization researches ways to defeat the aliens, which leads to them creating the Mew Mews. These are a group of girls that are (often unwillingly) infused with the spirits of endangered animals, which are immune to the parasite that creates the Chimera Animals.
Each episode sees the Mew Mews solving some kind of problem that usually concludes with them battling against a Chimera Animal or one of the villains commanding them, but my most prominent issue is that none of the girls feel at all connected to the animals they are meant to represent. Mint and Lettuce especially had me absolutely dumbfounded as to what kind of animals they were supposed to be, as Mint just shoots things with a magic bow and Lettuce can create streams of water. Turns out they were meant to be a Blue Lorikeet and Finless Porpoise respectively, even though their color palettes and general design don’t reflect this at all.
Pudding is perhaps more accurately designed to be monkey-like, but she was already acrobatic before becoming a Mew Mew. She doesn’t gain any new, monkey-like abilities, instead she gains the power to generate massive puddings. Ichigo is perhaps the best-designed character, with her being clearly a cat, using toy-like items as weapons, and gaining a lot of agility after getting her power. Even then, I was severely disappointed when she later gains the ability to completely transform into a cat, and instead of being an Iriomote like her spirit animal, she just turns into a regular kitten.
The theme of pollution is also rarely brought up or explored, even though the first episode seems to set up Ichigo’s romantic interest as a fervent environmentalist. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this to be a show that hits you over the head with its messages all the time, but it just seems to odd to establish environmentalism as a major theme of the story and then only bring it up maybe once every 8-9 episodes.
Tokyo Mew Mew is a pretty decent magical girl show and I can generally appreciate the story of any given episode, which tends to have some nice messages and entertaining arcs. It just bothers me to no end how inconsistently the overarching thematic elements are used, and how simple changes like actually making Ichigo an Iriomote would make it that much more interesting.
#2 Slow boil
Tokyo Mew Mew is a 52-episode anime spread out over two 26-episode seasons. It’s not a terribly long show, yet I found it kind of a bother to sit through due to the episodic structure of its story. While it does have an overarching plot that moves forward between the episodes, most individual stories are single-episode affairs where the Mew Mews have to foil some small attempt of the villains to be a nuisance. A lot of these are fun when seen on their own, yet with this many episodes the team of bad guys almost gains Team Rocket status for how often and easily they are defeated over and over again.
This takes away from their impact and makes scenes like the season 1 finale suddenly a lot harder to swallow, as Kisshu and his comrades suddenly have to be many times more competent compared to earlier encounters. Characters also just kind of slide up and down the power scale to accommodate episodes in which somebody gains particular focus. For example, in one episode in season 1 Kisshu comments that Ichigo has grown so powerful he doesn’t dare to fight her anymore, yet he still does so many times across the series with little difficulty.
At the same time, it’s difficult to keep track of plot elements that are introduced throughout, exactly because progress on their development is so sluggish. The mystery regarding the Blue Knight, for example, ceases to be interesting because the dude just pops in once every few episodes for a quick fight scene. There is no time to focus on his story because it doesn’t fit in with the episodic structure.
#3 Mew Mew Power
For the English release everybody’s favorite licensing company 4Kids was brought in to localize Tokyo Mew Mew, which they renamed to Mew Mew Power. Now, unlike many in the anime community I don’t think 4Kids was that terrible. Sure, they did meddle with the source material too often, but they were integral to the anime boom of the 90s among kids like me. With that said, Mew Mew Power is definitely one of their worst works.
Every single sin is present here. Cutting down and shuffling the story? We got that aplenty, with Mew Mew Power featuring only half the episodes in an entirely different order. We don’t get episode 1, so the entire story kicks off without establishing Ichigo’s character and the basics of the story. What follows is a wholly confusing tale that leaves out important episodes and completely overhauls character backstories, including rewriting the entire origin of the villains to be more undeniably evil and less sympathetic.
I honestly don’t get this. Why even bother licensing a show if you are going to toss half of it out of the window. Sure, it takes work to dub and edit everything, but surely that was your intention to begin with, right? You’d figure a localization company set out with the goal of making money on its localized products, and rewriting the entire plot just seems like a massive amount of work that doesn’t result in more episodes broadcasted or DVDs sold. Somewhat hilariously, they didn’t even include the climactic 5-episode long finale, instead opting to pass the season 1 finale off as the series’ ending.
4Kids also pulled that old stunt where they renamed all the character to be more English… except most of them already were. A large part of the cast already had English names that abided by some theme, and they still opted to change these in favor of more generic ones. Even this they messed up, as they establish their own naming patterns and then don’t follow them. Two of three aliens have names that are words written backward (Dren and Tarb), only for the last alien to be named Sardon, which is short for sardonic and describes his personality. The worst offender, though, is Mint Aizawa, who they renamed to Corina Bucksworth.
Somebody got paid to come up with that…
The voice acting is actually quite competent for 4Kids, but just lacks some of the special touches of the Japanese original. Pudding, here named Kikki, just sounds like a high-pitched teenager, and Zakuro (renamed to Renee) lacks the maturer tone she has in the subbed version.
There is a lot to complain about here, so let’s cut this short. If you really can’t stand subs, then you may as well skip Mew Mew Power entirely. The dub is so messy in its structure and lacks so much of the story and qualities that it’s not worth it. Unless you have nostalgic memories of the dub, it’s just not an option.