Yuri Anime:I My Me Strawberry Egg

November 22nd, 2004

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!

Ratings:
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.

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lianne: I agree ever so much on the peeping tom… as acceptable (if not nice), as comedy… ugh. That’s what bugged me the most about this series and completely turned me off several others.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I also agree about the peeping toms. It wasn’t comedic relief for me. It was irritating. The anime was definately a tear-jerker. I felt sorry for all characters involved. It was hard to watch and at sometimes a little too real. But then, isn’t that what makes a story good? That it leaves you uncertain and thinking?

  3. I My Me Strawberry Eggs is highly recommended. The story is really meaningful and touching.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Get over it. The whole peeping tom thing’s comedic value is part of Japanese culture. If you can’t ignore something like that that’s not even part of the actual plot, then I feel sorry for you. You’re missing out on a lot of good animes.

  5. @Anionymous – Yes, you’re right. I should totally not comment on institutionalized sexism ever, because a person who won’t even sign their real name tells me to.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I rather disagree concerning the peeping-tom humor; what comedy there is concerning these guys is all about how their stalking attempts keep going awry–and how Granny keeps beating the crap out of them! I don’t see why, if you hate peeping-toms so much, you’d object to their repeatedly being mocked and beaten and humiliated. The point of having those two lechers at all, I suspect, is to serve as what I call “contrast characters.” As with the lecherous loser Odagiri from Koi Kaze, these Koji and Mori guys serve as a contrast to the main character and deflect all suspicions the viewer might otherwise have toward him.

    A story in which the main character dresses himself up as a woman in order to smuggle himself into a junior high school’s all-female faculty so that he can teach classes composed primarily of nubile and pubescent young girls may indeed call into question that character’s motives. How do we know he isn’t just a pervert with a hankering for young female flesh? We get to observe the two lechers also rooming with him at his apartment complex, that’s how; everything they do is something he’d be doing if he were merely attempting to satisfy a lust for young female students. Since he isn’t doing those things, he must not be that kind of guy, see?

    I don’t recall Granny ever mentioning a sex-change operation either; I thought the idea was that he’s in drag too. The series was always dropping hints in the lead-up to this revelation: when Hibiki came to him for help, he already had a voice-changing device handy. (What did he use that for before Hibiki came along?) He’s into electrical and mechanical engineering (traditionally very masculine pursuits, and from personal experience I can assure you they remain mostly male-dominated professions to this day), plays with guns and motorcycles on a regular basis (two more male-dominated pursuits), and tends to get rather physical with Hibiki while schooling him in how to act like a woman. I think he’s still very much a guy, although at such an advanced age, who can tell? (He certainly doesn’t have to do much to disguise himself by then.)

    The somewhat downbeat ending was also–in my opinion–rather a refreshing departure from the usual happy ending in which the hero and his pals achieve all their goals and get everything they want. You complain about the effect Hibiki’s abandonment is likely to have on Fuko and her feelings, but did it occur to you what the effect on both of them might have been if he’d stayed?

    Fuko was already having trouble reconciling her romantic interest for Hibiki the teacher with her strong disliking and distrust for Hibiki the Bra Man. If he’d stayed around, she’d have been forced to make sense of those feelings–quite a herculean task for a 14-year-old! In a few years time, she should be mature enough to deal with these emotional burdens, but if Hibiki had stayed, she’d have been reminded of them every time she saw him. Arguably, Hibiki was doing her a favor by leaving and letting those feelings lie dormant for a while until she had the means to deal with them.

    As for Hibiki, it would have been a terrible pain to him to watch Fuko suffer that burden and know that his presence was aggravating it. Every time he saw her, it would have saddled him with more guilt and embarrassment than he already felt for deceiving her, however necessary and well-intentioned that deceit was in the first place. On the whole, given the extreme awkwardness of the situation–and given the mitigating factor of Fuko’s having her fellow student and male admirer Fukae to catch her on the rebound–Hibiki’s decision to leave was quite demonstrably beneficial to everyone concerned.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I also disagree with your assessment of Fuko’s romantic attraction to Hibiki as being inherently sapphic; although Fuko suffered considerable gender confusion, the very cause of that confusion is that she was feeling a very distinctly heterosexual attraction to what her conscious senses told her was a woman. Subconsciously, she very definitely was picking up on Hibiki’s masculinity, as were a lot of the other (female) students: in one scene, several of them even comment on how Hibiki’s personality is so manly that it’s highly unlikely any normal guy would want to be “her” boyfriend.

    Against all physical appearances, Fuko’s romantic instincts were telling her Hibiki was actually a man and therefore sexually desirable. (The male students, on the other hand–let it be noted–trusted almost entirely in their conscious senses, which is why none of them noticed Hibiki’s masculinity, other than one remark that “she” was unusually tall for a woman.) As further evidence of Fuko’s inherent heterosexuality, I should point out her return to Fukae at the end; when her instincts agree with what her senses tell her, there’s no contest.

    My only real complaint against this series is over all the fan-service which–in addition to being purely gratuitous as just about all fan-service usually is–rather tended to undercut the credibility of the story in several ways. Specificially:

    1) What’s the point of making fun of those two peeping-toms if we’re going to have what they’re not allowed to see flashed repeatedly in our faces anyway?

    2) If the Principal really thinks modest clothing is so all-fired important, why are all the skirts on all the school uniforms so ridiculously short?

    3) Must we have fan-service distracting us from even some of the most emotional moments? (Alas, some of the show’s artists apparently decided we must.)

    It’s enough to make yours truly here (and I’m an all-American red-blooded hetero guy!) wish the production department had hired some censors; taking out every last one of those panty shots could only have improved the anime.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I agree with previous Anonymous, although:

    1) All animes do some sort of fan-service. This one wasn’t for sure purposed for it.
    2) The anime ended wrong anyway. This wasn’t an end for sure – they just hadn’t enough money to make series ongoing. I know that all those feelings were quite a sure hard for a 14 year old girl, but she made through many problems, as she’s strong. To compare with, Hibiki was the one, who had real problems with his feelings as cross-dressed. The anime really must’ve ended because of money, not lack of opportunity to tell something more – for ex. why they didn’t made any OAV or sort of episode which shown future?
    Hibiki really had to left, but only because he wouldn’t get a job anymore.
    3) Peeping tomes – they had a decent impact on anime. (Fuuko loosing her picture etc.)
    I didn’t mind them, as far as they took really less time than any character.
    4) Yes, those uniforms were really strange.
    5) There weren’t many “panty shots” or so. If i had to compare, try watching “Shuffle” for few episodes and you’ll see the real fury of fan-service.

    This is a must to see. Fan-servicing is a way to bring money you know, and it’s amazing for me, that they menaged to make such good story. Anyway, remember that they would end it otherwise, if there was money and people to do it.

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