Creator: Felipe Smith
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Comedy
RRP: $12.95
REVIEW: Peepo Choo v1 (of 3)
Reviewed by Charles Webb

I've been thinking a bit lately about how we give an exotic air to other cultures. I've actually been in discussions with our own Liz Reed about just that very subject in preparation for a piece she's putting together for the site. Think about it: to what degree has your interest in manga and/or anime been impacted by so-called "Japanese culture?" Is it somehow a problem? Does it matter?

Felipe Smith's guns-girls-breast-blood-fest Peepo Choo seems interested in the subject in a really incisive way. Huh, I just noticed that when you squint a bit, the title reads as "Peep Show." This might be appropriate.

At once funny, thoughtful, and deeply unpleasant, the book isn't too kind to fan communities. The book doesn't have time for nerds, otaku, or 'banger wannabes, but it's sympathetic to how they're created.

This nasty little story starts in Chicago, where little Milton, a black kid with bottle cap glasses from the ghetto, dreams of Japan as some kind of otaku fantasy land: everyone is nice and non-confrontational, everything is shiny and colorful, and everyone knows about his favorite show, the bizarre Peepo Choo. He works in a comic shop under the table for the nerd-hating Jody so he can feed his figure/manga/anime habit, yearning for the opportunity to one day travel to Japan.

There's more to all of this, including a vicious murderer named Fate from the Chicago streets with a contract in Japan, an upstart young Yakuza, Morimoto Rockstar, who gets his style from American ghetto-sploitation movies, and his mentor who's had just about enough. Smith creates a masala out of these elements that more often shocks and titillates than it does illuminate but for all that it's still an effective piece of pop fiction.

Perhaps it's because the book is so far off the reservation: it's not exactly cynical - more hostile. Milton is bound to be disappointed by an "authentic" Japanese experience because people like him want the world to take shape around them. The same goes for Morimoto, to an extent, whose adoption of a new name and persona after his recruitment into the gang is at right angles to the codified behavior of the Yakuza. Then there's the stunning, top-heavy model, Reiko who adorns the cover of the book - she's frustrated with being so overtly sexualized. You can almost sense her chafing at being in a book with so much graphic sex.

Oh, the book is incredibly graphic, but that's appropriate for the fractured, hostile world created by Smith. There will be explicit sex and incredibly detailed violence, but many of you probably already knew that (and are on your way to pick this one up right now). It gets lower marks because none of the characters are at the end of the day recognizably human yet - but I'm sympathetic with many of Smith's ideas.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Vertical Inc.

Interested in writing for MangaLife? We're always looking for talented reviewers and columnists, so drop us a line! Charles Webb Editor-in-Chief, Share

20 July 2010
REVIEW: Darker Than Black

19 July 2010
REVIEW: Rasetsu v4

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