September 3, 2008
Somehow, when the dust settles and I’ve read more of Ai Morinaga’s series (like the pending volumes of My Heavenly Hockey Club and Your and My Secret sitting next to my bed), I think nothing will ever top the insanity in these two volumes. Until another shoujo manga can offer up the line “I thought my anus was going to turn inside-out” or features a frog vomiting up its stomach in a romantic fantasy, this one will be at the top of the list.
I literally laughed so hard I cried. Just like I did in the first volume. And I read a bunch of this one on a bus. I could not control myself, it’s just so bizarre and funny. A lot of the repeat gags and continuity from last time are gone (the straw trick is only brought back out at the end, and the stalker kid only comes back at the end too), but they are replaced with things which are just as good. My favorite was a really huge, butch-looking character who got put into the wrong school. This character was female, but the principal accidentally put her in the all-boy’s school because she looks like a really manly man. She goes through all the shoujo devices of being nervous about being found out and having a crush on her roommate, except she looks REALLY, really manly, and most things run to her being a really popular and admired role-model type guy. Every single joke involving her just had me dying. I started listing them out before I realized I was just narrating every scene with her in it. She doesn’t have much to do with Strawberry-chan the frog, but she’s still a perfect addition.
Actually, yes, the stalker kid is in one of the first chapters, briefly. He’s in what I believe is the best panels of manga I’ve ever seen, the perfect visual gag. Ai Morinaga not only has the best sense of humor, she is also good at translating it into drawings. I mean, that’s her job, but nobody seems to do it quite like her.
One bit of continuity from last time was the return of the frog which had hibernated in a flowerpot… except he’s brought up in the middle of a scene where everyone is trying to figure out what smells so bad.
Strawberry-chan gets constipation at one point. Someone buys him an enema. There is some injury and molestation that happens. It is so MESSED UP and funny.
The entire thing is once again just gag chapters one right after the other. The Strawberry-chan parts only take up about 2/3 of the book, and at the end there is a sentai story. The only thing that could make me like Ai Morinaga more than I already do is if she drew a sentai series. Unfortunately, it seems like this story was one of the first ones she drew, and it’s not very good. There’s some good stuff in there though, like the octopus girl blowing up after not being able to process her feelings. I wanted more Strawberry-chan, but I also have an inordinate fondness for sentai comedy, so I was satisfied.
Her post-script was very simple and to-the-point, but still made me laugh. She talked about how her editor phoned her 9 years before the book was published to tell her to turn her Strawberry-chan doujinshi into a series, and she was very confused since she was working for a girl’s fantasy or sci-fi magazine and… it just didn’t fit. Somehow that makes this series even better. There’s also a panel where she got a call from her editor requesting the Sentai series, and she also didn’t understand how it fit since she was drawing a “lyrical shoujo manga” at the time. She seemed extremely disturbed by this information. She also drew herself crying tears of blood after looking at that sentai story for the first time in years, and explained she’s never stuck a straw up a frog before. All of this was most interesting to me. And there’s also a bonus Strawberry-chan story in the back.
I want to tell everyone to go out and buy both volumes of this because it is literally the funniest thing I have ever read. I’m not sure how many people share my twisted sense of humor though… but if you’re one of the few, please, for God’s sake, DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS SERIES. It’s easy to do since it’s a Media Works release and is probably flying under the radar, but it’s some seriously funny stuff.
June 12, 2008
I found out about this series around the same time I got my hands on Jason Thompson’s manga guide. I noticed it listed in with Ai Morinaga’s series in the back, and I was totally blown away that I hadn’t heard of it. Up until about last month, the only thing I knew about it was its title, the fact there were two volumes released in Japan, and what the front cover looked like, which I only realized when I got it pointed to the frog as “Strawberry-chan.” The description on the back that surfaced about a month ago didn’t help me figure out what it was about, but I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Ai Morinaga, so it was pretty much a must-buy for me.
It’s… composed of short chapters (usually around 10 pages) about a boy in boarding school and his pet frog. They’re, uh, comedic in nature. The first one is about how the boy loves to stick a straw up Strawberry-chan’s rear and inflate him like a balloon. There are a number of other small tortures the boy inflicts on Strawberry-chan, but this one was the most… er, extreme. Most of the others are psychological in nature. We also find out pretty quickly that there’s a mutual love between Strawberry-chan and one of the boy’s roommates which delivers lots of sparkly shoujo moments between the boy and frog, and lots of opportunities for the owner to foil their pure love. The frog-lover tries to adopt Strawberry-chan to get him away from his abusive owner… but apparently Strawberry-chan loves the straw torture too much. At one point, a younger boy tries to get into the main character’s good graces so that he can be tortured like Strawberry-chan. This goes many, many wrong places.
In short, this series is messed up in ways that you and I can’t begin to comprehend. I loved it.
The chapters are gag after gag, so there’s not much in way of… plot or character to discuss, but I can vouch for how funny it is. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it after the first few pages, but it kept getting weirder and weirder, and I just couldn’t help myself. Strawberry-chan interacts with the boys (there’s maybe 4 who appear regularly, which seems like a good number) via thought bubbles, and the boys seem to mostly understand what he says.
I was totally won over by the end of the volume, which had a single panel that will haunt me for the rest of my life involving the straw joke, which isn’t all that overused for as many times as I’ve mentioned it here. I laughed so hard I cried. It’s very rare that I laugh out loud at a manga, Eroica being the only one that springs to mind immediately, but not even that one makes me laugh as hard as the end of this volume did.
To be fair, the joke I laughed hardest at made me think of Sgt. Frog a little bit, and I’m not too sure which one came first, but somehow it’s just funnier in this series. Maybe because Strawberry-chan is just way more innocent. I’m not sure why it works, it just does.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this isn’t for everyone. It’s probably not even for most people. But if you’re one of the few, you won’t regret buying this for a second. Two volumes is probably about as much of something like this I can take… but the jokes kept getting better and better as the volume went on, so I’m dying to see what’s in the second volume.