Strawberry Panic is a series with a fairly consistent pedigree. It began as a series of one-shot stories in Dengeki G’s magazine where the short, almost non-existent action in each vignette served to caption a exceedingly moe picture, about girls in “Yuri couplings.” It proceeded from there to be made into an anime, a manga (that also ran in G’s I believe) and a series of light novels, which were probably serialized somewhere that is also a typical fanservicey publication.
It’s nice that lots of girls, as well as guys, love this series, but that doesn’t actually change the fact that it was meant to be pandering, service and, ultimately, parody for a Yuri Fanboy audience. I expect someone will inform me exactly where the LN was serialized in the comments because this series’ fandom seems to need to express “facts” about the series to give it a frisson of legitimacy. Frankly, I don’t see why it can’t just be crap you like. As Bruce Pregger says, “Just because it’s bad, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.” My corollary to which is, “Just because you enjoy it, doesn’t mean it’s good, either.” ^_^
In any case, in Strawberry Panic, new student Aoi Nagisa arrives at Astrea Hill to attend the notable and superior St. Miator Academy. Immediately, she’s thrown into intrigue when the star of the school, the Etoile, Hanazono Shizuma, takes a fancy to her in front of the entire student body. Nagisa is overwhelmed by Shizuma, and is further thrown into confusion by her roommate Tamao’s behavior, which can only be described as “pervy.” We also meet simple, sweet Hikari who has fallen for the Prince of her school, and is further thrown into confusion by her roommate Yaya’s behavior, which can only be described as “pervy.”
The first volume of the anime, (for which I must thank the gentlemen at Media Blasters) covers the first six episodes of the series, in which Nagisa is confused about everything related to the school from meals, to the Etoile, to her uniform and curfews. Pretty much everything she needs to make a complete and total ass of herself in every possible situation. We are told several times that her transfer was rushed, an “emergency,” but it does beg the question – does no one think to just sit her down with a copy of the school handbook? The conversation the day after we watched this, went something like this:
“Wow, A-ko-san, you’ve really got the hang of the school in such a short time. I’m impressed.”
“Thanks, B-ko-san. I made sure I read the school handbook when I transferred in. It’s so embarrassing to not know the important details.”
In any case, I watched the anime with a critical eye for two things – one, if I was totally mistaken originally, and the whole series was an obvious parody which I simply missed while I was busy being pompous, and; two, the translation.
The first is answered easily – no, I was not mistaken, although I was undoubtedly pompous. lol The first quarter of the series is played “straight,” if you will allow the use of that phrase. Other than the obvious rip-offs of Catholic School, Onee-sama-ing, midnight tea parties, and other pretty well-known memes taken from previous Yuri series (most of which would be familiar to Japanese viewers more than western ones,) there is no obvious humor in the series. It’s played for moe cute, precious and pervy….not in that order. I forgot to count the number of *almost* kisses, but there’s at least one in every episode, which made me gnash my teeth originally and wasn’t much less irritating this time around.
Secondly, the translation. Up until right towards the very end, it was very good. Most of the usual honorifics were kept, right until the very end where strangely “-oneesama” was not, so we get that jarring turn of phrase “Big Sister Shizuma.” No one says that in English. Why “-oneesama” wasn’t kept as an honorific befuddles me – especially when I warned them ahead of time that I planned on being picky about that, as a fan and a reviewer. Also towards the end, in perhaps the fifth or six episode, there suddenly was a tendency to translate in that dubtitle way – you know, what they meant, not what they said. It left me with the impression that either they changed translators halfway through or by the last two episodes, the translator was simply getting tired.
And then there’s the QC…or more properly, lack thereof. In the last episode, there’s multiple typos in the subtitles. MB folks, I love you. But you NEED to QC this stuff. You can’t send it out the door looking like this. Seriously. It doesn’t look professional. Seven Seas is doing such exceptional work on the manga and Light Novels. The anime really needs to be able to stand up to the print series.
But don’t let my nitpicking detract from the genuine, laudable efforts by MB to keep the honorifics in place. “Shizuma-sama,” “Tamao-chan” and everyone “-san” is really a lovely change of pace in official releases.
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 6
Service – 9
Overall – 7
It’s not fabulous. It’s very good. It’s definitely a good deal for the money. It’s very official – fans of Strawberry Panic *should* buy it and support bringing more Yuri anime over here. But. It could still be better.