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Mao-Chan Volume 1

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Mao-chan Volume 1 by Ken Akamatsu and RAN, published by Del Rey Manga

Mao-chan Volume 1

© 2002 XEBEC, Riku-Mao Honbu, © 2003 Ken Akamatsu and RAN

The Bottom Line

If you've been anywhere near Japanese culture, you know that Japan has a fatal attraction to cuteness. Now Ken Akamatsu, the master of fanservice-laced comedies like Love Hina and Negima! has baked up a sugar-bomb of adorableness called Mao-chan.

While it's highly improbable that Japan would entrust its security (and an arsenal of expensive weapons) to three klutzy grade school girls, Mao-chan isn't here to make sense -- it's here to make you tilt your head and go 'aww.' It's repetitive, formulaic and silly, but Mao-chan is also a sly satire of a society that can't say no to cuteness.

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  • Cute characters who are goofy and endearing in their earnest incompetence
  • Silly social satire that pokes fun at Japan's national obsession with cuteness
  • Mao, Misora and Sylvia never seem to need the help of boys to save the world
  • This double-sized volume offers good value for $15


  • Repetitive plots that rely on a somewhat calculated formula for magical girl comedy
  • Repeated use of "Don'tcha know" and "If you please" to replicate girl cute-speak gets annoying
  • The fanservice and mild nudity makes Mao-chan a dodgy choice for pre-teens
  • Sometimes, these girls are real cry-babies


  • Original Title: Rikujô Bôetai Mao-chan (Ground Defense Forces! Mao-chan(Japan)
  • Author: Ken Akamatsu
    Artist: RAN
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-0345501813
  • Cover Price: $14.95 US / $16.95 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for brief flashes of nudity, cheeky fanservice
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: October 2008
    Japan Publication Date: July 2003
  • Book Description: 400 pages, black and white illustrations
  • More Manga by Ken Akamatsu: More Manga by RAN:
    • Maid War Chronicles

Guide Review - Mao-Chan Volume 1

When Japan is threatened by super-cute space aliens, the authorities decide to fight cute with cute. When kitties, bunnies and hamsters from space start snatching up Japan's treasures, it's a job for the Special Defense Corps, a trio of 8-year old girls named Mao, Misora and Sylvia.

Granted, they're not your everyday grade school students. The trio are the granddaughters of high-powered generals in the Japanese military. Thanks to their relatives' lobbying, this threesome has tanks, subs and planes at their disposal to battle those adorable invaders. Nevertheless, no matter how advanced their weaponry and how good their intentions, they're still klutzy and clueless little girls who don't always complete their missions successfully.

From Hello Kitty to maid cafes, Japan has advanced the worship of cuteness to epic proportions. So in that respect, Mao-Chan works pretty well as a social satire that pokes mercilessly at this national soft-spot for sweetness.

Never mind that it's positively preposterous that Japan would rely on three slightly inept but adorable little girls to protect their shores. Take a chill pill when you feel like protesting that no alien intelligence would sic a hamster against an army. It's not even worth questioning how Mao-chan's grandfather could bully the Prime Minister into releasing billions of yen to fund this cutesy-pie arms race. Resistance is futile, cynical human. You're either with this cute overload or you're against it.

But manga readers cannot live on cupcakes alone. This sugar-bomb of a manga quickly becomes repetitive, as Akamatsu relies on his tried, true (and a little tired) formula for fanservice-laced comedy. It ain't Shakespeare (or even Akira) but it isn't trying to be. Mao-Chan just wants you to tilt your head and go 'aww,' and for some readers, that's good enough reason to spend $15.

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