Yuri Manga: Strawberry Panic Omnibus (English)

March 3rd, 2011

91Bt+QH8+zL It’s been practically an eon since I first encountered Strawberry Panic! in the pages of Dengeki G’s magazine as stand-alone scenarios of Yuri couples. Since then, both I and the series itself have changed a few times. The series underwent an adaptation to manga, in which the initial pairs were expanded to an entire cast, and adapted into an anime, which reached deep into Yuri memes and roots and pulled out a love story with a satisfactory ending. The Light Novels, with their melodramatic stylings, served to complete the unfinished manga in an over-the-top way.

For my part, I began with pretty much nothing but loathing for the series which wallowed and pandered in a way that completely turned me off. There was nothing in the original stories that was created with me in mind and the manga was decidedly shaped for the lowest common denominator. As the anime shifted from “stolen meme of the week, which we present with a straight face and no real desire to tell a story” to “stolen meme of the week, which we present with a wink and a nod and –  we can’t help ourselves –  a bit of character development and plot, too” my opinion began to change. (I consider this a positive quality in myself, even if fans have a somewhat difficult time accepting that. I still get angry letters about reviews I wrote 7 years ago.)  And then I read the novels.

I have to say, very frankly, anyone who cannot “hear” the overt campiness of the novels, the hyper-melodramatic tone in which they were written, is really, honestly missing the point. In my review of the first LN in English, I tried to illustrate this with a few of the quoted passages. My comments were not me being snarky, but me commenting on the snark embedded within the lines of the novel. Of these, this passage really stood out as a tell:

Of course, most of the young ladies used their judgment when they heard those legends. But there were some who really believed them. …And yet those same young ladies grew into fine women.

Really read that, please, and note the subtext which (for those of you who cannot see the flashing lights,) says, “DO NOT TAKE THIS STORY SERIOUSLY.”

At the moment I read that line in the Japanese edition of the Light Novel, I ceased to take any of Strawberry Panic seriously and was, at last, able to find affection for it in my heart.

This week I found myself re-reading the manga as the Strawberry Panic Omnibus, put out recently by Seven Seas (who are now more active on Twitter. Go say hello.). My primary emotion upon completing it was that I was a little sad that it ended so soon. There were so many good bits yet to come and at least one helicopter would surely have been included! But no, this story was terminated at the equivalent of the end of the first novel.

Technically, the omnibus looks good. The translation is as it was; the translation notes are short, but enough. I like the size of the book, which is A5 – this gives it the feel of a typical seinen manga. It feels good in my hand and isn’t going to break a foot if I drop it, as Cardcaptor Sakura might. The one thing I will continue to say about Seven Seas is that they really do a great job of giving us, the readers, an authentic manga reading experience.

The story is very Yuri. There is nothing else to be said about that – there are multiple pairings in this manga but, of them, there are two entirely romantic romances (which almost no fans cared about, instead focusing on the hopeless losers in the rivalries…which has got to be some kind of commentary on something, don’t you think?)

This we can say about Strawberry Panic in all its iterations: Shizuma is queen-like, a veritable goddess on earth who is inexplicably (even to herself) attracted to a humble, down-to-earth energetic, cheerful girl, Nagisa. And Amane is a Prince-like being who is inexplicably (especially to herself) attracted to humble, angelic, cry-baby Hikari. And those two romances fill the pages of this collection with melodrama, tears and kisses.

Love it or hate it, Strawberry Panic was a gateway Yuri series for a generation of fans last decade. If you have not already picked up a copy of this omnibus, please do. And get an extra for your library, to spread the love of Yuri love to the next generation.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 9
Service – 10

Overall – 8

Foreshadowing: I have had the opportunity to see the Strawberry Panic Light Novel Omnibus and it is also quite good. More than it being good, though, you need to read it to get the end of the story! If you liked/loved/tolerated the manga and 1) want to know what happened or 2) really, really want to read about the helicopters, get it! I have to say, I laughed through the novels all over again as I read them. The language is breathtakingly campy in places.

Postscript: Today we have the genuine pleasure of thanking our own candidate for Etoile, Okazu Superhero Eric P., for his sponsorship of today’s review! As always, Eric, thank you kindly for your generosity. If you’d like to become an Okazu Hero, just click on the Yuri Wish List links on Amazon and Amazon JP on the right-hand sidebar and purchase something for review and you’ll be a Hero to Okazu readers world-wide!

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10 Responses

  1. Felix says:

    Heh, I’m rather exited for the light novel omnibus.
    While it was not the reason I got into Yuri, this series was one of the first I really started collecting.

  2. Ana says:

    The helos in the novel really tickled my military bone. Oorah! LOL (^o^)

  3. @Ana – You know I feel the same way. There was just something so incongruous and funny about them in this novel.

  4. McDaddyo says:

    wow. I love stumbling on a “micro niche”

  5. @McDaddyo – And you found one! This is my particular micro-niche, lesbian-themed comics and animation from Japan. ^_^

  6. michiru42 says:

    Hee hee…I was a rather big fan of Amane/Hikari myself. I understand why readers might prefer Tamao to Shizuma, though, for Nagisa. Shizuma is, um, predatory. I had a hard time believing her feelings for Nagisa were real.

  7. @michiru42 Tamao was a self-admitted predator and pervert. Shizuma’s feeling were real – if you read the story and take what we are told at face value. If you’re gonna rewrite everything in your own head, then there’ll be no convincing you anyway. :-)

  8. michiru42 says:

    Erica: You insult me for saying I could understand a point of view of some fans? That’s really low, Erica, and really rude. I’m trying to be polite, and have a conversation, to contribute as you say you want, and you accuse me of “rewriting things in my head” and “not reading the story”? I read the same story you did, about Shizuma’s passion for Nagisa. I also read about how Shizuma felt the same passion for every girl that she wanted to fill the loneliness in her but her feelings faded, and that Nagisa reminded her of a dead girl she’d loved, which made me think she wasn’t loving Nagisa, but her dead loved one. I don’t think those feelings are lasting just because Shizuma thought they were.

    You could have asked me what I meant and I’d have explained. Why would you rather dismiss me for seeing things differently than you and put me down without even knowing what I meant?

    Now I’m crying. You do this at least half the time I post. I’m so sick of trying to say anything to you when all you offer are insults and sniffs down your nose hidden behind smilies.

    Let me guess: you’re going to brush this off like everything else that doesn’t fit with your view of how people should be reading this blog. And everything else. If the sheer number of people you offend hasn’t made you think until now, you’re going to write reality in your head as you see fit anyway, and there’s no convincing you.

    You’re a bully, Erica. You’re rude, and you’re mean, and you bully your own supporters. You don’t like Maria Holic? No wonder; it must remind you of yourself.

  9. @michiru42 -I’m terribly sorry you feel bullied and I am terribly sorry I made you feel that way. We all rewrite all of these in our heads, that’s part of the fun of reading manga.

    I did say that you were rewriting it because *in the manga* Shizuma says her feelings are real. You are absolutely welcome to believe that that is not the truth, but then, you must admit that you are actually interpreting things differently than they are presented to us. That is exactly what I mean when I say fans rewrite things in their heads.
    I do it all the time myself. It’s not something to be taken seriously, I hope.

    I am sincerely sorry that I upset you. It was not meant to be any kind of negative comment and I do apologize if it came off that way.

  10. I’m going to have to disagree with you on your interpretation of Tamao. Is she a pervert? Yes, undoubtedly so. But calling her a predator is pushing it. Labelling her behavior “predatory” gives it a sense that an actual threat is being posed towards Nagisa, and while Tamao does affectionately refer to Nagisa as “hers”, when it comes down to it, all she really wants is for her to be happy. Yes, she records her screams and measures her body in the beginning (anime-verse, at least), but I’d chalk that up as a very overzealous crush, instead of dangerous behavior.

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