story by Ken Akamatsu; art by RAN; adapted by Jamie Jacobs
published by Del Rey Manga; $14.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
This volume continues, and concludes, the adventures of Mao-chan and the Special Defense Corps as they attempt to fight off the aliens who want to steal all of Japan’s cultural landmarks. The two female alien spies disguised as high school students face new hardships as they run out of money and have to find jobs to pay the bills while continuing their mission. Once the alien leader appears, the final battle begins. What will become of Japan’s national treasures?
As in volume 1, Del Rey has combined the third and fourth volumes of the Japanese edition into one book for US release.
Part of the charm of this series has been the over-the-top humor. Akamatsu continues to weave light satire into this series. He pokes fun at such diverse targets as Dominion Tank Police, Galaxy Express 999, Gon, and Tenchi Muyo. The jokes are genuinely funny; several times, I actually burst out laughing at a scene. Wait until you see what happens when a tank with artificial intelligence turns to a life of crime.
Surprisingly, the biggest target is Love Hina, with two chapters of Akmatsu making jokes at his own expense. We are introduced to Keinosuke Urashima, a student who keeps failing the entrance examine to Tokyo U, and his girlfriend Nana Nanasegawa. Together, they run a hot spring resort called Hinata Ryokan. The funniest moment in the book is when Nana and Private Mishima (both modeled after Love Hina‘s Naru) meet, and everyone remarks on how they look identical.
But the series doesn’t rely solely on satire. Mao-chan is filled with appealing characters. The three young girls of the Special Defense Corps all really care about each other. Their grandfathers may try to make everything a competition, but they wisely ignore them and focus on being friends and developing teamwork. They also take seriously their role to preserve Japan’s landmarks. They’re earnestly trying their best in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s easy to find yourself drawn in by their youth and sincerely.
RAN continues to provide excellent artwork. He’s certainly an accomplished mimic. I would like to see a series where he gets a chance to develop his own style. Just a brief word of warning. There is plenty of fan service. No nudity, but lots of bikinis and towels.
Overall, Mao-chan was an enjoyable read. It was a good break from all the more serious manga I’ve been reading lately. The decision to keep Mao-chan short was wise. It prevents the humor or the characters from getting stale. I’m optimistic that Mao-chan will most appeal to anime and manga fans who like a good parody. However, the jokes are broad enough on their own that anyone can read and enjoy Mao-chan.