As David reported earlier this week, both he and I were guests on a recent episode of Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud podcast, along with Ed (of course) and Okazu‘s Erica Friedman. Our topic of discussion was Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo, originally serialized in Kodansha’s Morning Two magazine and published in English by Vertical, Inc.
To prepare for the podcast, I did a full re-read of the series as it stands, and as I reached the end, I felt incredibly sad that there was no more of it. Whatever the reason(s) for the three-volume wrap-up, and however gracefully Smith managed to wrap it up (quite gracefully, indeed), there was so much more I wanted to see, and I was pretty much heartbroken to know I’d never see it. Would Milton really be able to be true to himself once he got back home? What happens when Reiko gets there? Can Rockstar possibly survive Chicago, and who will he ultimately be if he does? These questions tease me mercilessly, along with many more.
Most of what I have to say about the series, I said on the podcast, but I do want to emphasize how much I enjoyed it and how much I thought it had to say, not just about fans, but about people in general, and how much energy we devote to our strong need for connection and identification. There’s a subtle warmth running quietly through the story that becomes evident as it progresses, offering a fascinating contrast to the outrageous, even shocking imagery Smith often uses to make his points. Ultimately the series was one of my favorites of the year, and if I can’t have more of it, I hope at least that we’ll soon see new work from Smith, whatever it might be.
On to the point of this column! There are a whole lot of reasons to read Peepo Choo, but since this is Thursday, I’m going to give you 3. Trust me, they’re more than enough. A bonus: alliteration.
3 Reasons to Read Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo
1. Rants – One of the series’ most winning moments occurs right near the beginning of the first volume, when comic book store employee Jody calls out both the superhero fans and the anime fans in the store for being equal losers in the eyes of general society. Most fans will find that this rant hits home (maybe more than they’d like to admit). And just wait for what Smith does to US anime and manga companies later in the series.
2. Reiko – Easily the best (and best-written) character in the series, jaded teen gravure model Reiko kicks some serious ass, both literally and figuratively. She’s a strong female character who doesn’t have to give that up in order to find out who she really is. Hers is the most complete journey of the series, and it’s more than worth following.
3. Rockstar – I already admitted it in the podcast, so I might as well come clean here. Morimoto Rockstar is one of my favorite characters in the series, despite the fact that he’s pretty much a morally bankrupt psychopath. Somehow, right alongside his murderous impulses and shocking cruelty, he’s wearing his inner child right on the outside, plain for anyone to see. This juxtaposition of heartlessness and vulnerability is more than enough to fascinate me. Perhaps it’ll do the same for you!
So, readers, have you read Peepo Choo? What were your top three reasons?