Feel my excitement as I contemplate yet another half dozen manga with pretty much the exact same subject. I hope you’ll forgive my lack of enthusiasm – I have a cold and a cranky attitude.
Let’s start with the “omg, most AWESOME 4tw, this series roxors!!!!11111” series since Kannazuki no Miko, shall we? I am of course, speaking of Strawberry Panic which, by the sheer number of emails and comments that look like the above phrase, has an even less discriminating sophisticated fanbase than KnM.
I read it. I enjoy it. I find it amusing. (For those of you tempted to write in that I am a moron because I cannot see how wonderfulness Strawberry Panic is, please read the first three sentences of this paragraph again. Then again, until you can understand that I *do* like it. I just don’t think it’s as amazing as some do.)
Let’s start with the cover. You can see that the main character and her stalker roommate are depicted realistically. For eight year olds. However, they are actually 15.
And let’s enjoy the causal wear they are modeling. Exactly *which* part of the school uniform is that? Because clearly it’s only part of it.
But, hey, I’m told by dozens of people that this series is GREAT! Well, usually they say something like “its grate” – and no, I am not kidding or being mean. This is completely representative of the comments I’ve seen on Strawberry Panic.
DESPITE the fact that the fanbase is appalling, the second volume of Strawberry Panic has deviated quite remarkably from the anime and even from the first volume of the manga, which was primarily dedicated to light sexual harrassment which, if it had been guys doing it, would have made most fans of the series upset. But it was two girls, so many enjoyed it anyway. Just, not me.
In Volume 2, the Etoilesen, the competition for the school’s star couple, is about to begin. Unlike the anime, in which each school put up one couple, in the manga version many, many couples from all the schools appear to be eligible to compete. Of course the only two we care about are the Shizuma/Nagisa and Amane/Hikari pairs.
The competition opens with the swearing of vows of love and loyalty, all very wedding like. A couple clearly gets points on style, hence Amane’s swinging Hikari into her arms romantically (something also used in the anime, rather inexplicably if you hadn’t already read the manga. Luckily, I am getting the monthly issues of Dengeki G’s that the manga runs in, to cover just such situations. lol)
In the manga, it is Shizuma and Nagisa who are standing for the Etoile, not Tamao and Nagisa. Shion, president of Spica, is not above using dirty tricks to get Amane and Hikari into the Etoile position, so she secretly sends Nagisa info on Shizuma’s former partner. During the vow portion of the event, Shion asks Shizuma to swear that her love wholly and completely be given to Nagisa. After a moment of hesitation, Shizuma falls to her knees and makes the vow.
Nagisa is totally confused about everything which, for once, I can’t really blame her too much.
The first test is obviously designed to place Amane/Hikari above the pack with an awesomely stupid contest in which all the “cadets,” the younger partners, are shoved onto a platform on a tower, while the “ane,” the older partners, ride a steeplechase, save their princess from the tower and ride back. Of course tragedy strikes as both Hikari and Nagisa manage to fall. Of course they are saved. I mean, puh-leeze. We could hardly hope that they would be allowed to die so soon, more’s the pity. LOL Instead we are treated to Prince Amane and Etoile Shizuma at their knight-on-charger coolest. (And, btw, they are *still* an allegory for Heaven vs Hell. Just want to make the point. Amane all in white on her gray [white horses, for those of you non-horse people, are all “gray”] and Shizuma, all in black on her big black horse. [There’s no real black horses either. FYI.])
After the first round is over, there’s a little party at which Nagisa expresses her self-doubt. Shizuma restates her vow and the two seal their promise with a kiss.
End of volume.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a plot starting to develop in this volume – Kaname’s desire to win the Etoilesen has now been augmented with her open desire to win it *with* Amane (which leads to a great scene where Amane complains that if the two of them run together they’ll look like a Boy’s Love couple, which is countered by Shion saying that as a couple of Takarazuka Top Stars, they’d be a winning pair.) Kaname remains an EPL (Evil Psycho Lesbian), but Momomi is, at the moment, at least, not part of the equation. One hopes that she and Kaname will end up together.
Shizuma and Nagisa’s relationship is not being dragged unnecessarily through the angst fields as with the anime, and the kiss was neither sleazy nor servicey. In fact, for this series it was quite sweet. …I’m all for false hopes.
Art – 6 (too loli for me)
Story – 6
Characters – 5-6 depending on my mood
Yuri – 8
Service – 7
Overall – 6
It’s written by guys, for a fanboy audience. But I’ve seen (and enjoyed) worse. Not bad enough to be funny, not good enough to be “good,” it will no doubt be immensely popular when Seven Seas translates it.