Strawberry Panic: The Complete Novel Collection

Author: Sakurako Kimino
Illustrator: Namuchi Takumi

Translator: Michelle Kobayashi and Anastasia Moreno
U.S. publisher: Seven Seas
ISBN: 9781934876992
Released: June 2011
Original release: 2006

Strawberry Panic: The Complete Novel Collection, written by Sakurako Kimino with illustrations by Namuchi Takumi, is one of the many incarnations of the Strawberry Panic yuri universe. Strawberry Panic began as a series of illustrated short stories before being expanded into manga, light novels, anime, visual novels, and more. My introduction to the franchise was through the manga adaptation which, even though it began serialization in Japan before the light novels, was never completed. The light novel omnibus released by Seven Seas in 2011 is the first time that all three Strawberry Panic novels were made available in English. Previously Seven Seas had published the first two novels as individual volumes in 2008, but until the omnibus was released the third volume hadn’t been translated. Michelle Kobayashi served as the translator for the first Strawberry Panic light novel while Anastasia Moreno translated both the second and third volumes. In Japan, all three volumes of the Strawberry Panic light novel series were initially published in 2006.

Aoi Nagisa recently transferred into the fourth year class of St. Miator Girls’ Academy, a prestigious all-girls school known for its high academic standards and refined students from distinguished families. Soon after Nagisa arrives at St. Miator, she is swept off her feet by the idol of the campus, Hanazono Shizuma, and into the Étoile competition, the premiere event held between the sister schools on Astraea Hill: St. Miator, St. Spica, and St. Lulim. The couple who wins the Étoile competition becomes a symbol for the three schools—the living embodiment of sisterly love and a model to be followed by the other students. But Shizuma has already competed in and won the Étoile. Competing two years in a row, especially with a different partner, is unheard of. The event is thrown into even more turmoil when St. Spica’s “Prince” Otori Amane, who was expected to win, disregards the other Spica students’ wishes and declares that Konohana Hikari, another transfer student, will enter the Étoile with her instead of the candidate who had already been selected for her.

Make no mistake about it, Strawberry Panic is complete and utter fantasy. In fact, a large part of the series’ charm is that it is so incredibly unbelievable. If you are looking for realism, you are looking in the wrong place with Strawberry Panic. Nobody really talks the way the young women on Astraea Hill speak, expressing themselves and their feelings through overwrought dialogue and intense earnestness. Even the narrative is filled with images of bright, angelic light and showers of flower blossoms. Strawberry Panic is marvelously melodramatic and over the top. There is a huge emphasis placed on the purity of the girls in Strawberry Panic while at the same time large portions of the plot rely on them becoming intimate and falling in love with one another. Despite appearances, only one character in the entire series is ever declared to be a “genuine lesbian.” (And yes, the quotation marks are also included in the novel.) There is no question at all that Strawberry Panic panders to its audience. A few of the sexualized encounters even come across as a little creepy.

Although two translators were involved with the English edition of the Strawberry Panic light novels, their styles are similar enough that the change isn’t too jarring. One thing that I wish the omnibus had included but didn’t is a full table of contents. Instead of listing the individual chapters, the contents page only notes the start page of each of the three books. If the prose in Strawberry Panic is stunningly absurd (and it most definitely is) the chapter titles are even more so. They may not always make a whole lot of sense, but they’re fantastically ludicrous; I would have liked to have seen them all together in one place. As unrealistic as Strawberry Panic is, parts of the story are supposedly based on the author’s own experiences attending an all-girls school. (Exactly which parts are never revealed, though.) Strawberry Panic is utterly ridiculous and yet highly entertaining. I’ll have to admit, I enjoyed reading through the series a great deal.

My Week in Manga: July 2-July 8, 2012

My News and Reviews

I was on vacation for most of last week, which basically meant that I was camping in the backwoods of Ohio with nearly thirty of my relatives. Even with no Internet connection and no cell phone reception, I was able to schedule a few posts for while I was away. First was the announcement of the From Eroica with Love Giveaway Winner, which also includes a short wishlist of out-of-print manga. I also posted June’s Bookshelf Overload. Finally, my review for Haikasoru’s first original anthology The Future Is Japanese is up. I was really looking forward to this release and was ultimately very satisfied with it. Because I was out in the middle of the woods, I’m sure that I missed out on most of the manga news from the past week. If there’s anything particularly exciting that I should know about, please let me know! One thing that I did catch: the call for participation for July’s Manga Moveable Feast focusing on the work of Clamp.

Quick Takes

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 2 (equivalent to Volumes 4-6) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The more I read of Rurouni Kenshin, the more I find myself enjoying the series. Watsuki does a fantastic job of incorporating historical reality into his historical fantasy. I particularly enjoy the inclusion “The Secret Life of Characters” sections which give some insight into Watsuki’s inspirations and story and character development. I’m liking the series a bit more now that Kenshin’s opponents, while still frequently over-the-top, are more realistic and slightly less bizarre. Kenshin is still easily my favorite character in the series. I was a little unsure of Rurouni Kenshin at first, but now I’m genuinely looking forward to reading more.

Strawberry Panic: The Complete Manga Collection written by Sakurako Kimino and illustrated by Namuchi Takumi. The Strawberry Panic manga has been discontinued in Japan, but this omnibus collects and translates everything that is available (including two chapters which were not previously available in English). The manga was my introduction to the Strawberry Panic franchise, which started out as a series of short stories. It’s a light, fluffy yuri fantasy, but I do enjoy it, even considering that the manga leaves off just as the story really starts to get going. The vaguely Catholic trappings of the all-girls schools are forgotten fairly quickly as the Etoile competition begins takes precedence in the story.

The Summit of the Gods, Volume 3 written by Baku Yumemakura and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi. The third volume of The Summit of the Gods serves very much as a transition. I would have liked to have seen more focus on the mountain climbing, but the volume is important to both plot and character development. It brings some resolution to Fukamachi’s obsession with Habu and provides the setup for the next major arc in the story—Habu’s astounding Everest attempt and Fukamachi’s decision to follow him. Taniguchi’s artwork is fantastic with stunning mountainscapes and detailed Nepalese cityscapes. This series is one of my favorites and I can’t wait for the next volume.

Basilisk directed by Fumitomo Kizaki. The Basilisk anime is an adaptation of the Basilisk manga which in turn is an adaptation of Fūtaro Yamada’s novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls. The original novel is still my favorite version of the story by far. The anime does expand on some of the characters’ backstories in ways not found in either the manga or the novel, including giving an explicit reason behind the Kouga and Iga clans’ continued feuding. There are also some nice moments between Oboro and Gennosuke. Otherwise, the anime follows the manga very closely. However, the animation isn’t nearly as striking as Masaki Segawa’s artwork in the manga, which isn’t especially surprising but is still too bad. Oboro’s eyes in particular annoyed me.

Manga Giveaway: Strawberry Panic Starter Pack Winner

And the winner of the Strawberry Panic Starter Pack giveaway is…Slyphoria!

As the winner, Slyphoria will be receiving the first volume of the Strawberry Panic manga as well as the first volume of the Strawberry Panic light novels. I would also like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in this contest.

For the most part, I only read English manga translations although I am working on learning Japanese. Because of this, my knowledge of yuri is fairly limited since not many titles have been licensed in English. From what I can tell, yuri is currently one of the most underrepresented genres in the English language manga market. Fortunately, there has been some increase in available works in the last couple of years or so. (This is my own personal impression, I could be completely mistaken.)

As part of the Strawberry Panic Starter Pack giveaway, I had people tell me a little about the yuri that they’ve read and enjoyed. Many of the titles mentioned in the contest comments (which are worth checking out) are not currently licensed in English. I, for one, would be really interested in seeing many of these officially translated. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. There was also quite a bit of love shown for Miyabi Fujieda’s yuri works, one of which (the first volume of Iono-sama Fanatics) has been published in English.

Thank you again to everyone who entered the contest—I very much enjoyed learning about some of the great yuri that’s out there and hope that more will become available in English.

Manga Giveaway: Strawberry Panic Starter Pack

Last month’s manga giveaway featured boys’ love, so I figured it would only be fair that this month girls would get their chance to shine. I have a Strawberry Panic starter pack—brand new copies of the first volume of the manga and the first volume of the light novel series—for one lucky winner. The contest is open world-wide, so if you’re interested in a chance to win some yuri, read on!

I admit it. I’m not actually all that familiar with yuri, although I am actively trying to change that. One of the best resources in English on the subject that I know of is the incomparable Erica Friedman and her blog Okazu (which I highly recommend checking out). Strawberry Panic (written by Sakurako Kimino and illustrated by Namuchi Takumi) is one of the few unquestionably yuri titles licensed and readily available in English. The manga was also included on the list of recommended titles from the Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri for GBLTQ Readers panel at the 2010 New York Anime Festival/New York Comic Con. (My personal response to the panel can be found here.) Friedman calls Strawberry Panic a “parody of many typical yuri tropes” and even though my experience is limited I tend to agree. I’m not as fond of Strawberry Panic as I am of, say, Hayate X Blade, but I do still appreciate it and the artwork is lovely.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a Strawberry Panic starter pack?

1) In the comments section below, tell me about a manga that you’ve read that has yuri/girls’ love elements to it, OR if you’ve never read yuri before just mention that.
2) If you’re on Twitter you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

One person can earn up to two entries for this giveaway. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on December 29, 2010. You’ve only got one week to get your entries in, so good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Strawberry Panic Starter Pack Winner