Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Strawberry Panic!

So the last episode of Strawberry Panic! (SP! for short) was released yesterday and I watched it this morning.

Spoilerless Synopsis
SP! takes place at an all-girls school very similar to Lilian of Marimite but with three schools or 'houses' to it, each school having its own uniform. Each school has an elected president and govorning body who work together to do stuff we never see. More importantly, there is an Etoile, a girl who is elected as the star of the school by the student body. She acts as inspiration and a target for admiration for the whole school and works closely with the governing body.

The story follows new girl Aoi Nagisa and a whole huge cast of characters, roughly 3 characters per school plus a few extra. The show is primarily about the relationships the girls forge amongst themselves and the trials and tribulations that go along with that - except most of the time the stories are highly inane or overly melodramatic and end up being laughable or boring. If you watch SP! thinking that it is trying to be Marimite, you will be annoyed to tears. If you watch it as a parody of Marimite, however, you might just find SP! entertaining.

While the "plotless, everyday-feel" element was done artfully in Marimite, the same thing is done horribly in SP!, which is the boring side of the series. And while the inter-character relationships in Marimite are touching and somewhat realistic, the same element in SP! is over-the-top soap opera. What makes it entertaining is the fact that it is unabashidly yuri. Characters are outright obsessed with one another, unrequietedly in love, passionately kissing, or having sex. (Those last two don't happen every episode, unfortunately).

What pisses me off is that there seem to be HUNDREDS of teeny-boppers roaming the net, praising the name of SP!, saying its their favorite anime ever. It disgusts me because they truly think it is high quality. The music sucks, the animation is not so hot, the style is bizarre, the plots can be painfully dull, and it just totally panders to a loser fanboy/fangirl audience.

That aside, it isn't the worst anime I've seen. Iczer One can keep that prize for now. As fucked up as it was, Chikane and Himeko's relationship in Kannadzuki no Miko was far more interesting. But while its animation and, sadly, plot isn't as amusing as that of He is My Master, the character relationships were far more taseteful.

SP! Is pretty hit-and-miss for me. It started out well because the story between Nagisa and Shizuma (the school √Čtoile) was strong... but episodes devoted to those two grew further and further apart - which is awkward since they're the central characters. The whole thing could of been condensed into 13 episodes rather than 26, but there were good moments between other characters as well which made it worth watching - at least in the name of watching "all that is shoujo-ai related". :D

Manga version
Also of interest, I've been keeping up with the manga scanlations, which aren't near as far along. The story is COMPLETELY different in the manga and, as seems to always be true, the manga is a tad more lighthearted (and better drawn). Another interesting difference is that the anime focuses on the relationships between characters while the manga (which came first) is more about the physical relationships (i.e. kissing and sex).

All in all, I don't plan on ever watching this again. It ranks higher than "Iczer One" and well below nearly everything else I've seen so far.

5 out of 10