(From Megatokyo. Click on image to see it full-sized.)
(First, a quick apology to the fictional Sonoda family for my familiarity with them by using their given names even though I’m not a close friend. Considering the sheer number of Sonodas (four) in the comic, using their surname would be too confusing, and using their full names would get old and tedious quite fast.)
Fred Gallagher is said to have once described Sonoda Meimi as the “scariest woman in Megatokyo” (apparently at Anime Central 2005 at a Megatokyo panel). I’m not sure if I’d go that far, considering the sheer destructive potential that both Nanasawa Kimiko and Hayasaka Erika hold at their disposal through their fanbases; or for that matter the strength of character they’ve shown (particularly with Nanasawa, who can break through the language barrier with the purity of her spirit). At the very least she’s one of the most fascinating of the more recent stars to step into MT’s limelight.
It’s hard to believe that when we first encountered Meimi, she seemed a tertiary character at best. She was Yuki’s concerned mother. She was Inspector Sonoda Masamichi’s loving wife. But she lacked an existence outside of others. If she were to appear again in the comic, it seemed likely as a bookend character, appearing at the start and end of chapters with a stronger focus on Yuki or Masamichi. Only those familiar with the manga and anime that Gallagher enjoyed would have recognized his homage to Kaitou St. Tail (whose star was a magical girl thief named Meimi who would steal from other thieves to return the belongings to their rightful owners).
Meimi’s reappearance was a bolt of lightning out of the blue. While I had only two previous comics to go on, it felt like her character itself underwent a paradigm shift. She transformed from an aspect of Yuki and Masamichi’s to a person in her own right, with her own life and own history. And interestingly enough, she was linked with Hayasaka’s own past.
We’d already had hints of that before. The day Largo was fired from the Tokyo Police Cataclysm Division (TPCD), Masamichi and Hayasaka exchanged words… and it was revealed that Hayasaka knew Masamichi’s brother. Later we’d learn that Hayasaka was engaged to Masamichi’s brother, but even this initial hint linked Hayasaka to the Sonoda family.
Meimi’s reappearance helped solidify her links to Kaitou St. Tail as well with Junpei’s revelation that Meimi was a magical girl, as well as Hayasaka scolding Meimi for shoplifting. This is actually something she shares in common with her daughter Yuki… and makes me wonder if Yuki picked up the trait by watching her mother steal from stores like this, or if it is a part of Meimi and Yuki’s shared magical girl heritage.
Interestingly, her children don’t know of her past. It seems likely Masamichi does, especially considering his reaction during his confrontation with Tohya Miho at MegaGamers. Her taunt of a “blissful mother of two…” managed to anger him, partly because Yuki was there and hearing every word (though she obviously did not understand). And then just as she was leaving, Tohya adds “…do you think she might want to play with me again?” resulting in his admonishment to leave “her” out of it.
It’s most likely that Tohya was talking about Meimi. Hayasaka was right there, and no one else has been introduced that could fit the bill. In addition, their daughter Yuki had manifested magical girl abilities shortly before Masamichi’s little “talk” with Tohya… and in doing so saved Tohya from being hurt badly in a fall. But that’s going off onto a tangent, and Tohya Miho could easily be the subject of her own paper.
Looking back to the day before… when Meimi “ran into” Hayasaka and Largo, I could easily see how terrifying Meimi can seem. Here we have this loving wife, a mother of two, blissful and happy… stalking Largo through the streets, spying on him and on Hayasaka. Indeed, her “fight” with Junpei was equally chilling when you consider this is a man who easily disarms Ed and Dom. It seemed she effortlessly jumped through the air in a skirt and sweater without revealing anything or breaking a sweat.
But this was not as ominous as was the expression on her face as she stalked the streets pursuing Largo and Piro. Upon seeing that expression, I had chills go down my spine. That look, that smile… was entirely too knowing. It was staring right into Largo’s heart and soul, and I can easily understand why Largo fled, especially after his encounter with Tohya earlier that night. He had no defenses left. He was vulnerable. And she was there, closing in for the kill.
Fortunately for Largo, she was then distracted, first by the revelation that Nanasawa was mixed up in all this, leading her to wonder what she should do. It was then that Junpei ran interference, and even then she effectively disarmed him by taking his mask. As things wound down and Nanasawa stopped Largo’s mad flight from Meimi (without ever even knowing she was there), she admonished Junpei for distracting her so she wasn’t there to keep Largo from being sick all over Nanasawa (and I must praise Fred Gallagher for not going the low road here; I’ve seen several comics where the artist seems to find it necessary to show a character throwing up. Gallagher hinted enough to let us know what was going to happen, but held off on unnecessary detail).
When telling Largo about magical girls, Junpei mentioned that magical girls live by a code of love, which has lead to many disasters and a great deal of destruction. Part of this may very well be the incident with Tohya Miho, an incident which seems more and more likely that Meimi also played a part in. But recent revelations show that not even family is exempt from that code… and that the loving concerned mother can be quite relentless in opening her daughter’s eyes to the truth.
And I think that’s a good word for Meimi. She’s relentless. There is a definite sense of mischief to her as she toys with her daughter, leading Yuki along as aptly as Tohya lead Yuki to the top of some power-lines to reveal the truth to her. Even as she does this, leading her daughter to the truth within… she has yet another target in sight as she homes in on Piro, who is on his own mad quest to protect the ones he loves. Nor will Piro easily escape from Meimi’s grasp now that she has caught up to him.
Sonoda Meimi is easily one of the more complex characters in Megatokyo. She’s a concerned mother… a loving wife… a relentless warrior of love intent on protecting those she loves no matter what the cost. And that includes more than just family; Hayasaka Erika is another whom she cares deeply for (and I must admit to some curiosity as to what Meimi meant when she said “[Erika] did a wonderful job playing a magical girl, but in real life she’s not very good at it, is she?” Is it the aspect of finding and accepting love? Or is Hayasaka a latent magical girl, tapping into that talent in her role as an idol and seiyuu?) and through her Nanasawa Kimiko as well.
This brings us to Piro, running frantically through Tokyo to save the girl he loves, a woman that Meimi likewise cares for. Add into the mix the feelings Yuki has for Piro and has been suppressing for him… and we’ve a potent brew of mischief ready to boil over at any moment. Is Piro an ends to Meimi’s means, another adventure to use in awakening Yuki to her true potential? And indeed, what will happen when Meimi encounters Tohya Miho? It’s been hinted that they’ve already met in the past. Might old conflicts come to boil once again when these two meet again?
Most importantly, will any of Tokyo be left standing when Meimi is through?
Addendum: It’s been brought to my attention that my write-up of Sonoda Meimi paints her out to be far more sinister than perhaps she is. In particular, comments were made about Meimi’s discussion with Junpei near the end, when she explained to Junpei why she’d taken up the contract to neutralize the threat that Largo represented to the power structure in Tokyo. In that, Meimi said “I have my reasons. As a mother, as a friend, and as a mentor.”
There is some debate over just what she meant by that. Obviously she is Yuki’s mother. It seems likely that the friend would be Hayasaka Erika… but that may not necessarily be the case. Her links to Hayasaka likely began with Hayasaka’s engagement to her brother-in-law, Hitoshi. But it may be that Meimi, whom I suspect retired from being a magical girl heroine once she had her first child, was a consultant for the company doing the magical girl anime that Hayasaka was a voice actress for.
Meimi may have met Hayasaka to tutor her on the poses and such that magical girls use. And while Hayasaka was only an actress instead of a true magical girl, Meimi may very well have become her mentor… and even introduced Hayasaka to her brother-in-law. And Nanasawa may be considered a friend… even as Meimi mentored Hayasaka. Why else would it matter that Nanasawa’s heart was entwined in the situation with Largo and Piro?
It seems unlikely, considering what Tohya said to Masamichi, that she sees Meimi as her mentor. Indeed, she may see Meimi as a threat. She’s already warned Ed and Dom off from meddling. For all her teasing to Masamichi days earlier… she may view Meimi’s meddling as a threat to her own plans… and this could bring Tohya and Meimi into conflict. As for Meimi’s own feelings… even if she feels kindly toward Tohya Miho, her hand may be forced by those around them.
Robert A. Howard