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Anime insights into the mediocre: I Me My Strawberry Eggs

Mediocre anime is in a strange twilight state. It is not something you'd pay $30 for 3 episodes of, but neither can you just roundly revile it. A problem that I perceive in anime fandom is a lack of quality standards. Many new fans or even sometimes old fans think "If it's from Japan and it's a cartoon, it's good". While many of you may not agree with the idea of looking at anime more vigorously with an eye to quality, some people are more attuned to the idea that by looking closer at Japanese animation, we can find out why we feel in certain ways about certain cartoons.

My first subject is "I Me My Strawberry Eggs". Reviewer biases: Saw four out of thirteen episodes. It's a supposedly heart warming anime about a guy who dresses up as a woman to become a teacher at a school that does not accept male teachers. The animation is OK, with nice pastel colors and OK character design in the regular big eyed style, and I didn't find the music objectionable, although I can't remember any of it.

However, the reason this anime is mediocre is that it couldn't decide what to be. Is it trying to be a sweet story about the relationship between a teacher and his underage student? Sure, I could go for that, except for if that was the case, we certainly don't need our underage student, Fuko, who looks like she is fourteen, tripping into a trashcan so we can see her panties. Gratuitous fanservice tends to bring down otherwise fine shows. Is it a story full of wacky hijinks? If so, where's the funny? We've seen the same old perverted men panty raiding a million times in a million shows, we don't need them again unless they add something. Rehashing old shows without adding a decent twist is a good indication of mediocrity.

And hanging a sign on your dog saying "dog stew" isn't very wacky at all. Is it a show about a young idealistic teacher who beats the odds and makes the school better in spite of itself? Then a little consistency please. Why is the principal complaining about bloomers (little tiny Japanese gym shorts that look like underwear) when her vice principal has a skirt half way up her well, yea. Not to mention, the insisting on the girls wearing bloomers instead of gym shorts like the guys is a bit weird. Not to mention, the skirts they wear normally are pretty short as well. Inconsistent plot points often doom anime to the bargain bin.

Not to mention that becoming a crossdresser and adapting to being someone of the other gender is supposedly easy as pie, but that's another common lazy writing sin. Just throw something in as a premise and don't really deal with it. While I like the sweet part of the show, with Amawa Hibiki (our teacher here) starting to care for Fuko, but they could have gotten so much more mileage if they had just focused. Lack of focus can also ruin an otherwise good show. If it's a show that is short like this one, with its thirteen episodes, there is even less room to decide where to focus.

I hope this little bit has given you some ideas on how to look at anime, especially if you are a reviewer. Too many times do we have people saying things like "It's sweet! A+++++!" , without realizing that noone can tell whether something is worth it from their advice. Sweet is found in all sorts of things, but it's the execution that makes it either a tasty treat or a mishmash of whatever could be found. Learning how to analyze something to see why you did or did not like it is a valuable skill not just in watching animation, but in life.

A strange piece of anime1 revolving around Fuko Kuzuka, a naive young school girl, her teacher, Hibiki Amawa, and the other residents of both the Seitow Sannomiya boarding school and Hibiki's residence.

The primary storyline is that Hibiki is actually a man, forced to hide his identity as the principle of the school considers all men unsuitable to teach. With the help of Lulu, his landlady (a master of all 'manly' things - electronics, guns, motorcycles and parasails) he masquerades as a woman.

Life is not bliss, however. Hibiki's fellow tenants, Morikoji and Toufukuji are obsessed with Fuko, making dolls and trying to get pictures of her3. Meanwhile, the Principal and Vice-Principal object to Hibiki's progressive attitudes.

As for Hibiki and Fuko, Fuko is uncertain about her relationship with Hibiki. Fuko falls in what she believes is (sexual) love, but I believe that Hibiki is more a substitute parent for her - her father is away, and her mother passed away some years ago. This confusion is entirely possible with a young girl4.

Whilst Animeg3282 suggests that I My Me! Strawberry Eggs doesn't have a focus (see: Anime insights into the mediocre: I Me My Strawberry Eggs), I disagree. Fuko is a confused girl who is very alone, Hibiki is a good friend and parent to her, looking out for her in many different respects. Fuko is growing up in an unhappy world - effectively an orphan, preyed upon by undesirables, unrespected by her peers. Hibiki has a fight on his hands - against his flatmates, against his identity being revealed5, against the female chauvinist pigs of the establishment of the school.

Perhaps the gratuitous panty scene in the first episode is to get the viewer to have a reaction, which can then be measured against the program. Does the viewer cheer her misfortune? Does he oggle at her knickers? Does the viewer feel pity for Fuko? It's a moral programme in these senses - not the rammed-down-your-throat morality of Thundercats and other western animation in Morality Minute, but more subtle messages. Paedophilia isn't fair on the kids - something that'd never be addressed in Western society through any light-hearted medium. With good friends, almost anything is possible. Do what's right by your friends, even if it hurts them in the short run. These are important messages.

1: If anime isn't strange, it isn't worth watching. Discuss.
2: Japanese names have family names written first.
3: What is it about sexual perversions in anime? Sometimes it seems that most anime contains either paedophilia or an unsatiable sexual appetite.
4: Think about hormones and pheromones.
5: The perverts are an important part of this; if his identity is revealed, he'll be thought to be the pervert.

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