Mamotte! Lollipop Vol. 1 (Del Rey)

mamotteheaderThis cutesy tale of girl-meets-wizards follows all the formulas.

 

 

218 pgs. FC; $10.95

(W / A: Michiyo Kikuta)

 

As shojo manga gains in popularity on this side of the Pacific, more and more Japanese comics aimed at young girls are being translated into English. A series being a "young girls" comic may seem to imply that it will hold absolutely no appeal to those who are neither young nor girls (like your reviewer, for example), but target audience isn’t a very good measure of quality when there are books like Sugar Sugar Rune out there. Unfortunately, for every series that rises above and beyond, there are plenty more that are happy to settle for a simple, by-the-numbers story for girls only. Mamotte! Lollipop is one of the latter.

The cover to Mamotte! Lollipop Vol. 1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Nina is your stereotypical Japanese junior high student, hanging out with her friends and chatting about boys. No sooner does Nina describe her perfect boy ("Strong, kind, good-looking…and someone who’d protect me," she tells her faceless, nameless friends) when two strong, kind, good-looking protectors literally fall out of the sky. Turns out the boys, Ichi and Zero, are wizards (right down to their flying car — Harry Potter, anyone?) who are in the human world to complete their Magic Exam. All they need is the Crystal Pearl…which Nina accidentally ate. With more wizards-in-training hot on their tails, the boys take Nina under their wing and she ends up with double what she wished for.

Mamotte! Lollipop is Michiyo Kikuta’s first manga, and it shows, as she revels in nearly every conceivable clich√© of the genre. Kikuta settles for easy gags (a rival wizard who gets tricked into cross-dressing, a curvaceous love interest for Ichi who mocks Nina for being flat-chested) and even easier plot points. When a wizard from the Magic World pops up for a midterm, you can be sure Nina will end up as the damsel in distress, and that Ichi and Zero will have to make a not-so-difficult difficult decision when it’s time for the final rescue. The entire cast just happens to show up at the same hot spring together in chapter 3, which simultaneously proved several of my long-standing theories: that every manga and anime series is required to have a hot springs/bathhouse episode, that one character is required to end up in the opposite gender’s bath in said episode, and that at least one character will be "accidentally" exposed, all of which happens here like clockwork. You almost have to admire Kikuta for so slavishly following the formula.

That being said, Mamotte! Lollipop is certainly not a horrible comic. It’s well-paced, features generally likable characters, and the art, though fairly standard, is attractive (bearing a passing resemblance to Pichi Pichi Pitch, which Kikuta served as an art assistant on). Anatomical mistakes and shifting facial features crop up with alarming regularity, but these are nit-picky, old man complaints. Young girl readers can easily overlook the book’s shortcomings and enjoy it as the light entertainment it was meant to be, but more mature readers looking for something more substantive should check elsewhere.

You certainly can’t fault Del Rey, as they do their typical bang-up job on publishing. Included are several notes from the author on the creation of the book’s chapters, 6 pages of translation notes, and a "Find the Difference!" activity page (there’s that "target audience" thing again…). But the best bonus of all is a 30-page bonus story, Medical Magical, featuring a young witch named Pure who gets in over her head when she tries to use her magic to cure a sick old man. It’s a simple tale with a moral you’ll see coming a mile away, but it’s a short and sweet story that at the very least will have you setting down the book with a smile on your face. | Jason Green

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