Ok, so the trilogy of reviews on anime containing complicated relationships continue with a look at a show that is a bit obscure but I find it that’s worth taking another look at and has an interesting relationship one that I don’t have I’ve covered…..
I My Me Strawberry Eggs
Studio: TNK (and Pioneer LDC)
Director: Yuji Yamaguchi
Script: Yasuko Kobayashi, Mutsumi Nakano and Hideki Shirane
Hibiki Amawa is a fresh out of school guy who aspires to become a PE teacher. He tries to apply for a job at a local school but gets shot down by the ultra-feminist principal who only hires women for teachers. Luckily his granny landlady has a scheme to help him out, by disguising him as a woman. This turns out somewhat fortunate as Hibiki is not only a gender-neutral name but his appearance lends itself to cross dressing pretty well, he lands the job on the condition of conducting a running dash test with Fuko, a a young female student at the school who is a bit clumsy and shy but well-meaning kind girl. He fulfills this and gets the job, all the while keeping his secret and trying hard not to cross the line in terms of teacher-student relationships.
Now, Strawberry Eggs has a story that really shouldn’t be this good if going by a synopsis and base premise it sounds like the anime equivalent of Mrs Doubtfire or Tootsie. It contains the rather questionable central relationship, Hibiki (male teacher) and Fuko (female student) which yeah goes into some territory not seen much in animation, much less dealt with seriously. I love how the show deals with the relationship issues presented does it in a level-headed way without doing too much melodramatic.
The story which has some strong moral backing even if the methods to get there are a bit contrived as Hibiki seeks to not just teach physical education but also the lessons of life to his students, be it peer pressure or moving on with life after death of a parent. Those teachers, at least in my personal experience, are the best teachers and if you get a chance to have a teacher like that, that means the world of difference.
The show also indulges in straw man social issues (feminism/sexual equality) while maintaining some level of moral decency about. Lesson about jumping to conclusions and not to do that comes up a lot in this show. Of course many of the characters of both genders are broad stereotypes with some female students being very misandrist and a few supporting cast guys are either perverts or utter misogynists. Then again, the show relays that this due to outside influences and expectations by others, not so much an internally built into people. I do appreciate that it brings this up naturally without coming across as forced or preachy.
Of course, the story has a basic frame that of ‘The Liar Revealed’, which a main character has made a lie and then is revealed with some sort of consequences involved after the fact. What really works for Strawberry Eggs is the ending in that the liar is revealed, in this case Hibiki, and the way the story goes is quite interesting and different from other ‘the liar revealed’ scenarios in recent memory. The ending is bittersweet but understandable given the circumstances leading up to it. The moral at the end-that you may take away the teacher, but you can never take away the lessons learned-I find very strong. Overall I appreciate the sincerity of the piece regarding the subject matter it talks about.
The uneven production does take away from the story a bit, since it is an early 00s digi-paint/hybrid production as much of anime from that era of animation. This includes lots of still frames, off model shots out the wazoo and looks quite too crisp/clear at points in terms of visual quality while at other points looking a bit less visually appealing. On occasion it will look good for its time; it’s really telling that the animation for the opening song “Dearest” by Hitomi Mieno is the only thing in the show that hasn’t aged terribly.
Now the english dub is a good effort by New Generation Pictures the same group that gave us the dubs for ROD TV among some others. Crispin Freeman helms the dub, alongside co-writing the dub script and acting as Hibiki Amawa. He does a great job in the role and certainly fits the character a bit more than the original japanese seiyuu who sounds like an old samurai movie actor. I do like how they manage to get an actress like Sally Dana who has a similar type of voice to Freeman for when Hibiki is in disguise mode, kudos to that. Carrie Savage as Fuko is quite notable as well delivering a fitting young girl performance as expected from her. The solid supporting cast bolsters up the viewing experience considerably. Of course, the dub script does add in honorifics on occasion and sometimes japanese terms (buruma, kyoshi,-nabe) so better know what those terms are or you’ll be left confused. But other then that, an enjoyable dub.
So, Strawberry Eggs is a nice little gem of a show. It sets out to tell a honest and sincere tale of a man proving his own worth despite adversity from a system that doesn’t care for him and it oddly satisfying to see him gain more of a moral victory at the end then everything else. It’s a show that honestly shouldn’t have worked, and yet it does quite well in fact. I got to admire the show for that at least.
Anyway, my next review concluding this look at ‘Complicated Relationships’ in Anime will be up on Valentine’s Day yay what timing. Here’s the hint for that one: It’s a visual novel adaptation ^_^
Til next time dear readers….