Strawberry Panic, Volume 1 is yet another Maria-sama ga Miteru derivative, only this time, (unlike, say, Himitsu no Anjerisu,) there’s an edge of FanBoy-ness that has set my teeth on edge. Hence my stalling.
Let’s start with the single redeeming value of the Strawberry Panic manga – it’s better than the anime, which is very little more than a series of stolen memes from other, significantly better, Yuri series. (At minimal count, folks on the Yuricon Mailing List have identified concepts ripped from Marimite, Utena, Himitsu no Kaidan and Hatsukoi Shimai. We have no doubt that there are many others we haven’t caught.) The memes from Marimite are handled particularly odiously, IMHO. But I digress.
The manga is more generally a tyical girl’s Catholic school hothouse setting. It can claim as much Cream Lemon as Marimite as an antecedent.
Our heroine, Aoi Nagisa, is a typical cute loli-ish Dengeki heroine with the “cute” habit of referring to herself in third person. (I know it’s perfectly normal in Japanese. It still irks me.) On her first day at the unecessarily complicated Astoria school, she meets playgirl Hanazono Shizuma, whose name basically screams “I’m a lesbian!”. Shizuma is, amazingly, the star of not only the school she and Nagisa attend, St. Miator, but also the titulary head of the neighboring Lulim and Spica schools, as well. (Transliterations taken from the manga itself. Don’t whine if you don’t like them.)
I’d like to say that nothing happens, but in fact, quite alot does – mostly small seductions and harmless swooning over upperclassman. The relationships are complex enough that I really don’t feel like explicating. But the over-arching plot is that the annual competition for Etoile – the schools’ “star” (figuratively and literally) is about to be held. Shizuma wants to compete with newly arrived, and therefor horribly uninformed and completely unsuitable, Nagisa. LuLim is holding off this year, leaving only the athletic star of Spica, Ootori Amane and her chosen partner, Konohana Hikari – ironcially the only completely harmless and sweet love story amongst the lot.
In other words, we have a sort of Heaven vs Hell battle going on. (Look at the names again…) Miator’s uniform is black – Spica’s is white. Seriously, it’s about as subtle as a pair of lesbian elephants.
I can’t really put my finger on what bugs me about this series, except that the “almost kisses” make me nuts. And Nagisa is vile and whiny, yet everyone hasn’t stabbed her to death yet. That’s probably what annoys me most. (Go Amane and Hikari!)
In any case, Strawberry Panic will undoubtedly appeal to the same group of people who think Kannazuki no Miko was good. For those Yuri fans who *can* tell the difference between good Yuri and bad, this series will remain, like KnM, a fun train wreck of a story. ^_^
Art – 6
Characters – 5
Story – 5
Yuri – 8
Service – 7
Overall – 5
It’s not *awful*. It’s just not *good.*