Pichi Pichi Pitch: Mermaid Melody Vol. 2 (Del Rey)

Magical mermaids fight evil with a song in Pichi Pichi Pitch, a flawed-yet-worthy new magical girl story from Del Rey.


(Del Rey; 202 pgs. B&W; $10.95)

(W: Michiko Yokote and Pink Hanamori; A: Pink Hanamori)

Magical girl stories are a staple of the anime and manga industry, but the genre can, frankly, get a tad repetitive. Most shows follow the template set by Naoko Takeuchi’s smash hit Sailor Moon of a pretty-yet-klutzy high school girl who becomes a chosen warrior, fighting evil by moonlight and winning love by daylight. With all the knockoffs out there, it’s nice to see a book like Pichi Pichi Pitch that, despite its flaws, tries to do something new with the genre.

In the world of Pichi Pichi Pitch, one of the series most interesting elements, the oceans are divided into seven mermaid nations, each corresponding to one of the seven seas. Our heroine, Lucia, is the princess of the North Pacific, a mermaid who can use her special pearl to transform into a human girl. Seven years before our story is set, she saved the life of a young man named Kaito, who fell in love with her. Kaito doesn’t realize the connection between the human and the mermaid Lucias, and Lucia can’t tell him either, lest she turn into foam. Meanwhile, Lucia has teamed together with Hanon and Rina, two more of the seven mermaid princesses, using their Pichi Pichi singing powers to defend their oceanic communities from the villainous Gackto.

In this second volume, Lucia reaches age 13, which means she’s finally come of age. Her mermaid bat mitzvah is interrupted by an attack from Gackto, which is foiled by the three mermaids and the mermaid goddess Aqua Regina. The goddess is not at full strength, however, and can only drive away Gackto but not defeat him. Her powers can only be restored, she tells them, if all seven mermaid princesses and their seven sacred pearls are united, sending our heroines on a quest to find their compatriots and save their undersea world once and for all.

The mermaid heroines of Pichi Pichi Pitch may be warriors, but that doesn’t mean that Michiko Yokote (credited with "Scenario") and Pink Hanamori spend much time on the action scenes. The fight scenes are more implied than anything else, the princesses bursting onto the stage and winning the battles in a matter of 2-3 pages, leaving more room for the hot-and-cold romance between Kaito and Lucia, a wise decision that focuses the book squarely on its emotional center.

Hanamori’s art is both Pichi Pichi Pitch’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness. The book certainly looks great; the character designs are typical shojo, all long slender legs and big, dewy eyes along the lines of Arina Tanemura (Full Moon O Sagashite, Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne) or Wataru Yoshizumi (Ultramaniac), with a high attention to costume detail. Her storytelling, however, is much more scattershot, with lots of strange scene-to-scene and panel-to-panel transitions. The writing is quick and breezy, making it easy to cruise too fast and lose track of what’s going on as perspectives and locations change seemingly on a whim. Also, while the female characters get the star treatment here, the men don’t come off nearly as well: there are three male characters, and all three look identical, right down to their haircuts. Gackto and Kaito engage in a knockdown, drag-out fight, and it becomes nearly impossible to tell which one is which.

Hanamori's Pichi Pichi Pitch lacks any real action, or anything so new or novel that it will draw in any nonbelievers, but for magical girl fans this is an interesting twist in a genre that sometimes needs a little twisting.

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