Strawberry Marshmallow Vol. #3 (also w/box) (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, September 15, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 03, 2006
What They Say
As with all young children, our young heroines become concerned with various things in their life such as dieting, hypnotism, and Santa Claus. The only difference is that Miu tends to add a little something out of the ordinary to make things "interesting"...
With a show that's all about the small details of life, it's little surprise that the show doesn't really end here but rather the characters simply continue on growing, learning and becoming more than they are now.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a very straightforward stereo mix which has very little in terms of directionality to it. It's also a surprising track in just how little background music there is to it which leaves the dialogue standing out there on its own all the more. The dialogue aspects are well done though but it's a very center channel based piece. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Like many shows set in similar settings, the transfer here is able to work beautifully with the soft colors and basic animation so that it looks like a great piece. The series has a few common settings to it, be it one of the girls bedrooms or some school classroom, and they use plenty of the standard light palette of colors that has a real world feel to it. There are plenty of vibrant colors throughout though, such as eyes or certain outfits, but they blend well into the overall setting. There are a lot of areas of single bold colors and they maintain a great looking solid feel while black levels in general come across very well. The transfer is free of cross coloration and there wasn't any noticeable aliasing during regular playback that caught my eye.
Using the cover artwork from the Japanese release, the artwork used is that of Nobue and Chika playing soccer together in the park. It's a cute shot and the colors look great, particularly for the sky, and the characters look good with their outfits and designs. The back cover goes for a mostly white background with red and pink text that works nicely in showing off a lighter side to the show. There's a mixture of standard character artwork and some shots from the show as well as a basic summary. The features and other information is nicely laid out though not all of the extras are listed here. The show doesn't use a technical grid though which means there's duplicated information here. Due to this being an advance copy, no insert was included.
The menu layout for the show is similar to other areas of the release in that it plays up the cute factor with character artwork from the packaging and some basic music to it. If the cute factor hadn't hit before now, it's very obvious by loading it up in the player. The layout and design is good overall but the cursor stopping on the blocks at times has it looking like you're selecting the wrong thing. Access times are nice and fast and the menus are easy to navigate but the language presets didn't pick up properly and it defaulted to English with sign subtitles. Even worse, you can't select English with subtitles, you can only do English or Japanese with English subtitles.
Closing out the extras for the series, there's a section of music clips which is cute and fun as it takes some of the songs from the show and mixes them with scenes from the show. Also included is a round of TV spots for the shows promotion.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Strawberry Marshmallow's final four episodes are little different in a lot of ways from the previous eight episodes. It continues to bring us the lives of these young girls and Nobue as they deal with the simplest of things and still find challenges within them. Often times that challenge is just Miu but every group has one. Though the show doesn't end with anything truly special, it does leave you with a warm and happy feeling.
My experiences with this show are certainly being colored by where I am in my life, which is odds are not the same for the majority of other fans. While my own kids aren't at the ages of these in the show, I can see plenty of similarities already and get to see the universal nature of much of what kids are all about. What has made the previous episodes and some of these especially enjoyable is seeing the relationship between Nobue and Chika. Relationships between siblings can be varied enough and those between sisters even more so. What's nice is that they get along so well here and Nobue even gets along with all of her friends, though I think she just tolerates Miu sometimes. Nobue looks out for her sister quite a lot though Chika doesn't always notice or appreciate it.
Sometimes all it takes is just a word or two or a small dose of reality that experience can provide. The opening episode is a prime example where Miu, in an effort to score more treats for herself, teases Chika about gaining weight and prodding Chika's belly. Miu takes it so much further when they play paper sumo's by naming her sumo Chubby Chika and making it absolutely huge compared to others. From then on Chika finds herself really sensitive about her weight but she internalizes all of it while trying to figure out if she's really gaining or not. Of course, Miu is constantly there and causing problems so it becomes a bit more known. Nobue's involvement is just right though and she has the bit of experience to put it in perspective for Chika. It's a short moment but it's a very endearing one. You can imagine that when these two sisters were much younger that they were very loving and cuddly towards each other.
Nobue's definitely taken on the older sister role for most of these girls, particularly for Mitsuri but also rather nicely for Ana. The episode when the first snows hit and things are getting cold has the group going to a public bath after their heat is turned off due to Nobue missing a payment. While there is the insanity of taking Miu there, as she wants to bring floaties and goggles or as she farts in the bath, it's a very laid back experience that doesn't push much in the way of fanservice or extra skin shots in order to titillate. Nobue very much takes these younger girls under her wing in explaining the basics of it and getting them a bit more in touch with their own culture, parts that they may not have experienced much due to the way home life has changed in the last couple of decades. Nobue is far more patient and understanding than a lot of sisters and it really shows through here.
Strawberry Marshmallow has been an interesting series and one that I've enjoyed a lot even though it's not something that I think will be memorable in the long run. The group dynamic has been fun to watch and even though they are your basic archetypes it does run along what most groups eventually pan out to be. The quirks within it were cute, such as Ana's hiding of her language skills to her close friends and her classmates, Miu's over the top style in making sure she's the center of attention as well as the way Nobue is so attached to her cigarettes. It's not a show that will attract a legion of fans but I found it to be vastly appealing. I watch my kids and her friends interact every day so something like this feels very much in tune with my life and with plenty of the same kind of comedy. Slice of life fans and those wanting a bit more of Japanese culture without the over the top antics and fanservice will likely adore this show. I know I did.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Music Clips,TV Spots
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Strawberry Marshmallow