Thursday, 22 December 2005 04:57

I, My, Me! Strawberry Eggs (TV, 2001)

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Overview

Now, some people would take one look at the gimmick of this series, and move along to something else, and I suppose that I couldn't blame them. After all, here in the States, cross-dressing is something of a touchy subject, ranging, depending on who you ask, from being just plain weird, to being a sin against God's greater plan. Personally, I'm rather ambivalent about the subject. It's not something I'd do myself, but I've also known a few guys - and one girl, actually - who did it and they never struck me as anything other than normal, albeit with lipstick. For me, I picked it up through a subtitle group, long before it was licensed here in the States, and so had no idea that the rather cute babe on the screen shots was in fact a cross-dressing guy. I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have taken a look if I'd have known - it's not that I'm close minded, just that transvestite-ism isn't my thing. Never the less, I did pick the series up to take a look, and I'm quite glad that I did.

Review

Hibiki Amawa is a freshly graduated PE teacher, out on his own for the first time, and has just found a place with rent he thinks he can cover - once he gets his job. Of course, he has a minor problem - his tuition has left him very broke, and his first week's rent is due before the week begins. Oh, yeah, and... the landlady is a bit trigger happy. But luckily for Hibiki, there's a school at the top of the hill from the place he's just moved into, and they're looking for a PE teacher. One minor problem - the headmistress and her assistant qualify as full blown Feminazi's, and have no time for a pitiful, barbaric, worthless man. Needless to say, this rather irritates Hibiki, who makes the mistake of swearing, in his land lady's presence, to get the job no matter what he has to do, and as it happens, she has an idea of what he - err, she'll have to do.

Right then, something you have to understand that IMMSE does NOT do - it does not explore the depths of its most obvious premise, that of a guy dressing up as a woman in order to teach a class full of thirteen and fourteen year olds. Some viewers will have trouble with this aspect of the story, which, while not actively explored, does still filter into the plot line a bit. I actually have to give some compliments to the writers for letting just enough tension from this leak into the story without ever really crossing the line - with one exception. However, that exception is what the main story was built around, and was handled in such a way as to avoid the prickly connotations until they had time to be properly addressed.

Instead, IMMSE allows itself to draw a fair bit of humor from setting up situations for Amawa-sensei to do 'her' best to struggle through, such as swimming class, and dealing with his students when tensions caused by teenage hormones start to drive apart longtime friends. In truth, that's the real point of the story - Hibiki, despite his situation, is a very good teacher, and is willing to go to any lengths to see that they succeed. Perhaps that's why I found myself liking the story so much, or maybe that even though the great majority of the series is comedy with a bit of slapstick, here and there, and especially toward the end, there are some nice bits of drama and even romance, albeit very teenage romance. But the writers did an excellent job of creating a feel of school-time relationships, both platonic and romantic, and that sense really does help tie everything together.

IMMSE's music falls in with the general standard of anime these days, with a few highlights. Chief among these is the opening theme, Dearest, written and performed by Hitomi Mieno. Unlike most J-Pop, the primary instrument you hear is a guitar - it almost qualifies as a country rock song. The background themes are pleasant, and used sparingly, and most often very quietly as well, with the exception of the instrumental version of Dearest used for episode ending scenes. White Station, the series ending theme, also isn't too bad, though it's far more J-Popish than Dearest is. Voice acting is excellent for the most part, and certainly better than I'd have expected from the dub. Despite the few appearances that the male version of Amawa makes, Crispin Freeman has as much fun with this role as he had with Alucard in Hellsing.

The artwork is pretty standard fare for modern anime, professional, but nothing too special. Like wise, the animation style is solid and watchable, with none of the stylization that some shows have. Most of the characters are fairly original looking, though if you're looking carefully you can see traces of the standard stereotypes that they're based on. This is more evident in the male characters than the females, but it is there none the less. None the less, it's generally not bad enough to deserve more than passing comment, not unless you particularly dislike stereotypes. Incidentally, it's kinda scary how good a woman Amawa makes... the artists put a lot of time into the two sides of Hibiki.

Like I mentioned above, I thought that the writers did an excellent job of creating a feel of real, school-age relationships, both platonic and romantic. The student class is reasonably varied, and though a little questionable at parts - somehow I have trouble believing, for instance, that there'd be an Italian boy in this particular school, what with the predications of the headmistress and assistant principle - decently balanced. The headmistress personifies strict, stern, 'proper' upbringing, right down to the gray kimono she wears, while her assistant principle is a Feminazi down to her very core. Make no mistake - the headmistress hates men, and preaches the school philosophy of 'Love Is All' in a way that would do Hitler proud, but the assistant principle is the real villainess in this series. On the other side of the equation are Amawa's landlady, 'Lulu' and the other two tenants of her Gochisou shop. Lulu serves mainly as comic relief, but is also responsible for helping Amawa find his feminine side - and saving his ass fairly often throughout the series. She keeps Morikoji and Toufukoji from spying on the girl's dorm just up the hill from the shop in a series of ever more spectacular and funny Bugs Bunny style counters. Not to be forgotten is poor Kurage, Hibiki's dog - who the landlady holds hostage until he pays the rent, under the threat of being turned into dog-stew.

Overall

Overall, I can recommend this series, IF you're willing to look past the obvious subtexts to be found within it. American viewers must remember, above all else, that the story was not written with American viewers in mind, and so it's not fair to judge some of the events in the story by our 'values'. By the same token, it's fair to warn you that by our standards, Strawberry Eggs skirts the edges of transgenderism, homosexuality and ephebophilia, all three of which are touchy subjects. If you're not willing to watch with an open mind, and ignore, or at least set aside your own predications, you will not be able to enjoy the series. The series is comedy, and shifts more and more towards drama toward the end of the show, and can be quite entertaining, IF you're willing to take it for what it is - a story. Nothing more, nothing less.

Additional Info

  • Title: I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, Strawberry Eggs, Ai Mai Mi! Sutoroberī Eggu, あぃまぃみぃ!ストロベリー・エッグ
  • Genre: Romance, Comedy, High School
  • Director: Jonathan Tintero
  • Studio: TNK, Pioneer LDC
  • Licensed: Geneon Entertainment
  • Network: WOWOW
  • Format: Television
  • Episodes: 13
  • Animation: Very Good (+3)
  • Writing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Pacing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Voice Acting: Very Good (+3)
  • Soundtrack: Very Good (+3)
Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 23:23

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