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Manga / Peepo Choo

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Peepo Choo is a satirical manga by Felipe Smith. It's notable for being one of the first manga series ever to be written and drawn by a mangaka from outside East Asia, but first published in Japanese by a Japanese publisher. It was serialized in the Seinen magazine Morning Two for its run, and then collected in three volumes.

The series is a rude and ultraviolent satire on US-Japanese mutual cultural misunderstanding. African-American otaku Milton is a crazed fan of the anime and manga series Peepo Choo, and is wildly overjoyed when he wins a trip to Japan in a raffle at his local comic shop, believing that the country is nerd heaven. His boss at the comic shop, Jody, despises Milton but hopes that Milton's command of Japanese will help him get laid by hot Japanese girls. What neither of them know is that the whole trip is an excuse for their boss Gill, who has a secret life as international hitman and unstoppable killing machine "Fate", to do a hit.

In Japan the characters are mirrored by Reiko, a cynical teenage gravure idol fed up with her work; Reiko's otaku girl friend Miki, who found solace in obscure interests despite being bullied; "Rockstar" Morimoto, a psychotic gangster obsessed with his own idea of African-American gangsta culture (and Fate's target); and Aniki, Morimoto's boss who hired Fate to kill Morimoto.

Not unexpectedly, things get messy.

Contains examples of the following:

  • Arms Dealer: Miguel's profession, and he's pretty indiscriminate about it.
  • Assassination Attempt: Throughout the series, Gill's main assignment has been to take out Morimoto. He almost succeeds twice, but lets him go both times because Jody was also with him. Ultimately, Morimoto survives and proceeds to go to Chigago.
  • Author Filibuster / Character Filibuster: Reiko's explanations of what Japan is really like, though given the subject matter and the Central Theme that Japanese/U.S. relations are full of misunderstandings, it's understandable that any important points would by necessity be beat into the ground, in order to prevent further misunderstandings.
  • Ax-Crazy: Morimoto and Gill, in particular, will kill anyone at the drop of a hat.
  • Be Yourself: While not told to be as free as possible, another lesson the heroes learn is to embrace their interests and not feel ashamed of them. Milton and Miki learn to be openly happy with their hobbies in a healthy way, Reiko decides to embrace being a Cosplay Otaku Girl, and Gill decides that he wants to wear women's clothing again.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Jody has a conscience somewhere underneath that crass exterior. He lies about his sex life to appear cool, and Milton's involvement in the Japan trip only happens because Jody fudged the results in his favor despite being annoyed by his fanboyism for Peepo Choo.
  • Birds of a Feather: Milton and Miki become fast friends after their first meeting, due to both of them being short, dorky outcasts who love Peepo Choo.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Milton learns that Japan isn't all that cracked up to be, Jody leaves demoralized and with his virginity intact, and Morimoto truly loses Aniki. However, the first two gain a healthier respect for the country, Milton's made some Japanese friends, he learns that his love for Peepo Choo isn't misplaced, and Plum makes an unexpected comeback into the comics scene after finding one person who did like his worst regarded work. And to Plum's credit, Japan really wasn't without fans of his series; it did gain an underground fanbase.
  • Black and Nerdy: Milton is an extreme example.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Fate, especially the volume 2/3 cliffhanger.
  • Broken Pedestal: When Miyamoto learns that Aniki, the one who started his life in crime and who he thought was more than just his friend, was the one arranging his assassinations, he coldly shoots him down with the gun Aniki gave him.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Everyone seems to be attracted to Reiko's buxom figure, although she doesn't enjoy it too much.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Jody likes to pretend to be more successful with the ladies than he is to the American comics nerds that frequent the store. His luck at landing actual ladies is even worse—none of them find his come-ons attractive and the only reason they give him the time of day is because he resembles the gay comedian Beauty Judy.
  • Central Theme: Cultural misconceptions. Milton is under the impression that Japan is unilaterally accepting of anime and manga and just as easily understand why an American kid would like Peepo Choo, while Jody goes on the "trip" thinking he'll get an easy lay with Japanese girls. Reiko thinks American men are horndogs from the cradle to the grave, and Morimoto is a full believer of the gangsta lifestyle. They even go through some body image stereotypes as well, like Milton thinking Japanese girls were supposed to be small and cute. As the story shows, while there is some truth to some of these claims, it obviously isn't the whole of either country, and they can't expect it to be that way.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Reiko, secretly. Her first modelling job was for a sci-fi themed series, and she ended up having her best modelling memories from that. She eventually goes all in after her visit to Harajuku.
  • Crazy Homeless People: One of the recurring characters is a down-and-out who keeps trying to talk to Milton, and only succeeds near the end when he heads back to America. It turns out the guy is Ringo Plum, the creator of Peepo Choo, who became impoverished and vanished from the art scene for a decade when Peepo Choo became a commercial failure.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Gill used to be one during his days in the military. After Milton persuades him to stop worrying about what other people think of him, he starts wearing his old outfit again in the climax, with a new wig and feminine mask. He also starts wearing more feminine clothing in regular life as well.
  • Culture Clash: The whole story is themed around the difference between the real Japan and USA, and respectively American and Japanese peoples' stereotypes of them.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Fate, and boy is he.
  • Eagleland: A solid Type II. The Americans we see in the series are rather dumpy, loud, and obnoxious to each other and to other people, while American men in particular are called out for their fetishism of Japanese women. American violence as represented by Gangsta culture and Brick Side gets a huge focus too: it's portrayed as fast, in-your-face, and disrespectful. Morimoto's transformation into a thug has a lot more emphasis on American rudeness from other Yakuza.
    • However, that's not all there is to this trope-- Milton starts off as this, but the narrative makes it clear that he's supposed to be sympathetic and he learns his behavior made others feel uncomfortable, ending the story a lot better adjusted. Gill is also respectful outside of his hitman job. On the flip side, parts of Japan are shown to be quite boorish and shitty too, such as the drunk old men, the bigger pressure to conform, or their form of organized crime.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first chapter establishes that Milton does all of Jody's work while Gill's not paying attention in order to score free figurines and merchandise from the comic book store. After the first few chapters, we never see Milton work again while in the store, with Jody doing a subpar job at best.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: both Reiko and Miki dress like this when they visit Akihabara. Reiko decides she wants to look like that for real.
  • Faking the Dead: Aniki, who survived getting shot and was brought to a hospital under everyone's noses.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Invoked early on with a brawl in the comic store between superhero comic fans and manga fans, both of whom are equally ludicrous.
  • Fanservice Model: Reiko is a gravure idol.
  • Fish out of Water
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A lot before the reveal of Peepo Choo being unsuccessful in its home country:
      • When Milton first goes to a Japanese convenience store, he says he can't find any magazines that mention the series. While it isn't mentioned, the children's anthologies don't carry the supposedly kid friendly series either.
      • Most of the people we meet in Japan don't recognize the Peepo Dance, with the exceptions of Miki, who's already shown to have niche interests; and a hobo, who only knows about it by virtue of being its creator.
    • Peepo Choo's episodic format and surprisingly simple plot of having the titular character be sent down to stop conflicts makes a lot of sense when you realize a children's book author made it.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Morimoto, as revealed in the flashbacks. See Used to Be a Sweet Kid below.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Invoked in-story with both Peepo Choo, a Deranged Animation anime that is despised in Japan but got redubbed in the USA as an unorthodox kids' show, and Brick Side, a dreadful American Hood Film that is adored by Morimoto.
  • Gorn: Any time Fate does his thing, expect there to be piles of bodies and blood.
  • Gross-Out Show: Comical erections, piss, blood and guts galore, it's not a particularly nice series to read when eating.
  • Heroic BSoD: Milton has one near the climax of the story, after he realises just how little he knows about Japan and how different it is from his expectations, on top of learning that his favorite anime failed in Japan and he's been making a fool of himself.
  • Irony: The greatest twist of all for Peepo Choo was in its success in America. As a seinen manga and a break from Plum's norm of childrens' works, nobody understood it and it tanked horribly. However, when Peepo Choo was introduced to the States as a weird piece of children's media, it was a runaway success. Plum's one chance to break out from his shell turned out to be an extension of his regular work after all, and he would never learn of any of it after getting shamed out of the industry.
  • Jerkass: Jody, for most of the first volume. Morimoto as well, for being a boorish and inconsiderate man.
  • Mad Artist: Ringo Plum, at least when it came to Peepo Choo. His previous works were rather tame and he wasn't known for doing anything outlandish with them.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Fate
  • Missed Him by That Much: After all Milton did to find one person who loved Peepo Choo as much as he did, he kept missing an old hobo who carried the book with him and understood the gibberish. Talk about missed opportunities though, since that hobo was Ringo Plum.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Jody is mistaken for a big-time African-American gangster by Morimoto.
  • Mistaken Identity: Jody turns out to look like Camp Gay comedian "Beauty Judy". He's not happy.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Exploited twice:
    • A Norwegian and a Kenyan operate a clothing shop that specializes in “American” attire while pretending to be from Brooklyn. They aren’t exactly hot on the business practice and outright say they don’t even like Americans, but everyone in Japan assumes that they as foreigners are from America so they might as well use it to their advantage.
    • Also happens in America with a kid who looks like and calls himself "Kaneda". The boy is actually Mexican, but he lets the anime nerds think he's Japanese because he gets treated better that way.
  • Mob War: Gill's subplot consists of him taking hits in Japan so he can start cleaning out well established crime families. On the side, Morimoto's reckless behavior almost causes chaos among the other groups.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Aniki feels personally responsible for Morimoto’s behavior, which he actively encouraged during his early years as a member of the family. Because of this, Morimoto has become a detriment to the family.
    • Jody looks especially guilty for making fun of Milton after they both learn Peepo Choo was a failure in Japan and Milton punches him when he mocks the boy for it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Gill's codename "Fate"—appropriate for an unstoppable muscle machine of an assassin.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Morimoto drops all the wannabe gangster bullshit when he kills Aniki for betraying him, and briefly before that when he gets shot by him.
  • Pervert Revenge Mode: Reiko when she loses it.
  • Quest for Sex: Why Jody even gets excited about going to Japan; he's a virgin desperate to stamp his card, and he heard from Miguel that he can score hard there because Japanese girls are supposedly sexually submissive and always ready to have sex. He nearly succeeds after a long string of failures, but he gets interrupted by Gill masquerading as Fate.
  • Pretty Fly For A Japanese Guy: Morimoto.
  • Psycho for Hire: Fate
  • The Reveal: Peepo Choo isn't famous at all in Japan; in fact, it bombed hard.
  • Scary Black Man: Miguel— huge, gratuitously violent, and African-American.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Gill a lot, but Milton gets to do it in a pitch-black room after his Despair Event Horizon moment.
  • Sequel Hook / The Stinger: Reiko and Morimoto are on their own international journeys to Chicago in the after credits short comic.
  • Shadow Archetype: Morimoto is a Milton who never got any healthy outlets for his behavior. Both come from a place of weakness and both like obscure, poorly regarded foreign media that they imitate in order to have an "escape" from the ills of their world (Milton for the harshness of Brooklyn, Morimoto for feeling weak and powerless). However, Milton eventually got to see the place he idolized so much and had his friends call him out when he made trouble; by contrast, Morimoto was intentionally making trouble in order to become a hardened criminal, and had his behavior enabled by Aniki until he became too big a problem to ignore.
  • Show Within a Show: Two of importance: the anime and manga Peepo Choo, and the American Gang Banger drama Brick Side.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Reiko. The men she knows only like her for her body, the foreign guys more than others, but the women don't want her around because they think she might steal their men.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Miguel (and Gill in the past).
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Reiko puts up a tough front to everyone after a string of people using her and making her feel unwelcome. Once people get to know her though, she gradually becomes nicer and more expressive once she expresses her real desires.
  • Take That!: The money-grubbing American manga publisher and their boss are a venomous caricature of Tokyopop and their founder Stu Levy.
  • Tattooed Crook: Inevitable when you have Yakuza. Jody also has one, but it's an Embarrassing Tattoo of a My Little Pony filly. This trope nearly applies to him due to him unknowingly throwing his hat in with Morimoto's gang.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Miki's classmates are particularly nasty bullies, first being introduced trying to force her to eat a tampon and bullying her for being an "ugly nerd". Jody isn't much better, and is pretty much Milton's personal bully until the end of the series.
  • Translation Train Wreck: Inverted with Peepo Choo, which was deliberately incomprehensible in Japanese but translated to be a normal kids' show in English.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Invoked. Plum told his future editor that he wanted Peepo Choo to be a mix of clashing themes. This ended up working against it, since the audience didn't know what to make of the manga before it got canned.
  • Uncertain Audience: The ultimate cause of Peepo Choo's downfall. Its mangaka, Ringo Plum, was a famous and beloved children's book author that decided to publish the manga under an adult label. However, the cutesy visuals didn't grab anybody, the nonsense was too off-putting, and the Toilet Humor and violence (usually solved by a Happy Dance) didn't suit Japanese tastes. In the end, after three years, the manga drove both Plum and his editor into ruin.invoked
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Morimoto was once a somewhat regular guy who loved his girlfriend Mitsuko before being brought into a life of crime. Come present day, he’s now a wannabe gangster who regularly sleeps with a variety of girls in front of his ‘girlfriend’ who he treats little better than a waitress, and is a proud killer.
  • Widget Seriesinvoked: The titular show. The American licensing publisher even invokes the trope, calling upon it as unique Japanese weirdness sweeping the nation. In reality, it was weird even for Japan.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Invoked. Peepo Choo was an adaptation of a seinen manga, but when it got licensed in the States it was marketed as a children's show.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Milton, until he gets corrected.
  • Yakuza