The Bottom Line
There are many reasons not to read Peepo Choo. Fondness for Japanese otaku culture. Fondness for the American fondness for Japanese otaku culture. An attachment to manga where nerdy but lovable protagonists have a good time being nerdy and no one gets hurt or humiliates themselves trying to do the "Peepo Dance" in front of a crowd of brawling Japanese gangsters, schoolgirls, and drag queens. A dislike of over-the-top sex and violence. Basic good taste.
There is one reason to read Peepo Choo: It’s funny as hell.
- Hilarious, fearless look at otaku culture
- Knowing satire of stereotypes about East and West alike
- Amazing, bizarre art
- Utterly tasteless
- May induce feelings of shame and bouts of crying in American otaku
- Original Title: Peepo Choo (Japan)
- Author & Artist: Felipe Smith
- ISBN: 978-1934287835
- Cover Price: $12.95 US / $15.99 CANADA
- Age Rating:
M – Mature, Age 18+
for violence, gore and explicit sex scenes
More about content ratings.
- Manga Genres:
- US Publication Date: July 2010
Japan Publication Date: April 2009
- Book Description: 248 pages, black and white illustrations
- More Manga by Felipe Smith:
Guide Review - Peepo Choo Volume 1
How to describe Peepo Choo? Where to begin? The back cover trumpets the fact that it’s one of the few comics by an American artist ever to run in a Japanese magazine: "Is there a bigger wet dream for an American manga connoisseur than getting your own work published over there?"
But otaku who pick it up for the promise of nerd wish fulfillment (and for the giant-breasted girl on the front cover) are in for a rude awakening. Peepo Choo is relentlessly cruel to Japanese geek culture and even crueler to the Americans who worship it. The wet dream becomes a nightmare.
A hilarious nightmare.
The spastic plot follows a disparate group of characters. One is Milton, a pathetic inner-city American teen whose only joy is an incomprehensible Japanese anime called Peepo Choo, which he assumes is an accurate depiction of life in the magical paradise that is Japan. Another is Reiko, a Japanese teenage model with enormous breasts and an even bigger violent streak. Then there are two yakuza hit men, one of whom is spiraling into becoming a vicious serial killer. As the manga continues, it gradually becomes clear that these characters are connected, and that their paths are destined to cross when Milton wins a trip to Japan.
But a mere plot summary does nothing to convey the gleefully mean-spirited anarchy of Peepo Choo. Smith’s opus overflows with violence, sex, cruelty, and bad taste, all drawn in a rubbery, cartoony style and presented with relentless manic delight.
Smith takes special pleasure in ripping into the delusions of American otaku. Fantasies about Japan are systematically demolished and mocked; it’s no doubt deliberate, for example, that Smith’s version of Tokyo is a hotbed of crime and degradation, while inner-city Chicago is relatively peaceful. And the less said about Milton’s belief that he can learn Japanese by memorizing the Engrish catchphrases in Peepo Choo, the better.
As someone who has a soft spot for manga like Video Girl Ai, in which emo love and angst serve as the dialogue track for endless panty shots, Eiken is like having my face rubbed in the true nature of love comedy manga. 'You see this porn?! THIS is the kind of manga you're reading. ADMIT IT! ADMIT IT!'
That seems to be what Smith is going for in Peepo Choo. Instead of portraying his otaku readers as charming Genshiken-style fan-friends, he shows them at their worst: as sadly deluded people obsessing over subpar children’s entertainment, in a world all too eager to puncture their delusions — or, worse, exploit them.
Maybe it’s the ugliest (and funniest) version of the truth, but it’s true, all right. Peepo Choo is the dark mirror of comics like Megatokyo. It’s what the nicer otaku manga don’t want to admit they really are. I have yet to meet a person who’s worked in the anime and manga industry who doesn’t love it.
Shaenon Garrity is a manga editor, writer and comics creator.