This post is the last in my series covering “Ichigoman” (イチゴマン) and “Funny Kuromi-chan” (おかしなクロミちゃん) at Sanrio’s website, though the comics look like they are still being published. I think they started publishing them last year, and they were publishing a new chapter a month for awhile, but I’m not sure if that’s still the schedule. I’m not going to try to keep up here but only will give an introduction and highlights. If you have enjoyed them as much as I have, you may also want to go back periodically and see what’s new.
“Ichigoman” chapter 10 features Ichigoman and Honeymomo joiningf orces, which continues into Chapter 11. The new chapter begins with Ichigoman and Honeymomo meeting face to face, and Ichigoman remembers she saw Honeymomo riding with Dark Grape Man in his motorcycle’s sidecar once. The next page is a nice, full-color splash page of the three superheroes standing dramatically on a cliff with an explosion going off behind them.
Momo explains that she is Dark Grape Man’s secretary, but Ichigoman doesn’t understand why he would need a secretary until Momo explains that he runs a detective agency. They also debate whether Ichigoman is really a big fan of Hello Kitty’s. When Ichigoman suggests they go looking for the bomb together, Momo gets incensed since Dark Grape Man is her partner, not Ichigoman, and she keeps getting her name wrong, calling her Ichiboman. However, they do search the building together looking for the bomb. After searching through a lot of boxes, they see a bomb openly set up at the end of the hallway attached to a timer showing only 15 minutes remaining. Ichigoman and Honeymomo run for it. Momo wants to try to stop it early, but they run and get caught in a blast since it seems to go off before the timer runs down. Honeymomo gets a fire extinguisher, announcing this is a trap.
Chapter 11 picks up immediately with Momo and Ichigoman realizing they have been caught in a trap. This chapter is full of dynamic, stunningly drawn pages depicting more blasts, a page with Honeymomo and Ichigoman dancing together to the Hello Kitty theme song, frames of them fighting a huge mecha that seems to be connected to the alien invasion, and finally a shot of Honeymomo wearing her original pro-Hello Kitty garb at the concert with a frame showing Hello Kitty herself, who is supposed to be performing at that venue.
Ichigoman and Honeymomo Dancing
Chapters 12 and 13 feature Sakura and Freeze again. Chapter 12 starts out with Ichigoman’s attempts to practice sparring using logs on ropes hanging down from tree trunks. She practices her “strawberry punch” on a rock nearby, too. Sakura appears in the next frames, and Ichigoman explains how she wants to go to a gym and work with a trainer.
The next page shows some of the Freeze guys working out at the gym, the little blonde boy Kirari Suetomi and the redheaded bodybuilder Mako Yanagiya. Kirari and Mako discuss how much they can bench press and their training in general. Mako shows off his muscles with his shirt off in a full color frame, explaining how much protein Kirari should eat to build up his muscles.
There are a couple of pages where the story returns to Sakura and Ichigoman, showing Sakura pushing Ichigoman to work out her latissimus dorsi muscle. Ichigoman is splitting wood with an axe and carrying a log on her back at Sakura’s direction. Then the story goes right back to the Freeze guys, with Kirari showing Mako some special dance steps he uses for his workout. Freeze’s white haired pretty boy leader Takeru Hira arrives and explains how he is more interested in training the mind, then he strikes a gymnastics pose. The three talk briefly about the aliens before the next page shifts to the scene of a huge mecha wearing the alien symbol crashing down the city streets. Freeze goes into action.
Chapter 13 begins with these three guys in their showdown with the mecha. Meanwhile, Ichigoman is with Sakura having a spiritual moment under a waterfall as part of her training as a superhero. She’s sitting under the water with her hands folded and eyes closed as if meditating while Sakura stands nearby watching, a flame of passion for justice burning in her eyes on the next page.
The fourth Freeze member, black-haired Shinobu Sawada, finally joins his friends in the fight, bringing their eapons and uniforms. He interrupts Hira’s attempt to stave off the mecha. They put on their uniform jackets, take out their weapons and finally have a chance at an even fight. There’s something special about Hira’s weapon, because he calls it a combination something, the something being actual Greek letters with furigana so small I can’t possibly make them out. I need that zoom feature at a time like this. It looks like sigma-pi with the furigana just sounding the Greek letters out, but I have no idea what weapon that refers to. It looks like he’s using a bow and arrow of some kind.
After they’ve dispatched the alien mecha, the Freeze boys talk amongst themselves, mentioning Ichigoman is the one to save the world. The word they use does seem to have religious overtones, but in this context, that may be kind of overblown. She’s going through some sort of physical and spiritual preparation for her superhero work, but that’s really about all it seems to be so far. In the last scene, we see Ichigoman and Sakura appearing at near the mecha’s body not far from the Freeze boys. The final color page before the ending has Ichigoman working out with two tires tied to her arms, a large cricket behind her and tag lines about a “hero’s passion.”
I’m going to stop there since I’ve covered quite a lot of the series. Chapter 14 resumes the story with Dark Grape Man and his secretary Honeymomo; they go to a costume party and meet up with Ichigoman. Chapters 15 and 16 continues that story arc.
Resuming “Funny Kuromi-chan,” chapter 6 shows Kuromi and Strawberry Shortcake decorating for a Halloween party making Jack O’ Lanterns together. Kuromi makes one two pumpkins tall that looks just like herself, wearing the jester hat and collar. The rest of the cake fairies admire it, but Kuromi gets upset when Strawberry moves it and the head falls off!
Chapter 7 starts off with Kuromi sitting by a fireplace and an old fashioned record player playing music, reading a book and having tea and cookies. A ruckus downstairs sends her out to see what the cake fairies are up to. The uproar is over a kitten in their midst. The cake fairies fawn over a kitten until its owner shows up and takes it home. It’s a very simple, slice-of-life episode.
Chapter 8 is really long and is all about Christmas and UFOs. It takes place on Christmas Eve, and the cake fairies and Kuromi are caroling outside of Sweety’s in Santa costumes, giving out Christmas cakes to a crowd. They hear a loud noise behind Sweety’s and discover a UFO has crashed into a tree. The hatch opens, and a young girl dressed in a Santa dress jumps out. Kuromi asks if she’s okay. The girl is Santa’s helper, and she’s distributing Christmas presents. Two of the cake fairies are turned into centaur-like reindeer to lead the UFO through the air like it’s Santa’s sleigh. She tells them that last week Santa hurt his back, so she wanted to deliver presents in his place. They deliver presents to the sleeping children and then return to Sleepy’s for a Christmas Party with Santa Claus himself!
Chapter 9 is also really long and is about a freaked out girl who visits Kuromi and the cake fairies. The chapter title can be translated “The Epic Valentine War.” The distressed girl is watching a group of boys walking down the street, and apparently one of them is the object of her affection that she is upset about. One of the cake fairies, Cheesecake Rare, comes up behind her and addresses her. When she sees him (did I say he was a woman before? I couldn’t tell from the character intro page head shots), she is terrified of him and asks if he is a foreigner due to his old-fashioned European dress. He takes her back to Sweety’s.
Kuromi and the other cake fairies look on from the hallway while Cheesecake talks with the girl and drinks tea with her. Kuromi bursts in and suggests that the problem is the girl needs Valentine’s chocolate for him and doesn’t have the courage to risk his rejection. The girl cries harder, and Kuromi is moved. Since this is her cake shop, the crew decides to help the girl make a special chocolate cake to give the boy of her dreams. Opera and Strawberry Shortcake get to work on the chocolate. The cake they end up with looks like a chocolate ganache heart adorned with strawberries, something very elaborate. Kuromi boxes it up for the girl, and the girl leaves the shop happy.
Chapter 10 is also very long and has the Yatsuhashi cake fairy visiting a shrine with Kuromi. It looks like all of the chapters are now at least 21 pages, equal with most of the Ichigoman chapters. Yatsuhashi and Kuromi meet a young girl who is at the shrine to pray for school success. Yatsuhashi mentions she is there because she thanks God daily, while Kuromi asks the girl why she’s troubled about school. She explains she is concerned about an upcoming entrance examination and introduces herself as Miko. She hangs up a wooden prayer tablet for her petition, and they invite her to Sweety’s. Back at Sweety’s, Yatsuhashi serves Miko her namesake pastry with strawberries. Miko thanks them and goes on her way.
In the next frame, we see her running in regular clothes from the shrine. She meets a little boy who is crying, and then Kuromi and the cake fairies appear a few minutes later. Kuromi ends up in a fight with wild dogs, but Miko runs crying down the street and encounters an old woman crouched on the sidewalk as if she needs help. Later, Miko sits with Kuromi at Sweety’s and explains how she didn’t pass the exam. Instead, she stopped to call an ambulance for this old woman to go to the hospital, then she had to wait for her. She starts crying, but the door opens, and the old lady she saved comes into Sweety’s. She’s there to thank Miko for her help and gives her the business card for a school director to make up for the fact that the whole incident messed up her entrance exams. Miko is now exempt from the exam, and the chapter ends on a happy note.
Chapter 11 starts off with a pretty gardener talking to her flowers, particularly a beautiful bud that she calls “older sister” and seems to be thanking profusely. The cake fairies Cheesecake and Mont Blanc appear and ask her to recommend to them what they should buy, and she suggests they buy the plant with the bud. They take it home to Kuromi as a get-well gift since she is ill in bed with a fever. Strawberry and Opera are with Kuromi in her room when the fairies arrive with her gift of the plant and some canned peaches. As Mont Blanc feeds her slices of peaches, Kuromi is quite happy, but their attention shifts to the wrapped flower on the table.
Cheesecake rips off the wrapping paper, revealing the delicate bud. They water it, and Kuromi goes to sleep for awhile. When she wakes up, she gets out of bed, hearing someone calling her. It seems to be coming from the plant, which now has taken on a monstrous cast with an exaggerated human mouth. She wakes up a second time to find Yatsuhashi bringing her a tray of food for dinner. She realizes then that she had a nightmare about the flower talking. However, Cheesecake laughs, and they discover that within the petals of the bud is the face of a beautiful fairy girl!
In the next block is a color picture of the fully human fairy sitting among the rose petals. The girl introduces herself as Princess Pink Rose. Kuromi is amazed she can talk. Her appearance inspires the group to make a very elaborate cake with rose decorations, which makes the Rose Princess happy. They take the cake to the gardener they bought the flower from.
Chapter 12 is titled “Kuromi Versus Mecha-Kuromi,” and though it starts off with Princess Pink Rose making a quick appearance as menus are distributed to Sweety’s customers, the focus of the story quickly changes. The page shows a strange set up where each of the cake fairies has a customer come to their table to talk with them, while the rest of the spectators or customers sit in rows of chairs set up like an audience or line to wait their turn. Kuromi is overwhelmed with work with such a crowd but goes to investigate some strange noises that lead to a large wooden crate with the label “test model” on it.
Kuromi excitedly unveils it, talking about how it’s a maid robot! It is an exact metal version of Kuromi herself, complete with goth black rabbit eared hat. She turns it on and calls it Mecha Kuromi. I’m having a bit of trouble reading the dialogue that the robot speaks since it is mostly written in katakana instead of more normal Japanese hiragana and kanji; writing Japanese words instead of only foreign loan words in katakana is a technique used to emphasize heavily accented Japanese speech in fiction. The style of the type there is also very blocky, which makes it hard to distinguish between katakana letters.
Kuromi unleashes the Mecha Kuromi robot on the crowd in Sweety’s, but it only causes confusion and scares the customers away. As the cake fairies talk with the mecha, it twists its hands, which have three spikes in place of fingers with caps on each spike, and the caps flip open, shooting something out at the fairies. At first they don’t know what it is, but it turns out to be chocolate. Princess Pink Rose pulls the mecha’s plug before her next attack, sending her crashing to the ground. The chapter ends oddly, I think, with the final shot of a hand-written note. I know I’m missing some details since I have no idea how to interpret the sound cues scribbled in the frames and can barely read most of them to make the attempt. Any help would be appreciated; please give us your interpretation in the comment section.
Chapters 13 and 14 feature a group of very stylish customers who stop by Sweety’s. In chapter 15 Kuromi and the cake fairies return to the beach with these customers to soak in an onsen and engage in some beach fun. This one has a few of the cute girls featured in bathing suits singing at the beach. So far, the series ends with chapter 16, which was just published. Its title is “Kuromi’s Ghost Hunters,” and it ends with a color page showing the cake fairies dressed in Ghostbusters costumes.
I really am fascinated with this Rabbit Ear Mask character, aka Keiichi Hiiragi, whom we looked at in the chapters I covered last post. I think the webcomic needs to step it up with the hot romance between him and Kuromi, though the fact she is normally a magical talking stuffed animal does complicate matters. The webcomic also seems to be rehabilitating her from the more villainous role she was known for, but Hiiragi is probably more evil than she is from what I’ve been able to discover. I think they need to do more chapters with him in it though.
Keiichi Hiiragi aka “Rabbit Ear Mask” and Kuromi as a human girl
He’s very complicated, but that’s a plus. It’s probably what you’d expect from a guy who wears a pink bunny ear hat.
Rabbit Ear Mask and My Melody, Kuromi’s Rival
The fun is hardly done when I close this series, so be sure to stop back and see what else is added later. Now I should mention that the page where you find these webcomics itself is really interesting and has the Twitter feed linked, and yes it is updated regularly too. here’s the link again:
One thing that popped up on the Sanrio webcomic Twitter feed this last time I flipped through it is Kerokerokeroppi Café in Yokohama, and I dug up this fun photo-filled post on the crazy food served at that location and other adventures.
Another twitter post shows some pom-pom chrysanthemums in an arrangement made by Sanrio designer Yuko Yamaguchi!
Sanrio Twitter Screenshot
The page also has a bookstore link, but I don’t know if they ship to the US or if they have these webcomics in book form:
This next page shows a poll of fans’ favorite Sanrio characters for 2017.
There are 100 characters overall, with My Melody at #3 in popularity, Kuromi at #11, and Hello Kitty at only #4. I didn’t realize Cinnamoroll was so popular; I know nothing about their #1 character. Charmmy Kitty is at #28. Ichigoman hits #39, with Honeymomo and Dark Grape Man much further down the list at #61 and #79. I didn’t realize they had so many characters and don’t recognize half of them, but they sure are cute and fun.
Now I’m a big Kuromi fan after reading the webcomics.
Part three of a three part series
Next time: We get more serious with Korean author Sukryeol Choi’s The Year of Impossible Goodbyes!