It was the beginning of 2004. The magazine was called Yuri Shimai. The comic was an actual comedy, with physical gags blown way out of proportion. There was an idiot and a doofus and they fell in love, but didn’t realize it. The comedy was manzai-style, with blood and tears and extreme over-reactions to silly jokes. It was Hayashiya Shizuru’s professional Yuri debut. She’d been drawing doujinshi in that same style for years, and made her pro debut previously, but for those of us who were or would become fans, Strawberry Shake Sweet was the first time she was a pro “Yuri” artist.
Yuri Shimai was cancelled and in 2005, Yuri Hime picked up the series. In 2006, a collected Volume 1 was released, followed by Volume 2 in 2009. Hayashiya-sensei left Yuri Hime and has gone on to do great things with Shuiesha. And so it is with both delight and trepidation that I review Shueisha’s re-release of this series as a one-volume collection, Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク).
The story follows Tachibana Julia a young “Talent” in Japanese TV. (Which is to say she does everything and anything, from starring in TV dramas, to advertisements, to quiz shows.) She’s asked to mentor a newcomer to the agency, Asakawa Ran, but instead, falls in love with Ran.
Ran isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and Julia isn’t much better. Between the two of them and very much despite the objections of their manager, they’ll have to figure it all out on their own.
Strawberry Shake is very much played for the laughs. Touching or romantic moments are frequently marked by massive nosebleeds. If you’re not used to Hayashiya-sensei’s style, or classic manzai, the amount of violence might surprise you. The other thing that might surprise you is the ending. As I said when I reviewed Volume 2, “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.”
So, here we are over a decade after the comic was originally begun and a lot of things have changed. Yuri is a genre of it’s own. Hayashiya-sensei is a star among Yuri artists. And same-sex marriage is a thing that is discussed in the news, in the courts. Even in Japan, where Shibuya is the only part of the country that allows same-sex marriage, the conversation has begun.
What does that mean for a comic like Strawberry Shake? It means that some of the jokes just don’t hold up that well. Saeki Ryouko, Julia and Ran’s manager, in 2004 was a comedic figure. In 2015, she seems just like a closeted homophobe. Sorry Saeki-san, but you protest *way* too much. ^_^ Comedy is harder than tragedy. In Strawberry Shake, the comedy is vaudevillian, and so, a relic of the past, rather than a joke we’re all laughing at now.
The essential love story is still cute and maddening and adorable and sweet. ZLAY is still absolutely fucked up hilarious. The climax of the manga is still fantastic. And the new extra chapter? “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.” ^_^;
Should you get it? Yes. This is an important book for Yuri fans. Will you like it? Maybe. ^_^
Art – 9 It’s striking to see just how much better her art is now than it was in 2004. This volume has been touched up, but look at the first and final chapters to see a difference.
Story – 7 It has worn a little around the edges over time.
Characters – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 2
Overall – 8
Again I will quote myself from 2009: “As funny as this manga is, I’m forced to conclude that this story is not *quite* as perfect for Hayashiya-sensei as Hayate x Blade. The action component just catapults that series to perfection.
But hey – this is a groundbreaking series. A Yuri series for Yuri magazine by a woman who has been drawing Yuri comedy for a long, long time. A must-have for any fan of Yuri.”