Strawberry Marshmallow Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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.
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Strawberry Marshmallow

Strawberry Marshmallow Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     August 07, 2006
Release Date: August 01, 2006


Strawberry Marshmallow Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Things are heating up!

Having fun is all a part of growing up and the girls get their chance to enjoy their summer beginning with a sleepover. Later they try to battle the heat by staying in an air-conditioned room or going to the beach and looking for things to entertain themselves with. Who knew that cell phones and video cameras could be so much fun? Then they end their summer at the festival where Miu decides to take an active role...

The Review!
While Miu continues to try and steal the show, the rest of the cast is where a lot of the real fun is at.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using the cover artwork from the Japanese release, the beach episode is what makes the grade here as it has a very cute shot of Miu in her swimsuit and floatie with lots of ribbons and bows that's just far too adorable, right down to the ladybug sandals. I've seen outfits very close to this just the past week or two in my trips to the pool that seeing this doesn't quite seem as provocative as one might think. 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. The insert uses the Japanese artwork of Ana and Matsuri together in their swimsuits in the water and opens up to a two panel spread of the girls in their festival outfits. The back cover has a very cute illustration of Miui in a late fall kind of outfit.

Menu:
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 time 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.

Extras:
The extras for this volume are pretty nice and the kinds of things that will appeal to the fans of the show. The ending sequence gets its clean version presented this time and there's an interesting little digest version of the first two episodes. The main extra included here that runs for a few minutes is the promotional video for the show that came out prior to its airing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume of Strawberry Marshmallow, we left with the impression of it being a cute little show that in its own way is really about nothing but the dynamics of a small group of friends who happen to be young. There is a heavy slice of life factor to this though it's played out in an interesting way in that there are for the most part no adults or other characters than the main cast. Other than the festival where they interact with the stall owners, there's barely any presence of other adults.

The general arc of the series continues to follow the kids along their school year though school isn't the main focus of it. It's through their time at school though that we're able to tell where they are and what's going on in their lives, such as this volume where they're finishing out their exams before going on summer vacation. Some of the school material is interesting but it's kept relatively minimal. While there's some fun about the way Miu deals with the end of school as it showcases her heavy procrastination, there's more fun in watching how Ana deals with not being able to speak English and hiding her very strong Japanese skills. Her reasons for doing all of this has left her in a place where it's hard to make friends since she can't really communicate with them because of the choices she made but also because it causes some amount of favoritism with some teachers. And that causes trouble with some of the students, but like most of the show, it's a very small part of things.

A lot of what happens in the show takes place in the Itou household, such as the sleepover that fills the first episode during the hot day. This has some similar undertones to the episode later on that takes place during one of the hottest days of the summer in that the kids, along with Nobue, just hang out and try to keep cool and relax, but Miu and her shenanigans cause all kinds of trouble. Everyone coming together to the house is fun as they have small hurdles to overcome and the trip to the supermarket to get some snacks and other food has its moments.

One area where I was wondering if the show would go too far down the wrong path came with the beach trip episode. With the way some shows with kids of this age have been sensationalized lately and make the kids look far more adult or sexual than they should, there was a huge chance that it could happen here. But similar to the earlier episodes in the series, even when they do gloss up the kids slightly it doesn't feel like they're trying to really abuse it. It doesn't get glamorized and is actually fairly tame; my three year old does more glamour posing than the kids in this show have done. The beach episode is pretty cute overall though as it has the girls dealing with Miu by burying her, spending time swimming and in general just having a mildly fun day that doesn't have any real stress to it. Even the "highlight" of having Nobue's swimtop removed didn't have a really exciting edge to it but just more of the playfulness that Miu thinks she brings to things.

Much of the show does play along fairly standard lines though. Even though the beach episode may not have been titillating, it does have a lot of the usual gags and elements to it within the context of these five young women. The festival episode, which rounds out the volume, moves in the same kind of slow fashion as all the girls slowly converge on Chika's house and they go through the motions of having their kimono's put on and some of the method explained by Nobue, which helps to flesh her out a bit more. The actual festival itself is fun since it's one of the few times we actually see more adults around and seeing how Miui interacts with them only strengthens the idea that she's really just an extremely outgoing and opinionated child. Again, this is something where experience will color your perception and seeing much of Miu in my own four year old already, it makes the character and what she does all the more believable.

In Summary:
By and large, Strawberry Marshmallow is a show in a line of shows that are essentially about nothing. It feels so strikingly close in a lot of ways to Bottle Fairies in that there's things going on within this small circle of friends but it has no impact on the larger world. With so many shows that play at the opposite end of things with big passions, adventures and goals, a show like Strawberry Marshmallow balances things out very well. This isn't a show that will make waves but it will be quite pleasing to those who enjoy the genre and enjoy series that are more mellow and relaxed than anything else. The writing is sharp, the characters very cute and fun to watch and with just enough style to it that it all comes together quite well.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Ending,Episode 1-2 Digest,Promo Video

Review Equipment
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.

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