One afternoon, something incredible happens to Manaka Junpei. As he steps onto the school roof, a beautiful girl sails down from the reddening sky, her skirt thrashing wildly in the wind as her scrumptious strawberry panties are displayed to the world. Embarrassed, she runs away, and the awestruck Junpei sets off on a mission to discover the girl’s identity. Sound interesting? Why, yes it does, even for me. What I don’t understand is how a show with such promising, ecchi-tastic beginnings can melt into one of the blandest pieces of fruit I’ve had the misfortune (or insanity) to sample.
The main reason for Ichigo 100%'s letdown is its lack – yes, lack – of ecchi. Barely springing off the whole “strawberry panties” concept, the plot instead putters off in another direction, where eventually it lands into the turgid gelatin of “just another bad harem anime.” Three additional girls are introduced, and the interplay between both themselves and the male protagonist gets the water running – only to dry up like a spent fountain. Ichigo 100%’s story evolves into nothing more than a fragmented, emotionally drained quadrangle: Junpei spends his days sharing “moments” with each of the girls in patterned succession, continues to monopolize their feelings, and wavers back and forth ad infinitum on which shallow female to choose. In the wise words of Junpei himself as he walks down the school hallway, “I can’t decide who’s the best!” And folks, that’s pretty much all there is to it.
While Junpei angsts about such momentous matters, brief instances of giggle-worthy ecchi fan service pop up every so often, keeping the show barely alive. As it stands, the rest of the plot remains so dull that these rare fan service moments stand in stark contrast and become the high points of the episode. Unfortunately, Ichigo 100% glosses over such deliciousness (not to mention completely discarding its strawberry motif after episode four). Instead, the script is devoted to four stagnant sub-plots, each concerning a different girl, which run throughout the show like an endlessly repeating 4-song CD track, albeit in slightly different forms at each scheduled occurrence. To cap off the refrigerated mess, Ichigo 100%’s senseless conclusion leaves absolutely no closure. To both the virgin fanboy and the romance junkie, this steaming pile of mediocrity will disappoint.
For a show aimed at young virginal males, I don’t see how the character designs could ever arouse even its most sexually frustrated viewers. In short, the main cast of Ichigo are ugly little creatures with shrunken eyes, overly round faces, and chubby, compact bodies. Okay, perhaps I’m slightly exaggerating, but strangely, the characters formulate in my mind off-screen as uglier versions of their drawn selves. Regardless of my personal foibles, a question should be considered: Are the characters pleasing to look at? I say not in the slightest.
The show does contain brief flashes of visual beauty in the form of sparkling glamour shots, glistening boobs, and occasional shading techniques. However, these passing moments are spread much too thinly over the more frequent animation style of Ichigo 100%: Immobile backgrounds set against characters’ moving mouths. We are left staring at an inert screen, while the characters hold cheap poses that change into other cheap poses every time they begin a new sentence. If the dialogue were to actually maintain my interest, these mishaps would be somewhat forgivable, but with such an abysmal script, it only radiates the feeling of a flipbook on slow-motion.
Let me make this clear: I would prefer listening to a banshee than having to stomach Ichigo’s soundtrack again. Ranging from inconsequential mallet pings to anachronistic epic fanfares to god-awful “da-da-da”s, the series’ choice in music embeds the already rotting storyline in an additional layer of mold. What makes the situation worse is that the selections, as obnoxious as they are, also catch the ear and continue to croon from one’s mental radio hours after last watching the show. Voice acting is passable, and I’ll even go so far as to say it succeeds tremendously if the aim of the seiyuu were to annoy the hell out of you. Kenichi Suzumura, for example, brings his characteristic lilt so beloved in Ouran High School Host Club to Ichigo and performs Junpei in such a way that I wanted to throttle the character.
Let us commence an exhaustive personality analysis for each principal cast member:
1) Toujou (Girl #1): intelligent and timid, typical “girl with glasses”
2) Kitaoji (Girl #2): your everyday voluptuous, loud-mouthed bitch
3) Nishino (Girl #3): ......
4) Yui (Girl #4): naive, cute childhood friend, has habit of undressing in her sleep (particularly when Junpei is sharing the bed)
5) Junpei (Boy): “I can’t decide who’s the best!” Oh, and also likes film.
6) Junpei’s buddies: loathsome, unabashed pervert-creepers
7) Female teacher: eye-popping mammaries
I think that just about covers it. For all the time Junpei spends with his harem, astoundingly little progress is made in developing these characters past their first-encounter stereotype. (A case can maybe form for Nishino). At first, it is pleasantly refreshing to witness Junpei’s primary interest directed towards sweet, quiet Toujou; very soon, however, the girl lapses into an overly sensitive bore. The rest of the cast, excepting the perverted teacher and perhaps Yui, become even more unappealing to see on screen, as their overly simplistic personas do nothing more than protract the episode. Needless to say, it’s an inauspicious sign if the chief factor that enlivens a character is the frequency of her panty shots.
In Ichigo 100%’s odorous wake, one will be left to ask in wonder, “Why on earth is the thing called what it is?” As the fascinating “strawberry panties” idea never blossoms, one should more likely revise the title as “Ichigo 20%,” or perhaps even more accurately, “Bad Harem Anime No. ___”. Bottom line: Please forgo this mound of strawberry-tinted vomit. The likes of Kanon (2006) or even True Tears will prove infinitely superior.
Manaka Junpei is an average guy who has only two dreams in life: to become a filmmaker and to find the girl of his dreams. Luckily for him, after a chance encounter on the roof of the school, he has a lead on the girl! She was wearing strawberry panties. Unfortunately, he can't figure out which one of the five girls chasing him it was; but he gets plenty of chances to find out the color-of-the-day in his Cinderella search for his one true love!
When I first stumbled upon the anime scene, I demanded only slice-of-life high school romance and Naruto (Weird combination!). I've opened up a little bit since then, but I suppose the high school shoujo type will always be my "comfort zone."