Yuri Anime: Strawberry Panic, Volume 1 (English)

April 4th, 2008

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.”

Just so.

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.

Ratings:

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.

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9 Responses

  1. Salvador says:

    Though the only other Yuri anime left out there are Blue Drop, Yamibou, and Candy Boy. Frankly, it’s the Japanese producers that needs to make more Yuri series.

    I still have this wishful thinking that one of the animation production companies would make an attempt and adapt one of the series that appeared on Yuri Hime.

  2. There’s quite a few other series with considerable Yuri appeal – Simoun, Mnemosyne, Noir/Madlax/El Cazador, Sailor Moon, Utena, Mai HiME, Mai Otome, Maria-sama ga Miteru, etc – all of which are vastly superior to the series you mentioned.

    In fact, you can read the many reviews I’ve done of anime that has Yuri, by clicking the “Yuri Anime” link on the right side-bar of Okazu. Seriously – Yamibou and Candy Boy? There’s not much lamer you can get in anime and still call it Yuri.

  3. Eric P. says:

    ‘no obvious humor’:

    Actually, now that I’ve watched the first six episodes on DVD (watched the series prior on Youtube) I did see it as humorous, in a light-hearted way for light entertainment. If it was intentionally a parody, then it’s kinda easy to see. The foiled near-kisses seemed meant for some chuckles, or at least I chuckled. This is all before it fades to some seriousness later in the series, of course (probably more stolen memes, I know, but regardless).

    Aside from the sloppy gender pronouns from Kashimashi, I think Media Blasters has been doing really good with their titles as of late, this one included. I know their translations could be better (again, Kashimashi), although I may not notice so many translation errors as you; I mostly find myself just sitting back, relaxing, and just ask that the subtitles at least seem to flow along easily enough. I’ve been watching more Media Blasters titles in general lately too.

  4. JazzCat says:

    For someone who thinks Strawberry Panic is crap you surely spend a lot of thought on this series. I don’t really buy that you really think it’s that crappy. I don’t think it is either, despite the obvious humorous tone and over-the-top parody of other Yuri series.

    Sure, it is crammed to the rim with cliches and tends to get trite in that regard, but it has one key element that still makes it work: believable characters. My theory is that once you get the characters and their interactions in order, the setting doesn’t matter that much anymore. The characters may even be themselves be pretty 2d or dumb (like Nagisa), but as long as they are offset by others the whole can still turn out to be compelling. Hey, even Kannazuki No Miko worked when Chikane and Himeko shared screen time.

  5. jazzcat – You’re mixing two things up. One, I review things of interest to Yuri fandom, whether or not I like it.

    Secondly, when this anime first came out I *hated* it. Now, I kind of like it for how silly it became and the general over the top tome of manga and light novels.

    So, while I do enjoy the series now, I didn’t originally. And yes, I still think it’s crap. Because, just because I like something, doesn’t mean it’s good. lol

  6. DezoPenguin says:

    Yeah…not as much of a total laugh-fest as the manga and novels (but then again, my wife was reduced to red-faced, gasping-for-breath laughter by my dramatic reading of the *table of contents* of LN1), but good, silly fun that’s worth watching (hey, if I want depth, that’s why I’m also buying Simoun). The inevitable interrupted kisses, Nagisa going paralyzed every time Shizuma got seriously interested in her (it’s like a bird frozen by a snake’s eyes, seriously), plus other assorted silliness (I *finally* got the gag of “Prince” Amane’s last name, which was hammered home by the BGM during the student council meeting basically being straight out of Utena). It’s like the anime equivalent of a bag of Cheetos.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I purchased the SP manga just last week (through Yuricon) and read both volume 1 and 2 in less than you can say Onee-sama! JK but i was surprised to read how different the manga is from the anime. I’m kinda new to the whole Yuri/shoujo genre and SP was my first Yuri anime so there for I love the series, but for the most part i have to agree with Erica on this one.. SP is definetely over the top and well compared to other series it is *crap* XD i guess, but i can’t help to love it regardless of what it might be.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It’s official. I am a Strawberry Panic fan.

    Whether for the story (absurd to just plain wrong) or the characters (from entertaining to annoying) I’ve had a ton of fun watching this first volume.

    Thanks for keeping up with this franchise and for all the great reviews.

    BTW: I’ve already purchased the DVD, manga and light novel since you seemed to be having so much fun with them. (I also bought Rica ‘tte Kanji so it all balances out ^_^)

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