Drawn in by one of the ubiquitous "I Kissed a Girl" AMVs, I came to Strawberry Panic! wondering why all those girls were making out with each other. I can't say that I left the series entirely sure of the characters' motivations, but I can say that I've come to love the silly, racy, melodramatic, and heartbreaking world of shoujo-ai anime. Despite its mediocre looks, occasionally vapid storytelling, and frustrating characters, I fell in love with this show. And then Hikari and Amane ruined everything.
Strawberry Panic! tells the interwoven story of two transfer students at a collection of three all-girls schools with mixed results. While the absurd frequency of lesbian relationships initially makes little sense, the cloistered feel of the campus and the purposeful omission of anything that could conclusively tie the story to a specific time eventually draw the viewer--and the protagonist, Nagisa--into this charming world.
Nagisa's story centers around her bizarre and tumultuous relationship with the upperclasswoman Shizuma, which reads more like a coy romance novel than a steamy bodice-ripper. Nagisa's uncertainty combines with her roommate's creepy infatuation (and steadfast friendship) to provide plenty of twists and turns from the younger girls' side of the plot; throw in the sempai's "tragic past" and the will-they-won't-they tension carries much of the series. While this narrative suffers a little from its younger lead's amorphous characterization, Shizuma turns out to be interesting enough to support the drama all by herself.
Sadly, the show also tells Hikari's story. Having transferred into St. Spica in the previous year, the blonde waif sings in the choir team with her roommate and best buddy, Yaya, and a younger girl Tsubomi. For some unfathomable reason these two girls dote on the oblivious and meek singer, who falls instead for St. Spica's "Prince" Amane. The juicier events playing out in this academy include school political intrigue, attempted rape, unrequited love, a tennis match, and amnesia. While all of these twists and turns should have made this drama more compelling, the lackluster protagonists hamstring much of the emotional content. Skittish and cowardly, the flaxen-haired lead allows all of this interesting plot to happen to her until the show's very end. Because Hikari refuses to seize her own destiny until the final moment, her ultimate resolution feels more like an intrusion on Nagisa's unresolved drama than the emotional culmination of a standalone love story.
Strawberry Panic!'s visuals suffer heavily from being only passing fair. Adding a touch of much needed believability, Nagisa, Tamao, Hikari and Yaya all look clearly younger than their sempais and obviously older than the featured kouhai characters, which sets the art design apart from many high school series. Of the characters, the main romantic leads deserve special attention. Amane's design emphasizes her "Prince" status. Tall and strong, she looks equally at home in the feminine St. Spica jacket and skirt or astride her white horse in full hero mode. Shizuma, on the other hand, left much to be desired. While the silver hair, gold eyes, and full figure communicate "beauty" adequately, I had trouble reading her bizarre magnetism from her character design. Given that she enthralls Nagisa on sight in their first encounter, the fact that I can't see a glimmer of what the younger girl sees makes it hard for me to buy into their plot line until Shizuma's character traits overcome her inadequate design.
Many of the scenes and characters also lack significant detail. The rich environments and charming school uniforms should provide ample opportunity for beautiful stills at least, but the line work doesn't rise to the occasion. The backgrounds similarly lack definition without achieving the impressionistic aesthetic that makes the static backdrops in series like Nodame Cantabile so attractive. While it's possible that the art design represents a deliberate choice to communicate "ephemeral", the accomplished effect reads more like "cheap".
Aside from one gratuitous moment of English, the voice acting is competent and emotive. Nakahara Mai manages the chipper Nagisa ably, but her usual partner (Mai-HiME, Mai-Otome) Shimizu Ai delivers the better performance as Tamao, owing mostly to her character's rich complexity, which offers more opportunities for subtlety. Yaya and Hikari's voice actors tackle the awkward challenge of pretending to be high school choir singers, each one delivering a solo song in a convincingly amateur manner without offending the ears.
The highlights of Strawberry Panic!'s aural component come from the music, however. The series sports two emotionally epic OPs (my favorite being the first opener, "Shoujo Miero Tsukamaete") paired with two playful ending themes sung by Tamao and Nagisa's seiyuus. While there is some dissonance between the EDs and the dramatic content of the series in the second half, I found that the closing songs added a needed air of levity--the situations are somewhat ridiculous and the series seems to know it. During the episodes, classical themes abound, with piano music punctuating the more important emotional moments, and not without reason. Shizuma and Nagisa share more than one moment at a piano and its mournful strains reflect back into the text of the story itself.
While unimaginative and underdeveloped, the cast's verve and humor carry the show. Supporting the mewling Hikari and princely Amane, the student cast of St. Spica reads like it has been plucked from any standard boarding-school teen novella. Momo and Kaname provide buckets of intrigue and racy fan-service while the St. Spica student council president plots to win the upcoming Etoile election for her school. Their scheming combines with the more delicate machinations and desires of the sexy and outgoing Yaya and her tsundere sidekick, Tsubomi, to round out the complex love polygon that dominates Hikari's storyline.
However, even the strong side characters can't compensate for the weakness of the romantic leads. Amane's regal manner comes across more as wooden than anything else and her infatuation with the doe-eyed singer seems to appear out of nowhere. Hikari, for her part, doesn't offer the viewer any justification for her sempai's affection. The younger girl spends the majority of her time on screen praying, apologizing, or running away from people. While pretty, the younger lead has none of her roommate's sex appeal and looks uncomfortable nearly the entire time. In the end, the viewer has to wonder why the perfectly well-adjusted and attractive Yaya and Tsubomi find her appealing.
In St. Miatre, Shizuma smolders with pent up sexual energy and exudes a kind of imperious grace that hides her vulnerabilities until the series' second half. Likewise, the cheery and gung-ho Nagisa perfectly balances optimism and mischief, complimenting her interaction with the mercurial Shizuma and wily Tamao. The most delightful character in the show, Nagisa's blue-haired best friend swings wildly from supportive companion to chillingly possessive guardian, all while maintaining the same demeanor. Instead of hampering her believability, the moments where she airs out her creepy obsession with the new transfer student give Tamao an endearing emotional honesty that sets her apart from the gaggle of self-denying ladies that comprise the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, this more complex group sees precious little development and the characters end--save for the two leads--in either much the same place they entered or with their own personal issues unresolved.
Despite their tangential relationship to the main plot lines, the cast from St. Le Rim contains the series' dark horse, Chikaru, who acts like a big sister to all of the younger students with whom she interacts. Cute, insightful, and fun, Chikaru provides answers, shoulders to cry on, and costumes (costumes!) on demand, but never upstages the important on-screen action. The remaining girls fill their important comic relief and plot-related roles without trying the viewers' patience. The fact that all of these characters seem to have little history or life outside of school actually plays to the show's benefit; focusing on the events within the school almost exclusively heightens the slightly fantastic air that pervades the series and goes a long way toward casting Astrea Hill as another world. In this context, the casual treatment of lesbian relationships starts to seem less preposterous as the show moves forward.
While not a masterpiece, Strawberry Panic! provides a good deal of humor, drama, and delectable girl-on-girl fan service. As a first foray into the world of shoujo-ai, this show gives the viewer a balanced overview of themes available in the genre and uses its fairly breathless pacing to keep things interesting. The experienced fan will likely find that this series feels a little shorter than other yuri offerings because the story covers a fair amount of ground during its run instead of lingering on each small interpersonal incident. Hikari and Amane nearly ruin Nagisa and Shizuma's interesting little romance, the weak animation makes it hard sometimes to appreciate all of the melodrama on display, and the anime ends in only partial resolution, but overall it manages to rise above its considerable shortcomings. You might want to kill Hikari by the end, but if you enjoy watching girls break other girls' hearts, then you will find this show a pleasant diversion.
Story - 6,5
Nagisa Aoi arrives in her new school: St. Miator is a part of important groupo of school for rich girls where they can learn variuos languages and other respectable things.She is distracted and very excited for her new life until she meets the Etoile: the most important girl in all three schools. Shizuma is a very attractive girl but she likes to play with other girls; she is the Etoile and can do what she wants.Etoile is an important position for every school: St. Miator, Spica and Lilium.Eyes in the eyes and Nagisa is completely lost in the hands of the Etoile until she loses consciousness.She wakes into a bed with her roommate: Tamao. A cute girl with blu eyes, watches Nagisa with sweet expression on face. She is happy to have her first roommate after three years in that school and helps Nagisa to take measures for uniform. It is the begin of a great friendship.Day after day, Nagisa discovers the secrets of the school and meets many girls. Shizuma remains her problem: the Etoile tryes to kiss Nagisa many time but Miyuki Rokujou, roommate of Shizuma, stops every situations.Rokujou is another important girl of St. Miator's school because helps the Etoile in her hard works.During the normal days, in Spica's school, born a new love between Hikari and Amane: the first is a cute and sweet blonde girl that sings into chorus, the second is a great jockey. Amane isn't very friendly because doesn't like to be at the centre of attention, but she is very attractive and quite.Hikari is scared to meet Amane and watches her from distance until one morning, after a trouble night, they talk a little at the fence for horses.In the middle of these two difficult relations, there are two girls: one is Tamao that is in love with Nagisa and Yaya, the best singer of chours, that is in love with Hikari.Little by little, Nagisa finds the reason of the problem with Shizuma and many times she cries in her bed or round the lake. Situation is heavy because the feels of Shizuma are in contrast with her past in that school.One day Nagisa finds Shizuma in a greenhouse.There is a greenhouse nearly the dormitory and there are many flowers inside of it; this is another work for Etoile girl and a big situation for both girls. Shizuma is quite and gentle, doesn't try to kiss Nagisa and they can talk a little to know each other.Nagisa loves Shizuma but the acts of the Etoile create difficult situations and hard moments.The life in these schools are full of things to do: there are many ceremony and exams, new students are very appreciated and new loves born everywhere.One of the most important event is the theatre rappresentation: every school purpose one project and actresses are choose from Council. "Carmen" from Tamao, wins the selection. The rappresentation begin very bad because Kaname and Momomi destroy one of the background and attack Nagisa. Fortunally, every problems are solved by everyone that work in the night.After a good work at theatre, Shizuma tries to talk about her past in her house, with Nagisa. It is a disaster: Nagisa cries and run away from Shizuma during a storm without listens nothing. Few day after that, Miyuki talk privately with Nagisa and the mistery was solve: Kaori, an ex girlfriend of Shizuma, dies in that school after a long disease. Kaori would be the other Etoile because this title is for a couple of girls.Shizuma decides to say goodbye to Nagisa and doesn't talk with her for some months until begins the ceremony of Etoile. A new couple of Etoile should be elect because is the last year of school for Shizuma. The candidates are: Amane and Hikari for Spica, Tamao and Nagisa for St. Miator. Lilium doesn't partecipate because they aren't interested in that title.Into Spica's school there are two girls that would partecipate at ceremony for Etoile title: Kaname Kenjou and Momomi Kiyashiki. These two girls do everything bad to Hikari and to St. Miator but Kaname is in love with Amane. When Momomi finds this love leave Kaname and the couple renounce to title.Miyuki asks Shizuma to help the candidates from St. Miator about dance because Nagisa and Tamao aren't good dancers. She accepts and obtains a good result; the two girls are ready to fight for the title and are very appreciated by the young students.Few day before the ceremony Amane falls from horse and beats the head on ground. She forgets her love for Hikari and about Etoile ceremony. Everything seems to be destroyed but the power of love wins this battle just in time for ceremony.When the result are ready to be communicate, Shizuma comes back into the church and declares her love for Nagisa. It is the end of ceremony because Tamao renounces her love for Nagisa and title of Etoile.Nagisa and Shizuma run away near the lake, hand in hand.This story would be great if there wasn't another anime with Yuri's theme. The characters in this anime is too similar as the character we can watch in Maria-Sama ga Miteru. There are some differences on aggressiveness and possession between lovers but these aren't reasons to take a good score. Here we can watch three schools, there we can watch three important titles call Rose. Here we have a theater ceremony, there we have a sport's day. The uniform of St. Miator is dark green, as other anime. We are in a Catholic school like other anime. (Note: The mother of Jesus wasn't lesbian, why do we have only the statue of her?) Do I need to continue? I don't think so. I think that the director of this anime need to learn more information before make another anime because story needs more fantasy. Personally, I don't like anime where there are too sad situation because life isn't so bad and in this anime there are lots of it.One good point is the sexual side of the relations because we need to say: girls like sex and it is a piece of real. Another good point is the number of characters; a lot of girls, plots of love and secret love between them.
Animation - 6,5
Quite good; this anime began in the 2006s but it doesn't have the best graphic. There aren't 3D background and lightnings aren't so good but these aren't big problems. Luminosity is a little too high.The color is good but dark scenes have some problems because we can see everythings without light. Sometimes, the episodes doesn't follow the end of its previous and this add more confusing.
Sound - 7
The two opening theme and the three ending theme are singing from women (Aki Misato, Mai Nakahara and Ai Shimizu) but I don't like them a lot because are quite song and anime isn't so quite.Voice of characters are good but sometimes they don't fit the situations. Kagome have a mature voice but she acts like a child. Piano's song is great but we can listen it for about 20 episodes and chorus in the church sing always one song: they booooore.
Characters - 7
The characters are good and bad at the same time because in the some episodes they are naturals and we can watch the differences between them. In the episodes when there is the love or declaration they are very similar: we can watch Hikari, Tamao or Yaya be very similar. Shizuma totally change her personality many times during the episodes and it is difficult to understand.Nagisa is funny in the first episodes but changes herself little by little. At the end she is very serious and unfunny. Chikaru is gentle for the most of the time but when she makes Carmen, she is very serious and mature.Too many changes are confusing.
Overall - 7
A good anime, too similar of another famous Yuri anime. Story is confusing because there are many characters at same time. Sex is one side of love but we don't need to watch two girls in a bathroom in an anime like that. Girls are very aggressive and trying to kiss other girl everytime; ehi, aren't we in a Catholic school? It seems no.The scenes with lessons in the schools are short and there aren't friendships between the classmates. Everything is centered on love and it is heavy.Strawberry Panic isn't a good title; Shizuma is the most important character in the anime because everything turn around her. She has white hair and olives eyes.If you love Yuri, you should watch this anime but it isn't the best you can watch.
Ok.. WAY too yurilicious for my tastes. I’ll state that first. Secondly, Kaori… stupid arc. It was like watching a shortened version of that damn Mandy Moore movie years ago. The ending, I absolutely hated the ending. It could have been far more creative but NOOOOO, they just had to go with the usual type of ending for this type of story. Aggravates me quite a bit. Yaya and Tama were the only two I liked in the story by the end even though what they did was expected. Either way, I need to watch something super gory and violent now. Five shoujo series makes me feel like a little girl now *cries* (all 4 seasons of Marimite were marathoned prior to this)
This show is... odd, to say the least.
The story of this show isn't actually half bad. It's about this girl who moves to a catholic three-dorm school called something or other about strawberries. Anyway, she transfers in and, for whatever reason, falls in love with the most popular girl in school. You see, here's the problem with the realism to this show: EVERYBODY WHO GOES TO THIS SCHOOL IS INEXPLICABLY A LESBIAN. I mean, there's nothing wrong with lesbianity(I liekz itz, cuz im a creeper liek dat :D), but I just find it kinda hard to believe that every student is a lesbian without any sort've questioning of it at all. Not even a simple, "oh, you too, huh?"
Other than that, the story is very touching and tells a story and love and hardship. They did that part pretty well, actually.
Some people said the other main character, Hikari, had boring arcs. Honestly, both of the relationships were equally interesting(cuz im just weird liek dat :P), but it's pretty easy to choose favorites.
The ending is also conclusive, thus, the above-average story score.
Although I didn't really have a problem with it, some people claim that it's disproportionate and such. I didn't really notice that, but if you wanna see disproportionate stuff, go watch Kanon or Detective Conan.
I never really have a problem with soundtracks, but I guess this one was alright. The OP and ED themes weren't really memorable, but the voice actors were into it and the background music was there when it should've been. There were also a few singing sequences, which weren't done half-bad either.
The characters, as expected of any weird-ass traditional romance, are the best part of the show. Their emotions are always portrayed very believably, and are understandable, at that.
But, like I said before, it annoys me that EVERYBODY was a lesbian, because I find it really hard to believe that it's literally just a coincidence that an all girls school(which is catholic at that... isn't that forbidden or something?) is filled completely with lesbians.
Just sayin', doesn't make any goddamn sense D:
If you can get past some lack of realism, this show is a good watch and ends conclusively. I recommend this to anyone who is into this weird genre(liek me :3), and also doesn't really have anything better to do(also like me...?).
Plot: "On Astraea Hill stand 3 prestigious female-only academies known as St. Miatre, Spica, and LeRim; and though the schools are separate, they share a single campus and dormitory. Nagisa Aoi is a 10th grader who has decided to transfer to St. Miatre's Girls' Academy. Though her transition has been smooth so far, while exploring the campus Aoi inadvertently falls down a hill, sees the beautiful Shimuza, and promptly (not to mention embarrassingly) faints. Nagisa continues to see Shimuza out and about, but soon discovers that she is the "Etoile" -- a well respected girl within all of the schools. With Shizuma taking a liking to the new transfer student Nagisa, secrets of Shizuma's past will unravel over the coming school year." (site synopsis)
Well before begining with the usual review, a few words about this anime.Another one of the best shoujo-ai animes that i seen also in my top 20 animes.Infact this was the first shoujo-ai anime that i seen and from that time till now i became a fan of the shoujo-ai animes.
Story: This anime has one of the best and well developed stories, not as good as the one from Maria-sama ga Miteru but near it, a perfect rival for Marimite.The story of this anime is centered on a new transfered high school student Aoi Nagisa.She transfered to a prestigious female-only academy named Saint Miatre situated on Astraea Hill (it isnt the only academy there Spica and LeRim are the other academies situated on Astraea Hill).On her way to school she crosses paths with a misterious girl who wears the St. Miatre's uniform.She was completely shocked when she saw how beautiful she was and embarrassingly she faints! At that time she didn't knew that the student she met was one of the most popular and a model for most of the students, Etoile aka Shizuma.After a while she is informed about her indetity and she gets to meet her room mate Tamao.It is not long until Nagisa and her friends realize that Shizuma took some interest on her.Even though she appears as a respectable, beautiful and inteligent person Shizuma is a complete mystery.Very few people knew about her past and one of those people is Rokujou the Student Council President of St. Miatre's and Shizuma's closest friend.This anime isnt only centered on one couple though (Shizuma and Nagisa), we also have a couple that appears abit later in the anime and is formed by the most popular student in Spica Academy, Amane and Hikari who is a member of Spica's choir.As the story develops the relationship between Nagisa and Shizuma and Amane and Hikari reach deeper levels and develop strong bonds, passing through different obstacles (Nagisa dealing with Shizuma's past and Hikari dealing with Kaname Kenjou and Momomi Kiyashiki two students at Spica who want to participate in the Etoile Selection and want to make sure that Amane wont participate in it.The story is rather interested filled with warm romance/shoujo-ai aspects and with some dramatic points, with some turns of events that makes it even captivating.The ending is also very nice which realy shows the yuri level of this anime.
Animation: In terms of animation, this anime has a better animation than Maria-sama ga Miteru since the production year is 2006 but not perfect of course since it doesnt have the graphic and quality of the ones from nowadays.The character designs were pretty well made, nothing much to complain here i realy liked the design of Shizuma, her long white/gray hair is very distinctive.
Sound: Related to sound this anime is briliant.The openings and endings dont fit too well with the anime environment but are more than listenable, i realy liked them alot.Even though the opening and ending didnt fit too well the background sounds compensate, it fits the anime environment perfectly.Also the song which was singed by the choir was nice so nothing much to complain here.
Characters: Strawberry Panic doesnt have such a good character development.Don't get me wrong it has one but not at the level of Maria-sama ga Miteru, way beyond my expectation as well.However i was impressed of how good the characters were developed individualy and i need to point to Shizuma and Amane here especialy.
Overall: Warm, enjoyable, watchable, sometimes it can be even confusing but nothing out of common related to this anime except the yuri aspects (for some people this stuff are still concidered as out of common).It is very similar with other shoujo-ai animes especialy Marimite and Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru, has the same environment and almost the same story/plot.My advice is that if you love shoujo-ai animes then you need to watch this anime.
~As always just my thoughts~
Here are some pictures:
And a few videos:
And one that i damn realy like with the song Evanescence - Hello (sad one somehow)
And another one with the song Evanescence - All that I'm living for
~Enjoy and Cya Around~