Thought-provoking and slightly disturbing, I My Me Strawberry Egg deserves careful consideration from the discriminating yuri fan.
I gotta tell you – it’s been a really long time since I sat down and watched IMMSE and I *still* don’t know whether I like it or not.
The basic plot is not that different from the movie Tootsie: that is, nice young up-and-coming teacher Amawa Hibiki is having a really hard time finding a job. He’s perfect for this one gig, but…it’s an all-girl school and the principal won’t even consider a man for the position. So Hibiki dresses like a woman and lands the job.
Hibiki is an exceptional teacher, and he really connects with his students, in particular Kuzuha Fuko, a shy, clumsy girl that Hibiki really draws out of her shell. Not surprisingly Fuko develops a crush on her beautiful, sweet and kind teacher. The problem is that Hibiki falls for Fuko too. Aside from the issue of teacher-student relation taboos, there’s the whole gender thing to contend with. Fuko is terrified of men (and Hibiki when he is a man,) but is in love with Hibiki the woman.
Rather than discuss the plot, let me outline *why* this is such a challenging anime to watch:
1) Hibiki is a better woman than the women. Not only is “she” unreasonably gorgeous and shapely, the school’s principal and other teachers are harpy-esque man-haters who are mean and nasty and ugly, internally, and sometimes, externally as well.
2) Hibiki is honestly a decent person, the plot-driving deceit notwithstanding. He’s a good teacher, but the essential lie about who and what he is colors all his actions – and worse, he *knows* it. It tears him up inside that he couldn’t have just gotten the job as himself. He questions not only his own emotions for Fuko, but hers for him, wondering if her had been himself, would either of them felt even a glimmer of atttraction, or is it only because he is something else that he’s let the situation get to this point.
3) The use of miserable pervert peeping toms as “comedic relief.” It simply does not get more dreadful than this. There is and never has been *anything* remotely funny about peeping toms. (Socio-Political Rant Mode On: Peeping is a form of stalking, and we really need to get past thinking it’s a “boys will be boys” thing, when in reality it is a “boys will be sociopaths” thing. I’m in favor of immediate and painful castration for anyone caught peeping as a reminder to young men that being a dickhead is NOT socially acceptable behavior…: Rant Mode Off)
4) Fuko’s emotions. The absolutely hardest thing to watch in this anime is Fuko’s love being turned into a side-show so that a jealous colleague can ruin Hibiki. It was painful in the extreme.
5) The pat ending. The problem is, Hibiki *is* a really nice guy, you just cannot hate him. He obviously can’t stay at the school, but he really can’t just up and leave, either, leaving Fuko to face it all alone – but that’s what he does. And Hibiki’s landlord turns out to be the ex-husband of the Principal of the school, who had a sex change (apparently to become a horrid crone, go figure) which is why Principal Harpy hates men. It was not only really obvious, but cloying and tedious. What lessons are we supposed to be learning here? That it’s okay to fuck with a child’s heartfelt emotions in order to teach someone else a lesson, and that having good intentions means it’s okay to be selfish? I don’t know, really, I just don’t know.
In the end, the only truly sympathetic and honest character is Fuko. Her emotions are so real and so raw that they just make this anime that much harder to watch. Fuko really falls in love with Hibiki, but with the female Hibiki who is no more than a sham. So, who does she really fall in love with? We can’t say with any conviction that she fell in love with another woman, nor can we say that she didn’t. It all ends up kind of messy and up to personal opinion. Obviously, my opinion is that she fell in love with a woman, since she had no reason at all to believe Hibiki to be anything other than what she appeared to be.
In the end, in my opinion it’s yuri. It’s not a nice, clean story, but it is an interesting and difficult one. And for that reason, well worth watching.
I know that IMMSE has been released on DVD for the US, so do make sure you buy or rent it legitimately. You’ll can buy it through the Yuricon Shop, of course. In the meantime, please join us on the Yuricon Mailing List and let us know what *you* think of this story!
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Art – 6
Music – 6
Yuri – 9
Overall – 7
It’s not happy, it’s not satisfactory and it’s not fun. But it *is* smart and it is well-done. Which is why it hurt so damn much.