Astraea girls academy sits high on a hill, a beautiful and serene place which cultivates it’s students into refined, respectable women. Making up the academy are three separate schools, and at the top of the respective student councils sits the Etoile, Hanazano Shizuma. Elected by the three schools, she is the most loved and most respected student. Into this prestigious world stumbles transfer student Aoi Nagisa, and as luck (or misfortune) would have it, right into the clutches of the flirtatious philandering Shizuma.
Let me begin with a warning. Strawberry Panic is shoujo ai. For those of you not familiar with that particular anime term, shoujo ai is an anime that designates women in love with other women. So, if this is not your cup of tea, I highly suggest you skip this one. Unlike Maria-sama ga miteru where the shoujo ai themes are very very low key and even debatable, this series leaves no room for questions of any kind. Now, on with the review!
I’ll start with my least favorite aspect of Strawberry Panic and that is the artwork and character design. I have no qualms with the animation. Since there is hardly any action, the animation was fine. The artwork was very simple, the backgrounds plain, and the character designs unremarkable. Similarly, the colors are quite dull.
Now, I’m not one to get extremely caught up in technicalities if the story is good so despite the fact that I found the artwork drab, I decided I would push on through. This was the first shoujo ai series I watched so what I went in expecting was a show geared towards a male audience. I’m not saying that a male audience wouldn’t enjoy Strawberry Panic, but it was very tastefully done and guys watching it just to get an ecchi lesbo kick will be sorely disappointed. Sorry, boys. This show is all about girls and for girls, though I imagine male viewers will enjoy it more than they would Maria-sama. I can't call Strawberry Panic "innocent".
I loved the characters. Shizuma, while initially appearing to be, well…kind of a predator turns out to be quite a deep, tragic, sorrowful character. With Miyuki hinting throughout that Shizuma has “changed” in the last year, the story unfolds nicely until we, the audience are finally shown what exactly makes Shizuma tick. Nagisa is a naturally comical character. Having just transferred to the school and having no clue as to Shizuma’s nature or…habits, she is shocked when the upperclassman sets her sights on her. And with Shizuma’s roommate Miyuki constantly having to bail Nagisa out and rescue her from Shizuma’s grasp, Nagisa quickly finds a spot in the viewer’s heart. She’s just so darn cute.
The supporting cast, while quite large is just that: supporting. Even though there is a story arc involving two other girls, Amane and Hikari I found myself not really caring about them very much. They could have left out the two girls completely and I doubt many people would have noticed. The main focus of Strawberry Panic is, without a doubt Shizuma Hanazano. With that said, I had no particular problems with the supporting roles. They were mostly cute and comical with a few sad and tragic characters thrown in. The series and characters move quite smoothly through comedy and drama and the story is actually quite sad. I loved it. There are so many incredibly beautiful scenes throughout as Nagisa, as Miyuki so elegantly puts it, slowly brings spring to the winter that has lived so long in Shizuma’s heart.
Content: While I wouldn’t call it fanservice necessarily, Strawberry Panic does have partial nudity. And, as I said if girls kissing and hugging and generally doing romantic things with one another offends or bothers you in any way whatsoever, it would probably be best to not watch this series. The language is fine and there are no gory scenes as this isn’t exactly an action flick. Fine for 16+ 7/10
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