Friday, May 15, 2009

Sumomomo Momomo

Sumomomo Momomo; Animated comedy series, Japan, 2006; D: Nobuaki Nakanishi, S: Hiroki Takashi, Yuki Kano, Ui Miyazaki, Aya Hirano, Chihiro Suzuki

Koushi Inuzuka is an intelligent high school student who wants to study law and tends to despise violence and martial law. But one day, his father, a martial arts expert, reveals him that he engaged him when he was a little kid to Momoko, a sloppy looking but extremely strong martial arts girl, so that they will have “advisable” martial arts children. Koushi is horrified by the engagement and from there on spends his days trying to avoid the devoted Momoko. Additional complications show up when six rival martial arts families send various assassins to kill Koushi, but are always stopped by Momoko. One assassin, Iroha, also falls for him.

“Sumomomo Momomo” is one of those animes that surprise you with two things: the first surprise is how wonderfully simple it makes you like it in the first few episodes, and the second one is how it subsequently makes you unlike it after that the exactly same, simple way. It’s not so much that the story went on a wrong track starting from episode 5, as much as it’s the fact that it didn’t continue its own footsteps but went on to become a bland, empty and lax story that exhausts itself in the first few episodes and doesn’t even try to offer something to the viewers after it. That said, one just has to admit one thing, namely that episode 4 is a masterwork – it is written, conceptualized and executed in such a smashing manner that many romantic films would become jealous of its simplicity. The person who wrote that episode is a genius and it’s a pity the same formula was not applied for the whole anime. Episode 4 really is a small jewel, but we will come to that later. The remaining 22 episodes, from episode 5 onwards, revolving around the plot of a devoted clumsy girl Momoko who is in engaged to the indifferent Koushi, lose their steam and become silly – and that’s a shame. Silly can be found anywhere. Real humor can be found only in selected few geniuses.

The CGI animation of the dragon, which is suppose to represent Momoko’s strength of “dragon martial arts”, is crap, many subplots, like the one revolving around the jealous gym teacher who challenges Momoko or an assassin who is trained by the “tiger style” and is thus easily defeated by “cat’s flaws” (Koushi places empty water bottles in front of him and he is defeated because “cat’s can be banished by bottles in Japan”, even though that technique is unknown in the West) is lousy, while the absurd touch loses it’s sharpness. Among the plus points is the smooth animation and some voice actors, like Yu Miyazaki as Iroha. But the real virtues were only developed in that magical episode 4: besides the beautiful way the assassin Iroha falls in love with her target Koushi, the stand out moment that makes you want to knee down in front of it is the one where Momoko accidentally spots her beloved Koushi sleeping in his bed, while wearing two earphones that dictate laws from his study and are presumably there to teach him those in his sleep the whole night. But she can’t resist but to take the earphones off and try out an experiment: she cautiously whispers:”I like Momoko”. And truly, Koushi repeats “I like Momoko” in his sleep. She is jumping all around the room from joy and whispers this to him: “I will marry Momoko”. And he repeats that as well. Then she goes really close to his ear and whispers the following: “…I’ll mess you up really good”. But to her shock, the camera reveals that Koushi actually woke up during that last statement, which causes an explosive situation. If at least the whole anime was like that, instead of following the old scheme of drawing the audience with the pilot episode and then dropping the whole thing.


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