Japanese landmarks getting attacked by aliens is so clichÃ© that it’s probably also clichÃ© by now to mention the clichÃ© in the opening of your manga review. Well, that’s fine. Mao-chan has enough other stuff “going for it•bCrLf (let’s use that term loosely for now) that if you’re in the mood for something unbearably cute and pretty silly, it’s still a decent bet.
For one thing, the aliens themselves are a little different: they look pretty much like U.F.O. catcher plushie prizes. The cuteness is overpowering the military to the point where a special unit is formed, the Combined Arms Defense. Consisting of Ground, Sea, and Air privates Mao Onigawara, Slyvia Maruyama, and Misora Tsukishima, this special budgetary measure tasks 8-year-old girls with the protection of Japan via their super adorable counterattack. It’s essentially kawaii vs. moe in an epic battle to protect the homeland.
Volume 1 is actually an attractively priced double edition–$14.95 for the equivalent of two volumes makes anyone smile even before flipping the pages and seeing half naked (sometime-cat) girls (whether due to tiny swim suits, nonexistent Japanese gym shorts, or just the absence of clothing), Mao’s skirt flying up as she gets pumped up for battle, big fat tears of second grader angst, and•the monkey episode! Reindeer pajamas! The dolphin alien! There is sooooo much cuteness, and that is really the reason to pick up this manga.
From looking at the cover it’s hard to imagine there is a deep engaging adult plot going on, but most of the battles are not even terribly intense, generally ending with little more than a bonk on the head. The scenarios keep things interesting—e.g. giant versions of the girls wreak some havoc, a humanoid infiltrator lures Mao into a closet maze monster—but it’s definitely not a combat-oriented series, at least so far. I know it sounds horrible, but let’s just admit it—Mao-chan is a manga for people who want to look at little girls, and the 16+ rating reflects that. Honestly, they really are damned cute, so you might as well.
Story: Ken Akamatsu