Wonder Momo has always been somewhat of an unusual property in Namco Bandai’s stable of characters. The game Momo starred in was unremarkable, and her character design was dated on the day of the game’s 1987 launch. Still, for some reason, Momo gets face time. She’s made cameos in countless Namco games, from epic RPGs like Tales of the Abyss, to uber-popular pop-star sim [email protected]. Most recently, she’s been the subject of a revival effort in the form of a webcomic by Shiftylook. Even with this in mind, though, it’s hard to imagine that anybody would be expecting, let alone clamoring for a Wonder Momo anime series. Given the quality of the first installment, I doubt that many will be rushing out to beg for more.
Wonder Momo revolves around Momoko: a high school student with dreams as big as Mt. Fuji. Her goal in life is to become one of the greatest idols in Japan, to be able to stand with the likes of living legends like Akiho. Unfortunately for her, Momoko doesn’t exactly fit into the “idol” template. She’s clumsy, scatter-brained, and irresponsible to a fault. To top things off, her career’s in a rut, and auditions are usually cancelled before she can reach the subway.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.
Anyway, one day, as she was trudging home from yet another day of failure, Momoko is confronted by a mysterious green man in a trenchcoat. No, the Incredible Hulk hasn’t gone on a flashing spree again. That would make this show interesting. Instead, it’s just an alien intent on showing the poor girl his big red one. Yes, the fellow pulls out a giant red orb adorned with a “W” symbol that’s just different enough to keep DC Comics’s lawyers at bay. The orb vanishes into Momo through science, leaving her confused as the green wonder makes his getaway. By the time she looks up, he’s long gone. Momoko, thinking nothing of the weird encounter, decides to return to school to take care of the duties she was gleefully shirking. Upon arriving, Momoko is shocked to find that the school’s gymnasium was overtaken by a gaggle of mysterious men, all clad in black latex suits and red masks. Even worse, everybody had fled the gym, leaving Momoko as the target!
Again, stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The mystery orb kicks into action in the nick of time, transforming Momoko into Wonder Momo: defender of all things good and fashionable! She dispatches the thugs with ease, and makes sashimi out of their crabby overlord with a magical hula hoop. As her powers fade, Momoko returns to normal, and the classmates, who are literally staring at Momoko’s general vicinity, openly wonder where the mysterious superhero went, and why this klutzy girl is standing in the middle of the gym. One person knows Wonder Momo’s secret, though, and it’s a mystery as to whether he’ll unmask the spunky superheroine.
Before I go further: yes, this is as bad as it sounds. Wonder Momo is what most people should expect when one mentions the words “video game” and “anime” in the same sentence. It’s a lazy, cynical experience that’s generally devoid of original concepts. Instead, Wonder Momo is relies on the same tried and true, safe clichés. And, while it is generally coherent, the show is dry and devoid of any real substance.
Wonder Momo’s attempts at humor tend to zero in on two areas: Momoko’s clumsiness, and her ditziness. And, were the character given more of an identity, this could work, as it would give a bit more of a relatable feel to the character. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, as there is no real build-up to the cast, and even Momoko comes across as little more than two-dimensional puppet. The jokes and jabs through the episode are painfully predictable, and the payoffs come across as pathetic, rather than funny.
Even the episode’s big action sequence, the one thing that a series based on an action video game should get right, is uninspired and dull. The choreography is weak, and Momo herself is never put in real danger. There are attempts made to push the fight’s atmosphere over the top, like comic-style bubbles flying onscreen as Momo dispatches her foes, but they really do little more than highlight the fact that even the animators realize that something is missing.
The Wonder Momo anime series was Bandai Namco’s chance to re-introduce Momoko to the world. Sadly, it seems that this chance was squandered, as the idol-to-be was able to do little more than drool and piss herself when the spotlight came on. Those looking to get better acquainted with the world of Wonder Momo would be best advised to check out Shiftylook’s stellar webcomic. It’s fun, and sharply written, and won’t leave viewers hating themselves by the time the end start to roll.