Is there a bigger wet dream for an American manga connoisseur than getting your own work published over there? Felipe Smith accomplished just that with his inimitable Peepo Choo, originally serialized in a comics monthly issued by Japan’s premier publisher. Translated by the artist himself, this English edition is a victory parade for us all.
In this first of three volumes meet Chicago youth Milton, who frequents his local comics shop to watch the latest episodes of Peepo Choo, an anime that’s as wildly popular as it is bizarre. Milton would like nothing more than to escape his dreary neighborhood and travel to Tokyo, where he’d wear his cosplay outfit until it totally fell apart.
Perhaps he will get to do just that.
Smart, sexy, and cruel, Smith’s Peepo Choo shoves a gleaming knife into a trans-Pacific romance and vandalizes the tired walls of manga.
Felipe Smith comes from the most unlikely of backgrounds for a manga artist published in Japan. While born in Ohio in 1978, he was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After attending an international school in South America, he moved to the U.S. for college. Felipe studied at Chicago’s Institute for the Arts, where he was exposed to a number of art styles and forms of animation. Influenced early by the hyper-real designs found in Heavy Metal and later on by modes found in Japanese animation, Felipe’s art style is a unique blend of East and West.
Now living and working in Tokyo, Felipe is working on his next big project for Kodansha’s experimental comic anthology magazine Morning Two. His previous works have been published by IMAGE and TokyoPop, with his first serialized comic MBQ receiving critical acclaim.
“Let me start on as unambiguous a note as possible. Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo is the manga title of the summer, possibly the manga title for the whole of 2010. It doesn’t just break new ground for manga, it paves it and puts parking stripes on it. It is raunchier than the last issue of Penthouse Variations you found behind someone else’s toilet, violent enough to knock the teeth from your face, and entirely too funny for its own good.”
“I get the sense that, if he couldn’t draw, Felipe Smith would like to make a living repeatedly punching people in the face, pausing only long enough to make sure they got the joke. Fortunately for us, he can draw—he draws like a damn demon, that one. His art is an assault, seemingly stripped of subtlety. It is full-bore satire, and he wields it like a machete… Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t ‘merely’ satire. Smith does care about one thing—his story and his characters. Especially his characters. He loves them even as he lampoons them. 9.5/10”
“Many series require you to become a fan to enjoy repeated visits; Peepo Choo makes you a fan immediately. Even if you don’t become a fan there is something compelling and dark that urges you to revisit multiple times… Felipe Smith has created a masterpiece that I see sitting on the shelves next to The Watchmen and Preacher as well as a Kazuo Koike series and Monster. A+ ”
—U.S. Anime Review
“This guy’s employment history alone exposes the stupidity inherent in the entire ‘sanctity of Glorious Japanese Manga’ argument, so, rather than style it OEL or manga, we’re going to call Peepo Choo a goddamn comic book, like we’ve always called boxed picture-pages… Anyone wondering as to exactly what sorts of atrocities are contained within: if you’re worried at all that this kind of thing might not be to your taste, chances are that it won’t be.”
“Is Peepo Choo going to be uplifting, or is it going to be a heel to the face of fans? Honestly, as of Volume 1 I cannot tell. The story can easily go in either direction, and while I hope for the former I can’t make any guarantees. Pick up Peepo Choo Volume 1 if you feel like something different. It’s not like any manga you’ve ever seen, and it also goes to show that perhaps the way to achieving that manga dream is to do something unique.”
“This book was insane. I read it on the way home on the bus (for which thankfully I was sitting in the back because this is not the kind of book you want to think people are reading over your shoulder). Very 18+ material and pretty mean too. I liked it overall because of the sheer amount of ridiculous energy.”
“Smith creates characters so expressive you can feel their pain. See the amusement, disgust. He has a versatility that allows him to portray drop-dead serious (even grisly at times) moments, and then segue to light-hearted, deranged innocence. If he has a parallel I can’t quite figure it out.”
—The Comic Panel
“There’s a glint in its eyes as it launches one charged, cartooned image after another... Smith’s work doesn’t need much comparison to Japanese or American comic book traditions because he has an understanding of how comics work that allows him to tell stories in his own way... No one comes out looking well, but geeks come in for an especially brutal brow-beating in this savage aversion therapy, with their fantasies warped into hairy, misproportioned sexualized images.”
—Ain’t It Cool News
“There’s a terrible sameness to a lot of manga... Felipe Smith brings to it a unique vision, his raw, intentionally ugly art perfect for a culture clash comedy of extreme bad manners. It amply demonstrates how loving another country’s culture isn’t the same as actually understanding it.”
“Peepo Choo critiques both American superheroes as well as Japanese manga, and under all the sex and violence there's some very smart commentary going on. Peepo Choo requires the reader to be deeply ingrained in geek culture in order to get the joke, while at the same time not in so deep that they can't laugh at themselves.”
—Shannon Fay, The Coast(Halifax)
“Peepo Choo is one of the smartest, cruelest, most original works I’ve read in ages. Thanks to Kodansha for recognizing genius when they saw it, and Vertical for knowing when to take a gamble.”
—Erica Friedman, The Manga Critic
“A mere plot summary does nothing to convey the gleefully mean-spirited anarchy of Peepo Choo. Smith’s opus overflows with violence, sex, cruelty, and general bad taste, all drawn in a rubbery, cartoony style and presented with relentless manic delight... I have yet to meet a person who’s worked in the anime and manga industry who doesn’t love it.”
—Shaenon Garrity, About.com
“I was entertained by this comic; it’s got energy, the gross parts can get really fucking funny, and its extravagant accumulation of mean doodles representing hapless international / interpersonal misunderstandings eventually forms a pleasingly nightmarish vision of all-out war among insular cliques absolutely certain they’ve got the world all figured out.”
—Joe McCulloch, Comics Comics