Strawberry Panic, the Complete Novel Collection, tells the story of Aoi Nagisa, a cheerful, otherwise unexceptional girl who is swept up in high drama at an elite Girl’s Academy when the Academy star inexplicably falls in love with her.
Nagisa is a transfer student and so, as with so many series, a catalyst for change at the old, established St. Miator school. Without meaning to do so, Nagisa brings about chaotic change not only in Miator, but also in sister schools St. Spica and St. Lu Lim. The winds of change in Spica are also heralded by the appearance of a transfer student, Konohana Hikari whho, like Nagisa, finds herself swept up in the drama of a top star of the school. These two transfer students are foils for one another in this popular Yuri series.
Nagisa and Hikari’s adventures in love are, perhaps, the Yuri-est of all things. Here in the rarefied, “peach-scented” halls of Astraea, is a great deal of love between girls, but there is only one lesbian. There are protestations of desire, there are vows to be together forever, there’s petting and kissing and possibly even sex, but there is very little thought of the world outside these halls or how any of this could ever survive graduation. Here in this fantasy world, all the tropes and conventions of Yuri congregate to become the ultimate in parody literature.
In the end, Nagisa gets her Shizuma and Hikari and Amane make the most perfect couple that Astraea has ever seen as Etoile. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with this fantasy, peach-colored world of private girls’ schools and Yuri love. Fu~ fu~ fu~, the wind blows as the cherry blossoms swirl around our lovers.
And so, at last, we come to the end.
This journey began more than 7 and a half years ago, with the news that an anime was being made of a series of short stories about girls in “Yuri couplings.” I read those stories and found nothing but deep loathing for them in my heart. The art was moe, the situations were trite, and the characters lacked character.
The anime and I started off on a bad foot, but over time I grew to enjoy it. The manga and I have never been on speaking terms, but the Light Novels convinced me that there was something more here than just a parody. The Light Novels *were* more than just the kind of parody which the anime carried off – the novels were an incredibly intelligent parody written to be slightly dumb. And so, I began to find myself un-loathing the anime more and liking the novels. As my shackles of preconceptions fell, unbound by the sheer ridiculousness of the novels – and helped by Kaname’s global warming speech in the anime – I found things to enjoy in the series. Including, but not limited to, the helicopters. Mostly though, it was the overblown, hyper-cute, yet, ridiculously over-formal moego language that appealed to me.
This time, as I read the novels I was able to just enjoy the overcomplicated saga of Nagisa and Hikari as they overcome absurd challenges so that the girls get their girls.
Overall – 9, which is pretty amazing when you think of how far it had to rise to get here.
One last time, I want to thank Seven Seas for making it possible for me to be part of the process.
This review was brought to you by Act 3, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, by Shakespeare.