That post title sounds like a good name for a local garage band, doesn’t it? Today I’m going to continue reading the new Sanrio webcomics “Ichigoman” (イチゴマン) and “Funny Kuromi-chan” (おかしなクロミちゃん). The webpage the manga are published on is still actively tweeting and releasing some new chapters, and they had this adorable tweet a few days ago:
We pick up with chapter 5 in “Ichigoman,” which also is rather light on dialogue. It starts with Ichigoman flying through the air after truck hits her bike. She kind of floats through the air for awhile, wondering if she’s dead. Then we get a color splash page introducing a “new” hero who will start working with Ichigoman, and it looks like Chococat in a hero’s suit! She must have fallen into his motorcycle sidecar. He asks if she is okay, and she says yes. He drives her around, dodging more big trucks along a narrow cliffside road. This time, the truck grows huge mechanical lobster claws as it pursues them.
Finally after a scary few frames, they drive off the road into a forest to get away from the truck. They think they are safe, but the truck plows through the trees after them. Realizing the forest isn’t safe, Chococat directs his motorcycle toward a narrow path through some cliffs, which they hope will throw off the truck, but the truck transforms into a clawed UFO! It can fly over them now. Chococat ejects from his seat and flies up through the air to meet it. They fight, and it explodes, while he returns to the ground safely in a cool superhero pose. Ichigoman learns his name is…Dark Grape Man. Did I read that right? Dark Grape Man? Oh, wow. This manga is too hysterical. Ichigoman calls him Dark-san. They also talk about a hero named Garbage Man who I think is the originator of Dark Grape Man’s fighting technique. The chapter ends with Dark Grape Man riding off with a not quite exact double of Ichigoman riding in his sidecar while Ichigoman is left behind.
Between chapter 5 and chapter 6 is a special chapter with no number. It opens with a shot of earth from space, then the silhouette of the city at night as it contrasts the concepts of love and hatred in the narration of each scene. We then see a soldier from behind who sees a flying saucer in the night sky. A beam hits him from the saucer, and he is engulfed in fire, and he transforms into a horned devil kitty with three eyes and a skull tattooed on his forehead. There is strong emphasis in the way he’s drawn on his eyebrows, which look like one really dark, black M. His military uniform is torn, but he’s still wearing it. We get a full color shot of his final form next before the story turns to the cute girls again, who may be the same ones in the prologue. The one girl’s name is Sakura. They are taking a photo with their cell phone and talking about birthdays, presents and someone named “Kitty-chan.” I guess she’s a Hello Kitty fan based on the way that page is drawn; it shows the traditional Hello Kitty in that block. The girls are standing behind a house near a bench where someone is sleeping under a newspaper.
While they are talking about Kitty-chan and how girls like cute things, the person sleeping under the newspaper sits up and interrupts them. It’s the soldier who had been transformed into the alien kitty monster! The creature confronts the girls, who are shocked by the sight of him. They talk further about cuteness and kitties until the monster soldier demands to know the name of the person who appears in the shadows during their discussion. It’s Ichigoman! They fight. The monster summons a whole cadre of look-alike alien fighters who startle and charge Ichigoman, knocking her dead.
Immediately, a beautiful human fairy girl wearing a Hello Kitty patterned dress and carrying a Hello Kitty wand appears in the sky and introduces herself as Yuko Yamaguchi! (Note that Yuko Yamaguchi is the designer of Hello Kitty at Sanrio and is known as Kitty Mama. Her name is all over this manga project.) Yuko Yamaguchi waves her magic wand to revive Ichigoman, who rises to fight the crowd of monsters with renewed strength, which freaks out the soldier. Later, Yamaguchi-san talks with Ichigoman about having a cute heart – the fairy even is wearing a Hello Kitty plush backpack between her wings! – then she uses her power to turn the monster soldier back into a more natural, cute kitty soldier instead of the alien kitty monster, though he keeps his weird eyebrows. He was actually human, not cat, before the UFO ray hit him. Chococat as Dark Grape Man makes a quick appearance at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 6 resumes our main storyline and begins with Ichigoman out in a windy desert, carrying a torn banner and wearing a ragged, hooded cape that is flapping around her. She collapses in the desert, but in the next frame, we discover that she has actually collapsed in front of the two girls on the sidewalk! After memories of her boss and Dark Grape Man flit through her mind, she wakes up to find herself bandaged up in bed in a luxurious house where Sakura Miyama lives. This is the girl we have seen in the previous chapter. Sakura has prepared quite a repast for her to eat when she gets up, which looks very appetizing. They eat together, talk about Ichigoman spending a few days there since her collapse, then soak in the bath together with the little squirrel Jam joining them in a soap dish. Sakura suggests they watch a DVD featuring Kitty-chan. They get dressed and goof around a bit.
A full color page pops up here with Ichigoman holding her flag and taking a selfie in front of mountains, echoing the first few pages of the chapter, before returning to her visit with Sakura. Her flag says “mountain climbing success.” Ichigoman sleeps over at Sakura’s but wakes up in the middle of the night to reflect on her hero status and consider the problem of the aliens. The next day, she and Sakura plan on looking for the aliens’ base.
Chapter 7 starts out with a couple of shots of real-life buildings or monuments that I can’t identify, then it shows Sakura and Ichigoman in front of the door to the aliens’ base, which appears to be a somewhat camouflaged facility. We get some background on how the UFO appeared in the sky about ten days earlier. Sakura wants her to punch the door open. They enter and find large glass cylinders each with a hooded alien suspended in them. Both Ichigoman and the girl are terrified by the sight. There’s something off about Sakura and her unseen parents, though, and she murmurs something about mama and papa here while looking at these aliens. Somehow she whips out a pink chainsaw she calls Exalibur to break through the glass and release one of the aliens! Weirdly, this is the only block on these pages in color, so maybe they wanted to emphasize the pinkness of the chainsaw.
The glass shatters, water spills out, and the girl goes on to the next glass cylinder, releasing all of them. Next, they get attacked by a giant purple robotic alien, and unsurprisingly, a vision of Dark Grape Man is not far behind. Ichigoman sits by a shattered glass case and weeps, hoping someone will save them. As Sakura cries out her name, Ichigoman rallies and decides to punch the robot like she punched the door open earlier. A lot of fighting ensues, and Ichogman saves the day. Sakura declares their mission a success, and the final shot is of a security camera in the facility labeled “Freeze.”
Chapter 8 begins with a color page of Jam the squirrel. This chapter takes us back to Sakura’s place where she and Ichigoman talk about Ichigoman taking care of the housework while Sakura goes to school. Jam is more active in this chapter. That night, Sakura tells her she wants to sleep with her plush of Kitty-chan instead of Ichigoman, so Ichigoman and Jam have to set up a futon in the other room to sleep on together. But Sakura wakes up in the middle of the night after a bad dream and joins them on the futon anyway. This chapter is kind of light on plot development and ends there.
Chapter 9 starts out with a shot of an auditorium, the Tokyo Dome, where a kitty idol is performing. I was going to put a photo of the real Tokyo Dome here but got sidetracked in my search by Kawaii Metal, which is apparently a thing in Japan that I obviously need to look into more since I prefer heavy metal to pop, but let me put a video here of Baby Metal’s “Megitsune” from their official channel to illustrate the point instead.
We’re going to get very deep into the cult of cute in this series, so it’s very appropriate, and even better, fox themed. They just need to recruit girls about ten or twenty years older than these to make it perfect.
Getting back to our story, this chapter is where the tweet picture I took a screenshot of above appears with the kitty dressed in a traditional style outfit, so it has to do with this super idol kitty’s performance, though the idol kitty wears a much more girly kitty-print dress in red and pink with lots of frills and bows. The playbill has her down as Hello Kitty for real, so I don’t know for sure who is who, but it seems they are different kitties, and Ichigoman is there as herself too and is NOT Hello Kitty. This is where we are introduced to a third kitty superhero in addition to Ichigoman and Dark Grape Man who becomes prominent in chapter 10. The tweet above calls this traditionally-dressed kitty Honeymomo, or Honey Peach. I think the way to tell them apart is Ichigoman has strawberries for ears, Hello Kitty has regular cat ears, and the third kitty superhero has peaches for ears.
There’s an explosion at the event, and the third kitty transforms into her superhero costume. As she tries to get a handle on the situation, she runs into Ichigoman, who remembers seeing Honeymomo in the sidecar of Dark Grape Man’s motorcycle! Next time, we’ll find out more about this mysterious hero.
Now let’s get caught up on the other webcomic we were looking at. For “Funny Kuromi-chan”, I’m going to pick it up with chapter 2, which has only 9 pages, and this is where the elegant cake fairies starting with Chocolate Opera make their appearance at the shop. He walks in the shop in human form and is looking for Kuromi and the others. No one seems to be around, but he hears noises coming from the kitchen. When he goes in, he sees Kuromi and Strawberry Shortcake are upset and quickly shoots three blob-like monsters with his slingshot. I think the monsters are called “カビゾンビ,” but I can’t get a good definition of what those are. Mold zombies maybe? They decide they need to use some other method to get rid of them, and Opera goes to turn on the pipes to spray them with water, which works to melt them away. They also discuss having some wine or brandy, and the chapter ends with a color page showing them hanging out in a sake bathhouse, soaking in an outdoor tub together. This chapter ends with a warning to beware of the mold caused by Japan’s rainy season!
Chapter 3 is another 9 page chapter that revolves again around Sweety’s, this time centering on a little girl and a birthday cake. A little girl is crying as Strawberry Shortcake walks by in his human form on a hot day, and she explains she wants a birthday cake for her father. He takes her to Sweety’s kitchen and begins to make a cake when Kuromi walks in. Kuromi tells him he has a good heart and calls for the other cake fairies to help out. They get in a debate about whose special cake they should make, though the girl requests a shortcake. When they make it, Strawberry Shortcake takes it along with the girl to her house. Her father answers the door, the little girl immediately disappears, and it turns out the little girl isn’t really still alive! A flabbergasted Strawberry Shortcake and Chestnut realize that she was a ghost wishing her father a happy birthday from heaven. That’s actually a pretty heavy storyline for this set of webcomics, and it ends with a poignant drawing of the ghostly girl holding the cake.
It looks like the rest of the chapters are all 9 pages or less. Chapter 4 takes us to a beach house with more food porn appearing in the story, this time actual entrees, and it ends with a full-color bathing suit beach scene. Sweety’s is collaborating with the beach house to come up with a menu for visitors to the beach house. They talked with the beach house owner and are thinking of what to serve when college students come in the summer for vacation. For example, Strawberry Shortcake comes up with a strawberry ramen dish, which is shown in a manga block. Kuromi envisions the customer response and doesn’t think it will work.
The next suggestion is frozen Mont Blanc, which is also shown as they imagine it in a separate block. However, this is made with cabbage and meat. Next, they have to determine whether sweet chocolate and savory curry flavors are a good match as Opera makes his suggestion. This one Kuromi finally approves. Lastly, they come up with yatsuhashi dumplings skewered on a stick like roasted squid, but it seems to melt off after cooking it over a charcoal grill. They also discuss serving wine and cheese. We never actually see them serving anything at the beach house, however, and the group is shown on the last page lounging at the beach and swimming in the ocean. Kuromi is drinking a special drink and laying on a recliner while Strawberry is running in terror from the sea screaming about a jellyfish!
Chapter 5, the last I’m covering this post, starts off with the forecast for a big thunderstorm on TV. When Kuromi hears about it, she’s really excited. The cake fairies are watching it start to rain from the window, and they are surprised when Kuromi announces she needs to go outside to take care of some business. They just look at her as if she’s crazy as she instructs them to lock the door behind her.
The next page is full color and shows Kuromi playing out in the rain in some fashionable raincoat with the shocked reactions of each of the cake fairies surrounding her. The chapter title is “Love’s Storm,” which is pretty provocative. She encounters a strange, masked human man wearing bunny ears and a jester’s costume who seems to be flying through the sky using an open umbrella. He is calling her name, and she is shocked to see him. His name is Usamimi Kamen, or Rabbit Ear Mask. This is some terrible disaster for her to encounter him. Kuromi declares herself to be an angry young girl!
She rips her raincoat off, which Strawberry Shortcake observes from the shop window. The cake fairies watch her through binoculars as she runs up the hill in the rain. She’s yelling up into the sky at Rabbit Ear Mask, saying derogatory things like how he’s causing trouble. The cake fairies can’t figure out why she’s screaming at the sky and discuss how it’s foolish and dangerous to be outside in the storm. Then they are dumbstruck when they see Kuromi flying in a cloud.
Kuromi is muttering about how Rabbit Ear Mask is her love…she seems to be asleep or in a trance, but the cake fairies are relieved since the weather is now clear. She starts to fall to earth, and Rabbit Ear Mask catches her and delivers her, still asleep, back to the shop to the astonished cake fairies! Unlike the other chapters so far, this one ends abruptly with no resolution or color final page. I wonder if the storyline continues later. The cake fairies merely note he’s a man and a mascot character.
Since I’ve never heard of Rabbit Ear Mask and don’t know his history with Kuromi, I dug around and discovered he is a character in the Sanrio universe. Here is his theme song:
They even have a rabbit car in this. Pink, of course. Doing a little research, he seems to be the love interest for both My Melody as the masked rabbit hero and Kuromi as his human alter ego, the violinist heartthrob Keiichi Hiiragi. This storyline appears in the TV show “Onegai My Melody.”
These stories are so complicated and interesting. This is one of the Sanrio series I haven’t seen, and it looks like it could be as fun as Ichigoman. Did they ever release this one in the US? It looks like Funimation only queried fans to see if they should license it, but as far as I can see, it never was picked up for US release. That’s a shame, because it looks like a scream.
I have watched a lot of Hello Kitty properties over the years since I speak regularly about the franchise, and I have to say this “Ichigoman” webcomic is so far the wackiest, most awesome vehicle I’ve seen Hello Kitty in ever. What a fun, lighthearted manga. Hopefully the ending of both comics are as exciting as the chapters so far. Next time, we’ll find out for sure.
Part two of a three part series