Koushi Inuzuka may not be a ninja, but he is the heir to an ancient family of martial artists - a family involved in a clash between two powerful factions that could plunge all of Japan into civil war!
While Koushi wants nothing more that to be an attorney prosecuting the biggest criminals in the nation, their plans for his future are afoot! Enter Momoko Kuzuryu, the pint-sized but powerful heiress to the family at the head of the rival faction. Koushi and Momoko's fathers have cooked up a scheme to bring peace and unite both sides by wedding their children and producing an heir...
...a duty which Momoko is only too enthusiastic to fulfill!
OK, I'm going to confess something here. I don't like Ai Yori Aoshi by Kou Fumizuki. There, I've said it. The whole upstairs, downstairs, two star-crossed lovers blah, blah...Arghh! Pass me the vomit bag! My brother likes it, however, so I must respect the ways of the Force even if I can't understand them. So I thought "What if you got Ai Yori Aoshi caught in a transporter accident with Fist of the North Star?" Now imagine my surprise when I discovered that such a title existed!?! Sumomomo (for the full title see the top of the page) is a title that is inherently the sort of story I avoid like the plague and at the same time something that I just can't help liking despite my more cultured side.
The plot is simple enough: Momoko Kuzuryuu is the daughter of one of the most powerful martial arts families in Japan. As such she is murderously skilled in the deadly ways of shounen fighting kung fu. You know the sort: jump over buildings, make waterfalls split up the middle and tear the ground apart from under a person throwing punches. However, as strong as Momoko is, her father worries that she will not be strong enough (!?!) to master all the skills of the family and take control of the clan. So he and the head of another family, Unken of the Inuzuka clan, decide that their children should marry and have children of their own which, in theory, would be powerful enough to take on the other martial arts families in Japan. Great idea...except Inuzuka's heir Koushi wants nothing to do with the clan, martial arts, Momoko and even fighting in general!
I have to say the Shounen Fighting show/manga has always mystified me. Fist of the North Star aside, there aren't many in the genre I like. Maybe because Fist...was one of the originators of the genre is why I like that title so much. But having said that, the idea of a romantic comedy around scenes of characters beating the living daylights out of each other with cries of "Momoko Frenzy BREAK!" and "BLACK DRAGON MORNING DESTROYER!!!" is pant-wettingly funny to me.
The series by relative newcomer Shinobu Ohtaka has a lot of bad points in its execution. The sheer fact of the whole sexist angle is worrisome. Momoko is a deadly fighter yet she will never be anything more than a baby making machine. While around Koushi, she turns to jelly and goes all goo-goo eyes on him. And Koushi is not a real strong male lead. He spends most of his time wishing he was not where he was. When some major revelations happen in the story it's hard to believe that as the heir to a major fighting dynasty he knew nothing of what was going on. The whole story falls into the deepest suspension of belief you'll ever find.
But it's because of these very faults that I like the series. The fact that a universe shattering fight can break out in the midst of normality is a great break from "Whoops I landed on her boobs, now she's punching me into orbit." There is a sense of playfulness at work here. To give an example: In one of the recap pages, Koushi is relating his sad tale to us and we have a picture of the two fathers holding up the children in chibi form and they cry: "Marriage!" Momoko cries "Marriage!" as well. All that comes from Koushi is "..." Koushi simply spends the first couple of days having Momoko tag along behind him and trying to do damage limitation wherever she goes and talks with people he knows. All the while he has an air of "This is such B.S.!" Standout character has to be Koushi's father (who is a literal mountain of a man) who while talking with his son has his intended daughter-in-law show up. They then proceed to have a knockdown, dragout, demolish the neighbourhood but in a friendly kinda way fight. The level of Hokuto Shinken on display is glorious. Every single fist fight that involves the main family characters ends in a complicated word puzzle to unleash the Power of the Quickening. The villains are amazing, like Momoko's childhood sweetheart (he thinks that he is anyway) who has the physical look of a tiger right down to wimpering like a tiger when backed into a corner. The bullies who keep Koushi down are of the knuckle dragging variety but they have flavour to them. The entire shtick with Koushiís P.E. instructor goes on a bit too long in my opinion but it is funny nevertheless. The sight of Momoko taking off into air Š la Superman is jaw dropping.
Ohtaka's art style is very busy. He has moments when it's very formal and structured, usually for teaser pages, but then he'll throw out the structure and go with quick, fast and fluid action scenes. If I had to pick a stylesimilar to it I'd say that of Oh!Great who did Tenjou Tenge and Air Gear. Ohtaka's style however, is slick without being seedy. That style of art was a turnoff for me reading Oh!Great's work and it was nice to find an artist who can make their characters look awesome without looking like they're on the game.
Yen Press are to be commended for picking up such a title. I don't read a lot of their work but judging between the older scans found online and this, they really have put together a nice volume. All in all I like this title and sincerely hope that it keeps up the levels I've seen on display. It's walking a fine line between being cool and being creepy.