Peepo Choo vol. 3
Last hurrah for nerdery
By Joseph Luster
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Things seem to be going a little better for the young otaku Milton as we enter volume 3, the last leg of Felipe Smith's consistently bold Peepo Choo. His views of Japan forever altered, he begins to transition from the "anger" stage into his own unique form of acceptance. It's true, Japan and its people are nothing like he expected. There are no dancing, cartoon-mimicking masses waiting to hang on every mangled word his backwards understanding of the Japanese language provides. The show he thought was a worldwide phenomenon isn't appreciated, or even really known at all, by most people in Japan. But maybe there are still some nooks and crannies of this strange country in which he can shed his protective skin and be himself.
Meanwhile, worlds collide as Jody finds an unlikely admirer in the insane, thug-life-fetishizing yakuza, Rockstar Morimoto. The language barrier holds no power over them as Rockstar flashes the most ridiculous, clashing assortment of US street gang signs, shouts broken English he picked up from gangsta flicks, and shows Jody the best time he's had in Tokyo since his begrudging arrival. This flashy, vulgar BURIKKU-SAIDO bond has an expiration date, of course, thanks to Jody's association with the masked rampaging killer, who has yet to scratch Rockstar's face off his list of yakuza targets.
Felipe Smith brings everything together in a violent burst of energy with these last few chapters, sealing it as one of the must-own manga series of the year, just in case you weren't already hip to that fact. The off-the-wall madness doesn't stop, and volume 3 contains some of Felipe's best illustrative work yet. Yakuza are minced with the surprisingly speedy glint of a hefty blade, Rockstar shows off his krumping skills with an animator's flow, and visual boundaries are broken with the quickness around every turn.
Even though it's tempting to go on and on about how "crazy" Peepo Choo is, the real feat accomplished here is that Felipe's characters are much more than the stereotypes to which they cling. Reiko could have easily been nothing more than a big-bazonga'd piece of eye candy, but the last half of the series cements her nicely into a three-dimensional mold. Just because Milton is the central protagonist doesn't mean he's the only one that learns and grows from his oddball experience in Japan; even the nerd-hating pissant Jody shows a facet or two of his personality to which many can no doubt relate.
The sheer unpredictability of Peepo Choo will draw readers in, but it's everything else about this series that will keep them blazing through it again and again. By the time the last page is turned, you'll most certainly want to see what happens to this insane cast of characters next. Don't lament the fact that it's all over, though; focus that energy on getting pumped for whatever it is Felipe Smith has up his sleeve next. He's got his finger on the pulse of what can make a comic an exciting international piece of work unrestricted by region, and I can't wait to see what he has to say now that he's got all that off his chest.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Felipe Smith
© 2010 by Felipe Smith