Aoi Nagisa transfers to one of the three affiliated all-girl Catholic schools on Astraea Hill, St. Miator's Girls' Academy. There, she discovers a community of fellow students entwined in an intricate hierarchy, in which two Etoiles represent the three schools. In order to fit in, Nagisa must go to class, join clubs, and make new friends. Meanwhile, Shizuma Hanazono, the sole Etoile of Astraea Hill, finds herself drawn to this new, exciting transfer student. As Shizuma and Nagisa get to know each other, Shizuma finally decides it is time to face her troubled past.
#1: "Himitsu Dolls (秘密ドールズ)" by Mai Nakahara & Ai Shimizu (eps 1-13) #2: "Ichigo Tsumi Monogatari (苺摘み物語)" by Mai Nakahara & Ai Shimizu (eps 14-25) #3: "Shoujo Meiro de Tsukamaete (Mellow Berry Balad) (少女迷路でつかまえて（Mellow Berry Balad）)" by Aki Misato (eps 26)
If you are in anyway a fan of yuri anime, then Strawberry Panic is a bit of a rite of passage for entry into the genre. It probably garners the highest amount of fanaticism and emotionalism from its supporters and detractors. Though I wouldn’t call it a love or hate it kind of show as you might expect from that. I think of myself as a reasonably objective person and found that my opinion of it split almost right down the middle between absolute love and complete contempt.
Strawberry Panic's story centers on a new student to a prestigious all girls’ school, Nagisa
Aoi. The school is divided into three separate campuses which operate separately, have different uniforms, but are functionally really the same institution. Oh, and basically the entire student body are lesbians... hey this is yuri after all! There isn’t any amazing drama or nefarious villains as the story almost totally revolves around relationship angst. The story walks the line on being a light hearted romantic comedy to having some pretty deep drama but for the most part it is a lot of fun. I would imagine most people are going to enjoy it a lot, until you get to the last five to six episodes. Here is where there is likely to be disagreement amongst viewers as pairings finalize and plot twists emerge. This is where my enjoyment also suffered, because I intensely disliked almost every final pairing and the ending to the final story arc itself left me quite angry and disappointed.
The characters have some magnificent highs but also some annoying lows. As far as Nagisa goes, whom just about every important plotline flows through, she is a sweet and likable character. Immediately people are going to gravitate to her much as characters do in the story and find something to like about her. However as the story unfolds, I found her becoming increasingly unlikable and idiotic. The decisions she makes, her inability to see the obvious right in front of her face, and her ditzy nature (while extremely endearing at the beginning of the series) becomes annoying and tired. You want to feel for her angst and conflict but in the end you're just so over with her.
Shizuma, next to Nagisa, is the most important character in the story and probably the most interesting. Though that doesn’t mean she is particularly likable. A friend once referred to her as the "Mac-Daddy" of the school. She seems willing to go after any girl in the school while seemingly not really caring about them or the consequences of her actions. Her past is tragic and explains the reasons why she is the way she is. But she is a psychologically damaged person and hurts a lot of people along the way, though probably not intentionally. She simply just can’t help it. While she does make a lot of progress and matures some over the story I still couldn’t help but think that in the end in her heart of hearts she really hadn’t changed.
Tamao is the last of the main cast. She will be instantly likable by all though will not come across as a terribly unique character in the annals of anime history. As the other love interest for Nagisa, this is where viewers of the show are going to start to separate themselves. You’re going to be a Tamao fan or a Shizuma one. Depending on which character you find yourself rooting for is likely to affect the way you view the anime in the end. I did like her, though she has a lot of Nagisa's personality traits and her ditzy nature does get annoying towards the end
Now for the bad and it pretty much starts and ends for me with Amane and Hikari. Amane is the stereotypical character we seem to always have forced on us in anime. The emotionless robot who happens to be admired by all despite having no personality and looking and dressing like a man. Yes, this is YURI; I am watching it for the girls! So what is this mannish toad-face doing in my show! I found absolutely nothing redeeming about her and the only reason I could even think of that all these girls revered her so much was that at an all girls school she was the most likely to have a sausage in her pants. This all being said, it seems fitting that she is linked with the second worst character in the show, Hikari. Hikari is basically a functional retard. She has no personality attributes besides being moe to the extreme that would make anyone care about her. She spends all of her time in constant angst over what Amane thinks of her and ignores the people who truly care about her (though heaven only knows why they do). Honestly I think if nobody guided her along and told her when to wake up and eat she would just stand in the corner and starve to death.
The rest of the supporting cast is actually pretty good. Yaya and Chikaru stand out above all the others. I would liked to have seen both of those characters get better endings and felt they were ignored a bit too much. Almost everyone would be considered likable and friendly, the kind of people you would want to be friends with. The only exception would be Kaname and Momomi. I really found them to be despicable characters and their actions and motivations were pretty hard for me to stomach.
Art and animation is exceptional. I really enjoyed the beautiful settings and costumes and with the exception of Amane, all of the girls were quite stunning to look at. The voice acting and music was also very good. A few of the character voices grated on me, but mostly because they were characters I didn’t like. (Hikari, Amane) The OP and EN songs were performed by Nagisa's and Tamao's voice actress and I thought fit the theme and feel of the show wonderfully.
Your enjoyment of Strawberry Panic is going to greatly depend on how you felt about the final pairings. Some people are really going to like this a lot and others are going to feel very disappointed as I was. In addition I very much disliked how the final arc played out and that several key characters basically got the shaft in terms of their own romances. It’s a fun show for the most part, required viewing for yuri fans and probably one of the better shows of the genre out there. That in itself is an indictment of yuri anime.
This is one of my favorite Yuri based anime's I have come to find. Once I began watching it, I couldn't stop. If you really want an anime that you can get into whole heartedly it is this one. The in depth analysis on all the variety of characters makes it so you can relate to at least one of them. The play on suspense, romance, and other relationships is so perfect for anyone who is into anything that may make your eyes tear up.
I really should not have enjoyed this series nearly as much as I did. As a bit of a technical story snob, I usually find that well-animated and voiced series with somewhat weak storylines tend to rate quite poorly with me. I find myself dropping them, or rating them well below a seven, but this series just has that something compelling about it that makes you enjoy it thoroughly-- despite some glaring problems with the plot. If I had to sum this series up in two words, it would quite easily be: Guilty pleasure.
It is one of a very small number of series that
I can watch repeatedly and still enjoy quite a bit, despite my somewhat low 'overall' score. As you can see, I found this series ridiculously entertaining which--for me--is sometimes more important than a good technical overall score.
Possibly the weakest part of this series was the plot. It was, at times, ridiculous, superficial, far-fetched, full of cheese and melodrama, but still oddly compelling. If it were a novel, the story would most likely be in a two-dollar bin in your local book store, yet there is somehow still enough substance buried in there to keep it afloat. Despite all I may say about the plot there are some truly touching moments buried in there -- and those are the little gems that keep you wanting more, despite yourself.
Essentially the plot is separated into two mini-stories: The main following bumbling transfer-student Aoi Nagisa from Miator, and the secondary following Konohana Hikari, a timid choir-girl from Spica. While the majority of the plot centres around Nagisa, there is enough material from Hikari's story to keep you entertained if you find yourself uninterested by the protagonist's antics.
With healthy doses of fluff and comedy, hefty smearings of romance and the odd tragic moment or two, there is certainly enough going on to keep the plot from idling. It was just a slight pity that they couldn't inject just a little more substance to enable me to rate it a little higher.
Visually this series is quite beautiful. While not on par with KyotoAni's breath-taking animation, gorgeous scenery, dynamic colours and interesting character designs, it makes for quite the pleasant viewing experience. That said-- there are times when the artwork looks a little awkward, though fortunately they are few and far between. And if you can quickly adjust to the stick-thin legs and arms that are common in this series, the character designs are quite striking, of special note are Hanazono Shizuma and Minamoto Chikaru, though with an ensemble cast of well over twelve there is bound to be at least one design to find pleasing.
Musically, Strawberry Panic is neither ground-breaking nor particularly breath-taking, yet there is a simplicity in the classical tracks that fit with the setting and overall tone of the series. Seiyuu performances are rather exquisite, with a cast consisting of: Nabatame Hitomi, Nakahara Mai, Shimizu Ai, Noda Junko and Kuwatani Natsuko there is more than enough skill to inject feeling into sometimes two-dimensional characters. Certainly there are some emotional scenes that are simply made by the skill of these masterful seiyuu.
As I mentioned earlier, this series is made of an ensemble cast, but unfortunately they tend to be rather two-dimensional or stereotypical characters. That said, there is a wonderfully subtle build-up in a few of the characters that really does surprise, and you can't help but empathise with your favourites as they are put through an emotional blender.
Despite it all I found myself strangely addicted to this series. Yes, the plot is weak, uses cliche plot progressions, makes no sense at times and is borderline ridiculous, yet I found it to be one of the most entertaining series in my collection. The chemistry between the characters, some brilliant work by the cast and some truly spectacular scenes mean that I enjoyed this series for what it was-- mindless fun. By episode twenty-six, I was more than disappointed that this series was over, and I would have to go elsewhere to find my fix of cheesy-goodness.
If you want a deep and sophisticated plot in a similar vein, watch Maria-sama ga Miteru; if you want hours of cheesy, light-hearted goodness: Sit down, buckle in and prepare to turn off your brain and watch something that will have you going through severe withdrawal when it is all over.
For my first yuri, it wasn’t as shocking or surprising as I thought it would be. I guess it’s because of the look and feel of the anime – the girls didn’t really look like they would engage in such “activities” – they all looked very innocent and sweet. It’s a good thing the anime focused more on the dramatic side than sex scenes. There weren’t a lot of sex scenes too, which is a huge sigh of relief for me.
Poor Nagisa. She’s obviously straight when she first came in and Shizuma had to corrupt her mind. I don’t get how Shizuma would fall for
someone like Nagisa though. Nagisa is one ditzy girl and Shizuma’s elegant and classy (with stone cold glances and stares too). I felt like Nagisa would have been better off with Tamao, and Shizuma with Rokujou. Hikari and Amane were a more convincing couple – mostly because Amane actually looks like a guy and Hikari’s very ladylike.
There’s a part of me that still can’t believe there were no male characters throughout the entire series. It reminded me even more of the 11 years I went to an all girls school wherein males are a rare commodity. I’m a bit disappointed with the characters, because they didn’t have much depth in them, so I’m thought how interesting it would be if at least one guy showed up. They all had similar personalities too – with the exception of the older students such as Shizuma, Rokujou and Amane. Chikaru was a joy to watch though. She could very much be Haruhi Suzumiya’s long lost sister. I bet if they ever meet they’ll have a blast with each other.
Animation and art were actually pretty good, as expected of Madhouse. Everything was drawn and designed well, from the meticulous, colorful backgrounds to the characters. The only problem I have is that the characters faces were almost too similar – the only thing that kept them distinct from each other (appearance – wise) were their hair color. Speaking of hair color, I noticed that only the main characters had different hair colors. The main characters had pink, blue, orange, etc. colored hair, while the background characters (extras) only had black or brown hair. Because of that the main characters really popped up when in a scene with many people. The character’s eyes were very well drawn too.
I’m actually not familiar with most of the cast, but I do know Mai Nakahara. I loved her as Midori in Midori days – I really thought she made Midori 2-3 times cuter. She sounded a lot different as Nagisa though, which is why I didn’t recognize her at first. I also know Shizuma’s VA, Hitomi Nabatame, but sadly Shizuma didn’t have a lot of lines for me to notice her either. Most of the scenes with Shizuma has her staring off into space or crying, etc.
Strawberry Panic’s music was very interesting. I love the very poppy and catchy themes of the show. It was a good contrast from the dramatic and moody BGM heard throughout the series. The BGM was classically-influenced, consisting of piano tracks, which fit the sophisticated atmosphere of Astraea hill. I also like the Ai Shimizu and Mai Nakahara’s contribution to the soundtrack. They were a joy to watch and they brought something different to the table. I rarely see live action videos as ending/opening theme sequences.
Generally, the anime is a lot like Maria-sama ga miteru. The two series have a lot of elements in common, such as the All girls’ catholic school, the French undertones and of course the girl-girl love. There was even a hint of a soeur system during the series. I have to say I still like Marimite more, it is my favorite series, but Strawberry Panic! wasn’t that bad. It did get over dramatic sometimes, making me want to take a nap almost every time I watch it, but I still think it’s worth watching.
Girls are said to be the most loving beings in existence, something that is true in real life and in anime. So what about girls who love other girls? Well that, my friends, is the definition of yuri anime. From just friends to more than friends, here are 20 of the best yuri anime of all time.