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Anime Reviews: Sumomomo Momomo
Sumomomo Momomo boasts a supremely-hilarious first half, but the second half is a grim reminder that most action-comedies should not try to be action-dramas.
Title: Sumomomo Momomo a.k.a. Sumomomo Momomo ~Chijou Saikyou no Yome~ a.k.a. Sumomomo Momomo ~The Strongest Bride on Earth~
Production: Studio Hibari
Series Length: 22 episodes
Air Dates: 10/5/2006 to 3/15/2007
Age Rating: 13+ (mild comic violence, frequent partial nudity)
Summary: Koushi Inuzuka is a diligent student who, one day, wishes to enter law school and become a prosecutor. That is, until he encounters Momoko Kuzuryuu, a strange pink-haired girl who is dead-set on marrying Koushi and giving birth to a strong child. And if he says no, she'll use her deadly dragon-style martial arts until he says yes. Despite Koushi's rejections, both his and Momoko's fathers reveal that they have arranged for the two to be wed in order to prevent an all-out war between the 12 martial arts families of Japan. Because Momoko's family represents the dragon, the chief of the western families, and Koushi's represents the dog, the chief of the eastern families, their nuptial unity would bond all 12 clans forevermore. In order to prevent this, the other 5 families of the west have sent assassins to kill off Koushi before he can marry Momoko. Even if he somehow shakes off his assassins, he also has Momoko to deal with...
The Good: The first half
The Bad: The second half
The Ugly: The fanservice
You know, sometimes you just want to sit down and enjoy a nice, dumb comedy. One without any thought required from the viewer. At first, I believed I had stumbled across a good one with Sumomomo Momomo, but it wasn't long before I realized how wrong I was. I actually first heard of this series while watching one of the AMV Hell videos, and it looked interesting, so I took the plunge. In some ways, this anime is pure gold, but in others, it's a real turd. What do I mean by that? Let's take a look, shall we?
Right off the bat, you can tell this show isn't serious at all, what with its bouncy opening theme and ridiculous title and ridiculous character designs. But hey, at least it looks nice. This series has a lot of bright colors and smooth animation, and the ridiculous character designs make sense in context, so really, it counts as a win in that department, with the exception of one thing: the CGI representations of the Zodiac animals during combat scenes. Those suck. As for the audio side of things, the background music is pretty forgettable, but it's not bad. It complements the mood reasonably well, but it just won't stick with you; what will, however, is the incredibly infectious opening theme. The other opening/ending themes are fine, too, but that one in particular is catchy stuff.
While the story is as ridiculous as it can possibly be, it's totally not meant to be taken seriously (at first). The entire nation is depending on Koushi and Momoko to make babies, but he won't acknowledge her romantic advances! How positively wacky! The sheer ridiculousness of the plot, along with its equally ridiculous characters, is what makes it all so much fun. One of the first running gags involves Momoko thinking Koushi is a powerful martial artist like her, when in reality, he's fairly weak and avoids confrontations when he can; "He got those guys off his back without fighting them?! He must be really strong!" is the kind of thought that runs through Momoko's head, and it's always funny stuff. Another beautiful gag involves Momoko trying to take advantage of the fact Koushi repeats everything he hears while asleep, suggesting he say things like "I love you" and "I've longed for you all my life." The payoff is comedic gold, and I won't dare spoil it for you.
The first half, in fact, is chock-full of comedic gold. Along with the two main characters, you have would-be assassins Iroha and Hanzou, the shy Sanae who is forced to protect Koushi while posing as a superhero named Uma Kamen (Horse Mask) while wearing an embarrassingly skimpy bondage outfit, and the absent-minded assassin Tenka who believes his soccer ball (named Becky) talks to him. And then you have Iroha and Hanzo's landlady, who is probably the funniest character of them all. If the series had just kept its focus on what it had: an incredibly funny yet dumb story about martial arts families and assassins and whatnot, then I'd love the crap out of this show. Unfortunately, they seem to have hit a snag.
And by "snag," I secretly mean "most of the second half." For no reason whatsoever, the romance begins to be taken more seriously than it should be, the assassination plots become darker and more sinister, and GOOD GOD DID THEY REALLY DO THE YOU-ARE-POISONED-AND-MUST-BEAT-ME-FOR-THE-ANTIDOTE PLOT?! REALLY?! It should also be noted that the art, animation, music, and pacing of the series all suffer a drastic drop in quality at around the same time. The only good that came out of the more serious incidents is the entirety of Episode 18, where Koushi and Momoko have dinner with Iroha, Hanzo, their neighbors, and their landlady. Within the miring mediocrity of the second half, the funniest episode in the series makes a surprise appearance!
But after that, the poison plot comes into play, and the comedy aspect of the series is long forgotten, leaving behind a farfetched romance and some of the worst melodrama you could imagine. As icing on the cake, we get a deus ex machina ending, and everything goes back to normal! But what also gets worse as time goes on, besides the plot, is the fanservice. Now, as a red-blooded male, I enjoy seeing naked chicks. In fact, Sanae's Uma Kamen outfit, aside from being completely hilarious, is a perfect excuse for fanservice: she gets more powerful when she wears less of it! It's genius! But Sanae is well-proportioned and looks like she's of age. Momoko and Iroha, however, do not. They barely look half the legal age of consent. And there is an awfully disturbing amount of nakedness involving them. And we're supposed to find this attractive. No thanks, show. No thanks.
So, how do we tally this up? On the plus side, the art/animation are pretty good, the characters are hilarious, and its absurd story makes for a lot of fun to be had. On the negative side, the second half throws away the comedy, forces hammy melodrama down our throats, botches the characters entirely, ruins any fun the story might have had, and gives us a terrible deus ex machina ending. However, I'd feel bad if I didn't recommend it, so...give it a shot. If, when you begin to feel things are starting to be taken a bit too seriously, skip to Episode 18 and then stop, cold turkey. And don't bother with the whole "I gotta see how it ends" thing. It's not worth it.
Final Score: 4 out of 10. A promising and very hilarious first half is slowly corrupted by awkward melodrama, bad action, lame writing, and a lazy ending.