Strawberry 100% Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Release Date: Sunday, July 01, 2007
Translated by:Yuko Sawada
What They Say
EXT. ROOFTOP OF A SCHOOL BUILDING, SUNSET
The hero (me, Junpei Manaka!) sneaks up to the roof to see the sunset. When he opens the door, he startles a mysterious beauty. She panics and runs away, but not before Junpei has caught sight of her adorable strawberry print panties...in EXTREME close-up. With that vision forever burned into his memory, Junpei embarks on a quest to find the girl, and the panties, of his dreams!
The two main visual themes of Strawberry 100% are strawberries and film, which are captured quite adeptly on the front and back covers. Junpei finds himself straddling a few strawberries between Aya Tojo and Nishino Tsukasa on the front cover, below a very pink logo, which also contains a strawberry. On the back, the volume summary is shown as a film script tacked up to a wall, above three images presented as frames in a film, with Aya again on the left, Nishino on the right, and both of them framing a smaller Junpei in the middle. Below all this is the typical Viz information; it should be noted that the front cover does contain a very small parental advisory warning in the lower-right corner.
Things are just as good inside, with a solid printing through and through. This is particularly important because Kawashita tends to use a lot of thin, intricate line work and the detail could easily be lost in a muddied reproduction. Thankfully things remain clear and visible.
Kawashita's artwork is hard to define; it's certainly attractive, with a fair amount of detail, from the characters to the backgrounds (which are in blessed abundance). While it may not exactly jump off the page at you, the character designs are all attractive and distinct from each other. You won't find any deformation or chibi characters here, either; the visual style remains firmly rooted in reality, with the occasional wide-eyed reaction shot. Lines are thin and give the art a more delicate feel than many may be used to for this genre.
There's no visible problems with the translation or the adaptation, with well-written dialog and a lack of spelling and grammatical errors. The sound effects are all translated completely, with none of the original Japanese left, which is typical for Shonen Jump books. In fact, the entire translation keeps with the Viz spirit, which means no honorifics and a lack of cultural notes in the back, not that this book really needed them. Also, and I can't stress this enough, Strawberry 100% is blissfully free of the constant READ THIS WAY << notes present in other Shonen Jump manga.
Junpei isn't your typical dead-eyed modern youth; he has a dream, although he doesn't like to talk about it with his somewhat more stock-standard friends. His goal is to become a director, and with his burning passion for film he's decided to aim for Izumizaka High School, known for their Film Club.
Ironic, then, that he doesn't even have a camera to try his hand at directing. Despite his lack of experience, he seems to have the drive needed to achieve his goals. And so the story is primed for when, one afternoon, he heads up to the school's roof and sees a sight which truly inspires him: a beautiful girl falling past him, betraying a brief flash of strawberry panties. Before you can say "contrived plot device" Junpei is off, propelled by his newfound muse through a series of events that end with him dating the most popular girl in school, Tsukasa Nishino, in what is most definitely a case of mistaken identity.
During that whole mess, he finds himself acquainted with quiet, demure classmate Aya Tojo, who would seem the most likely candidate for the girl on the roof if it weren't for her looks. This is where, in person, I'd slyly wink and nudge you with my elbow. She proves to have just as much of an impact on Junpei as Nishino did; in her he's found someone with a similar creative spirit and talent, only lacking self-confidence. The two start to feed off each other, and have what seems to be the start of an interesting creative synergy.
The rest of the volume spends its time mashing the two female leads together with Junpei in the middle. It ends on an interesting note, something that a lot of romantic/harem comedies would spend a few volumes dancing around at least. While it doesn't present itself as an unbearable cliffhanger, the content itself provides ample reason to keep reading.
Strawberry 100% has all the trappings of a traditional, by-the-book harem comedy except for the gigantic female cast. It seems inevitable that they will show up eventually, an unstoppable, attractive female army of potential love interests, but starting small does indeed have its advantages and lets us really get a feel for the characters present.
Despite the cast size and makeup, I could draw several comparisons to harem classic Love Hina, which would almost immediately polarize potential readers and make my job much easier. In fact, let me do so: the protagonist driven by a dream, like-minded female lead, somewhat antagonistic friends, and frequent red herrings are all parts of the formula used to great success in Love Hina and countless manga since.
So what sets this series, at least by the end of Volume 1, apart from the massive lineup of similar titles? So far, not much, except craft. The typical story elements and expected developments are welded together in unusual, interesting ways, and make you forget that you may have seen what's on display here many, many times before. Nothing too drastic, but enough to switch you from anticipating everyone's next move to sitting back and just following the story.
Harem comedies tend to be less about the goal than the journey to get there. I'm fairly certain there's a law somewhere that states in any given harem comedy, the first girl the main character comes into contact with will be the one he ends up with. Regardless of the validity of that statement, it can't be argued that the overall story is generally treated as an afterthought in lieu of character and relationship development. The nice part of Strawberry 100% is that, by starting with a smaller cast, it has developed several effective, organic characters and relationships, along with a believable story and setting, something that would've taken much longer otherwise. The storytelling flair and technique on display here makes an otherwise rote dip into the harem comedy barrel something worth keeping an eye on.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Strawberry 100%