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Magical Pokemon Journey. Journey 2: Pokemon Matchmakers. By Yumi Tsukirino. Translated by Kaori Inoue. English adaptation by Gerard Jones. San Francisco, CA: Viz Comics, 2001. $13.95. ISBN 1-56931-554-X



NOTE: This book contains issues #1-#4 of Magical Pokemon Journey vol. 2.

This book contains a series of chapters (more like short stories) that combine the Pokemon world with that of Tsukirino's characters from her shojo (girls') manga: Hazel, who is in love with the oblivious boy Almond. The conceit is that Hazel is collecting Pokemon for "Grandpa," a mysterious oldster who has promised to make her a love potion with which to capture Almond. The stories have such premises as Squirtle wanting Almond to teach him how to be "manly"; a snowcone eating contest to win Hazel's soul back from Articuno; a rivalry for Almond's heart between Hazel and Dr. Coconut, the inept potion-making genius; dealing with a bunch of Pokemon who have gotten drunk on apple cider; the quest to reach the Tree of Strength on the top of Tree Mountain, undertaken by a handful of Pokemon along with the sickly boy Peanut and his aggressive Charmander; and a lovesick Arbok, desperately attracted to Wigglytuff but too shy to even say hi to it. There are a couple of bonus stories as well, plus an account of Tsukirino's attempts to become a Pokemon master, and a brief encounter with the classic Pokemon characters (Ash, Misty, and Brock) stuck in this crazy universe.

I doubt that anything I could say about this title would change anyone's mind; this is one of those critic-proof books that will appeal to the usual crowd regardless of quality. Also, I haven't read any Pokemon books prior to this one--I admit it, I've been resisting them, though I've seen my share of the cartoons--so I don't know how it stacks up to the regular ones in the series. (The promo material on the back claims that this is "one of the most off-beat Pokemon adventures you will ever read!" Well, OK; it doesn't fit my definition of off-beat, but I guess within the relaxed standards for Pokemon books it does.) And I don't have any background with Tsukirino's characters, so I can't judge how well they fit here.

For what it's worth, I found the material in this book spottily amusing but mostly bland, meandering, and self-referential in a way that has become a cliche in Japanese humor comics. The art I like; it's fairly minimalist and traditionally shojo, with lots of flowers and so forth, and as always I love the use of sound effects and text off to the side to suggest asides. I'd prefer it had been used in the service of a more substantial story, though!

Of course, kids will go crazy for this book; it should have particular appeal for girls, since the "cute" quotient is extremely high. Thus, it is recommended for kids and for library collections where Pokemon collectors congregate.

Buy it directly from Viz Comics!

Copyright 2001, D. Aviva Rothschild


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