When it comes to Strawberry Panic!, Volume 3, I really don’t even know where to begin. This book was so cracktastic, so chock full of utter randomness that went nowhere and did nothing that the only thing I can think of to start is this:
I believe in my heart that stories that take place at all-girl’s private schools for the daughters of the privileged that are not action stories, ought to include no more than 1(One) use of private helicopters. More just seems overkill. ^_^
You may remember that Volume 2 in the Strawberry Panic! light novel series ended with Amane and Hikari having run away from the school together and Nagisa having removed herself from both the Etoile-sen and her relationship with Shizuma.
Volume 3 begins with the crowning of the winners of the most recent competition for the Etoile-sen – Spica’s newly returned violin virtuoso Kusanagi Makoto and Lu Lim’s girl prodigy, Byakudan Kagome (sans bear.) This couple was so utterly “huh???” I read the passage about three times to make sure I hadn’t gotten it wrong.
Nagisa, still suffering from heart break and nervous strain from the pressure of the Etoile-sen, decides to leave Astoria forever. Tamao catches her packing and begs her to stay – even offering to enter the Etoile-sen with her as partner. Nagisa relents and decides to stay, but doesn’t reenter the contest.
Momomi and Kaname notice one another for the first time. Woot.
Shizuma’s friends Mizuho and Hitomi admit to one another that they probably had something to do with Nagisa’s breakdown. In an attempt to reassure Nagisa, they told her the absolute truth about Shizuma and Kaori – that Shizuma never loved Kaori at all. In fact, it was Hitomi who was in love with Kaori, but since Kaori admired Shizuma so much, she introduced them. Kaori instantly fell under Shizuma’s spell. Shizuma didn’t want to be cruel, and she didn’t want to hurt the person Hitomi loved so much, so she stayed by Kaori’s side right to the end. This brings no solace to Nagisa.
Shizuma, under cover of contemplative internal monologue bares Miyuki’s and Yaya’s deepest secrets; Miyuki’s arranged marriage to some man her family had chosen and Yaya’s dislike of men, due to her father’s neglectful and abusive behavior.
For no reason at all, we learn Makoto’s secret, that she is illegitimate and that her her half sister is the “legendary” Etoile, Kusanagi Masaki. This fact is totally random, and never really given relevance and the fact that a whole new character arrives in the story to tell us this (a character who appears in the story primarily to be sexually harassed by Shizuma then does nothing else) makes the whole thing extra random. It also serves to show us that Shizuma, while in every other scene is genuinely kind and worried about Nagisa, when stuck in the bathroom behaves compulsively. (No, what it really shows is that painstakingly developed characterization will be thrown to the dogs for the teeniest, most pointless bits of service.)
Meanwhile, Amane and Hikari have run off to Amane’s family’s summer home. After getting wet in the surf, they return to the house to shower. Amane is overcome and begins to kiss Hikari. In a moment of utter, complete FAIL, as Amane begins to move down to her chest, Hikari says Yaya’s name. Amane stops and asks why, naturally enough. Hikari tells her about her and Yaya’s night in the pool. In a stunning display of self-control, Amane realizes that Yaya, poor bitch, is really in love with Hikari, and that if she, Amane, is ever to have Hikari for herself, she needs to return to Astoria, win the Etoile-sen with her, and rub Yaya’s nose in it but good. But she says it in a nicer, more cool and gracious way. ^_^
Lots of meaningless running around and angsting goes on. Yaya has stopped caring about life and is sleeping through class and haunting the halls of the dorm at night. When she does fall asleep she dreams sexually suggestive dreams about Hikari. In nearly every portentous scene, Chikaru appears, like some kind of omen of misfortune. In reality, she isn’t, it just seems that way. She also gets a random dress-up party with the Henshin Club for no reason at all. During this scene, Kagome admits that she doesn’t like Makoto, who made fun of her teddy bear.
Shizuma determines to leave the school, to return to her family and whatever marriage they have arranged for her.
The Principal of St. Miator, who likes her attendants in suits and sunglasses, suddenly appears in the story and also appears to find all of the drama fascinating.
The three Student Council Presidents meet to figure out what to do about the aborted Etoile-sen. Miyuki says that, since Miator is already holding the position, it should continue to do so. Shion objects for several reasons – Shizuma is graduating, and possibly leaving before that, Spica’s couple won the first petite crown and one half the second, so Spica should hold the position. But Chikaru regretfully says that Kagome has asked to be removed from the contest, since Makoto’s a big doodyhead. All three schools are without major candidates.
And then the first helicopter shows up.
Everyone – and I mean *everyone* – runs to the top of Spica’s big tower, the penthouse of which is the Student Council room, where the helipad is. (Yes, I am laughing as I type this.) The St. Miator private helicopter lands, disgorging Amane and Hikari, the sight of whom makes Shion burst into tears. (It’s hard to imagine if all you know of Amane is the anime version, but everyone at Astoria is in love with Amane’s good looks, her charm, her overwhelming charisma, etc.) Amane proclaims that they have returned, even though having left in the first place, they will probably be expelled. At which the Principal of Miator arrives and says that if Spica expels them, Miator would accept them. Chikaru chides the Principal, who is also her mother, for her recklessness. Learning that her family is an old Miator family, it makes perfect sense that Chikaru is attending Lu Lim.
Yaya has heard the rumors and rushes off, not to the helipad (snort) but to Spica’s Principal’s office where, when Amane and Hikari arrive, Hikari leaps into her arms, begging forgiveness. Seeing Amane and Hikari together kills all of Yaya’s unhappy thoughts and in a giant moment of satori, she realizes that she does love Hikari, but does not need to possess her. In her heart, she gives Hikari up to Amane, who accepts her happily.
Meanwhile, Nagisa suddenly realizes that she desperately wants to see Shizuma. Horribly, desperately. She runs around trying to find her, only to learn that Shizuma has already left the school. So, in a giagantic handwave, Tamao offers her *family* helicopter to go to the airport and stop her from leaving. Nagisa runs up just as Shizuma is climbing the stairs to the plane. They reunite with an embrace and kisses.
And they all live happily ever after.
So. I wasn’t really able to express to you in this review how much “wtf”-ness was contained in this book. Clearly the author thought the series was going to go on for longer, as she added in several characters that ended up doing not much of anything. I also think that at about the mention of the first helicopter, she had finally gotten a look at her paycheck for this job and thought, “well, screw that.” ^_^;
Both Amane and Yaya come through the series with actual personalities. Hikari fails massively as a person, but as a couple, only Amane and Hikari are at all interesting. Everyone at Miator was a bore and Chikaru was all foreplay and no payoff. And five years from now, when all the main players are gone, I have no doubt that Kagome and her teddy bear rule the school with an iron fist. And, in my heart, I hope Kaname and Momomi have lots of hawt lesbian secks.
Art – 6
Characters – 6
Story – 10 for sheer wtf-ness
Yuri – 8
Service – 5
Overall – 7
I cannot wait to see this thing translated, really. It was so…yeah.