Lycopene The Tomatoy Poodle 001 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Meh-meh is a regular middle school girl who quickly finds herself in an usual place where she meets Lycopene The Tomatoy Poodle, a strange creature filled with bizarre gags and an even stranger way of life.
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
Lycopene is an odd little nugget. For one its art-style immediately flies in the face of most Shonen Jump fair. In fact, you know you’re in trouble when the magazine itself is fearful enough to remind you that, yes, this is the Shonen Jump you read and love right on the issues’ cover.
The actual story is pretty simple, a young girl named Meh-meh finds herself in a strange, unfamiliar world, almost candy-land like and meets a strange creature: Lycopene The Tomatoy Poodle.
Lycopene boasts a couple different levels of humor. On the one hand it can be a tad crude, with gags about Lycopene getting stabbed in his behind, and such other forms of body humor. The rest of the comedy works on misunderstandings, ranging from easy to grasp gags about expectations and others that rely on a knowledge of Japanese Entertainment and their Political landscape. Numerous references pepper the first few pages to famous Japanese politicians, actors, and the like.
It’s so unapproachable from a translation perspective, without going the full mile and localizing all the references (a tall order), that these gags require notes, detailing what the gag is referencing. On the one hand, it’s kinda fun learning about various aspects of Japanese culture we don’t normally see much in manga. On the other hand the constant need to ‘explain the joke’ breaks up the flow of the chapter, and keeps Lycopene more as a novelty than a worthwhile ongoing read.
The chapter also slows down in other ways as it introduces us to the world and concept of the series. We meet additional characters, set up the idea of how Meh-meh got to this world, or more importantly how to get back, and a little mystery concerning a previous visitor from years ago.
Lycopene’s big appeal helping to counteract its slow nature is the juxtaposition between its visuals and its real world ‘issues’ humor, like how the world is all sugary sweet and candy grows on trees, but Lycopene has high blood sugar levels and needs to watch what he eats. At times there’s real promise, like in the above mentioned gag, or later on (as seen above) when Lycopene presents his girlfriend with a present from the heart but trashes him for it.
But when all is said and done, and the first chapter ends with Meh-meh escaping back to our world (but managing to stay in touch with Lycopene through Line– what does this app have on everyone in the Manga and Anime industry? Like, I get that it’s popular but good god it feels like it’s Japan’s #1 sponsor right now.) I don’t find myself aching for more. I think it’s a fun, one-off read, but lacks enough solid, approachable comedy (for a Western audience that is) to last as a worthwhile addition to the line up.
That’s it for today. Please let me know what your thoughts on Lycopene in the comments below!
Lycopene The Tomatoy Poodle is published weekly as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.