The Tokyo Mew Mew
manga and anime series features a cast of characters designed by Mia Ikumi. The series takes place in a fictional version of Tokyo, Japan, where five adolescent girls, called Mew Mews, are infused with the DNA of endangered species to combat aliens attempting to take over the Earth. The manga series is followed by a short sequel series, Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode
, which introduces a new Mew Mew and a new threat.
The Mew Mews are led by the main character, Ichigo Momomiya, whose first task is to gather the other four Mew Mews: Mint Aizawa, Lettuce Midorikawa, Pudding Fong, and Zakuro Fujiwara. As the series progresses, Ichigo goes from having a crush on Masaya Aoyama to becoming his girlfriend while trying to hide her secret double life from him. The series antagonists include three aliens, Kish, Pie, and Tart, and their leader, Deep Blue. Originally from Earth, the aliens were forced to leave long ago due to deadly environmental changes. They have returned to kill the humans, who they feel are destroying their planet, and reclaim the planet. In a la Mode
, middle school student Berry Shirayuki is introduced as the sixth Mew Mew and, in the absence of Ichigo, the temporary leader of the Mew Mews. A la Mode
also introduces new set of antagonists, the Saint Rose Crusaders, a group of human teenagers with various psychic abilities with a desire to create their own utopia. Led by Duke, they make several attempts to kill Berry, eventually turning the local populace against the Mew Mews.
Ikumi's initial vision for Tokyo Mew Mew
was a story called Tokyo Black Cat Girl
that featured a cat-girl battling alien invaders. After the story was transitioned to a more upbeat story of five female superheroes, the character designs were redone to have a lighter, more colorful feel. The main series characters were praised for being a perfect fit for the overall story, as well as for their cute appearances. The characters introduced in a la Mode
were also praised for their visual appearances, but criticized as being repeats of the original series. The character Duke was also criticized for having a design reminiscent of the white supremacy group, the Ku Klux Klan.
Mia Ikumi spent a year designing the Tokyo Mew Mew
manga before the release of the first volume in February 2001. The story she originally presented to her editors, Tokyo Black Cat Girl
, featured a heroine named Princess Azumi who is given the ability to transform into a cat-girl by an intergalactic police officer named Masha. He then asks her to aid him in defeating alien invaders called the Baku using her new powers. Azumi agrees, while trying to keep her new double life secret from her crush. After the production team decided to focus on five female superheroes, Ikumi was asked to reconstruct the lead character and the darker Princess Azumi was changed into the brighter and more colorful Ichigo. She had reservations about the changes, as the character was originally designed for a more dramatic series.
Ikumi created other girl–animal combinations while designing the four other Mew Mews, including a mouse girl with the same green coloring as Lettuce. However, the mouse design was one of several designs rejected for use in the series as the choices were narrowed down. Once the main Mew Mew designs were finalized, Ikumi named them after various foods: Ichigo (Strawberry), Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zakuro (Pomegranate). During one of the project meetings, an unnamed editor remarked that the names might be hard to remember and suggested naming the characters after various colors instead, but the food names were kept. Although Ikumi initially suggested calling Ichigo's main attack "Strawberry Bell Bell" as a joke, the editorial team thought it was funny and kept the name. Ikumi noted that future attack names were decided by which sounded funniest. The only character from Ikumi's Tokyo Black Cat Girl
to retain his original name and general appearance was Masha, but his gender was changed to female in Tokyo Mew Mew