Sumomomo, Momomo ~The Strongest Bride of Earth~ volume 1
We’ve seen some revolutionary titles from Yen Plus in the past, but I think this one tops them all in terms of comical absurdity. Sumomomo, Momomo derives its bizarre name from a Japanese tongue twist, which roughly translates to “Plums and peaches are part of the peach family.” The plot is a bit hard to explain, but a typical chapter goes like this:
The young-looking love interest proposes amorous affairs (usually ready herself) to our teenage protagonist, who uninterestedly refuses. Through various martial arts manga cliché parodies, an intimidating character is introduced, mocked by the protagonist and publically humiliated by either the protagonist’s intellect or the love interest’s talent.
I would call SM an affectionate parody of martial arts manga, not because its stabs at the genre are gentle but so thoroughly thought out and well placed, lampooning not just specific manga but the techniques used in any and all of them. SM reminds a little of Bobobo’s successful counterpart, something that can be absurd and still be funny. After making that distinction, I decided that what mainly caused that was two huge things; SM’s brilliant, spot on parodies and SM’s interesting, likable characters.
SM takes everything to the extreme, over exaggerating ever single moment to simply poke fun of other manga and for the most part, it does it well. The exaggerated facial features on elder characters, the intense, misplaced line strokes during what would otherwise be a relatively minor bullying scene, all of it adds to the humor. While this can get obnoxious sometimes, it’s definitely better off for not taking itself too seriously and you’ll understand why once you hear the actual plot. (Another reason this is good is because it adds emphasis to the actually dramatic moments, which would otherwise seem rather cheesy.)
Martial arts families’ disputes were apparently responsible for pretty much every war in Japanese history. But that’s not their importance, no, they also control politics, sports, the media, celebrities and gang activity from behind the scenes. To demonstrate this point, the expositor mentions sports players with “tiger” in their name, instantly equating them with the tiger gang.
So, what concerns our heroes is that the love interest and the protagonist’s families have been leading the disputes and so, if they were to marry, it would solve the conflict.
Now, disregarding the absurdity of the premise and the over complication of a rather straightforward plot there, this does actually the potential to be an interesting political romance. And in a very overanalyzing way, it is.
The love interest is convinced by her father, a parody of martial arts masters along with the protagonist’s father, that she has to produce the strongest offspring in the world and that she may only do so by marrying the protagonist, who actually gave up on martial arts long ago after a public humiliation and instead decided to become a prosecutor in the court of love. Of course, her love is a blind, unrequited one, but perhaps that’s not as shallow as it seems.
Her father would have only benefits from convincing her to marry our protagonist and end the warring disputes once and for all and perhaps planted in her head from childhood, which causes her to, as many children do, emphasize the positive things (and in some cases, imagine) in the protagonist until she’d created an idealized version of reality.
Also, because of the family disputes, a bunch of assassins are after the protagonist.
The chapters are episodic and better for it, as the comedy pretty much relies on making fun of martial arts clichés in different situations. While the exposition is a funny parody of the over complications of regular exposition, it becomes annoyingly elusive and the plot is whittled down to the same formulaic comedy, which sometimes runs out of jokes.
The art, while a brilliant parody of exaggerated manga art, can often become obnoxious or ruin a scene and contains a surprisingly disturbing amount of fan service for the love interest, who is drawn to look like a ten year old.
The absurdity of everything sweeps you up in it but unlike manga like Bobobo, this manga gives you an anchor of reality, which happens to be the protagonist. And any manga that makes its protagonist the most relatable is definitely doing something right.
Rarely do the gags fall flat, and they’re often consistently hilarious.
The cast is fun and really, that’s criteria enough for a good manga.
Its characterization is still a little shaky, especially of the protagonist and as a comedy, it’s not as outright hilarious as Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei or Yotsuba&! but it consistently maintains a level of quality that is above par for manga of its kind. The art often has its intentional lapses, but to the point where it doesn’t even work satirically and the story really needs layering before I can be too interested in the manga, but for now it’s done a good job of entertaining me. While the formula for chapters isn’t wholly original, it’s really perfect for this type of manga, although I hope it does expand past this formula in the next volume.
Overall, a recommended read if you don’t mind something with no weight whatsoever that never takes itself seriously.