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The publisher of Strawberry marshmallow or Ichigo Mashimaro in Japanese is Tokypop whose publications are now becoming rather extinct as they will no longer be supplying the UK and Ireland with Japanese graphic novels any longer. For more information go to the website or read my other manga reviews.
A younger lesser known male manga artist, this is their main and most popular series born in Japan in 1980 he is one to keep an eye on in my opinion for the simple story telling and comic appeal.
Nobue-She is 16 and a nicotine addict, despite being the oldest of the group she is easily the most immature at times when it comes to her school work or crazy scooter riding.
Chika-12 Nobue's little sister quite easily the most mature of the group she cooks and cleans. Her personality is the most normal or typical for a girl her age, she is caring and considerate.
Miu-12 hyperactive and desperate for attention of any kind from Nobue in the last volume she pretended to be dead for an entire chapter and quite commonly enters buildings through the upper bedroom window.
Matsuri-11 described by her friends as a bit of a lost cause and a cry baby, she is very bad at sports and has a pet ferret named John. She does speak very good English for her age however.
Ana-She is 11 also and an exchange student from Cornwall England. Though she has been speaking Japanese for years she doesn't let on to her school or classmates that she can speak any Japanese at all, but ends up confiding in Matsuri and ends up joining the strawberry marshmallow group of friends.
Ana-Ana meets the Strawberry Marshmallow groups for the first time and joins in with the madness.
Ana's House-The girls visit Ana at her home for the first time, which turns out to be a mansion, Miu gets chased around by Ana's giant dog for trespassing.
An Amusing Stew (Using Miu)-The girls head to Nobue and Chi's house for a super cute competition.
Attack of the Killer Zzz's-The girls fight over the only bedroom in the house which has air conditioning.
Ana vs Miu-Miu becomes highly jealous of the attention that Nobue gives to Ana, the chapter ends in tears.
A Japanese Christmas-The girls try to keep Matsuri's faith in Santa Clause alive, which results in the other girls dressing up as reindeer and breaking into Matsuri's bedroom.
Into Hot Water- The hot water is off over the Winter month so the girls head to a public bath and Miu causes lots of noise and havoc, which is to be expected.
Non-Euclidean Geometry-Nobue skips school to meet the other girls in the park, but everyone gets lost, Matsuri helps a foreigner find the library.
Sick Jokes-Chika gets a bad cold which results in the group playing doctor for the entire chapter and writing obscure sentences on each other with permanent markers.
The Caper- A four paged short where Miu misunderstands the meaning of kidnapping while Nobue tries to do her homework.
The artwork in this volume has greatly increased in consistency and detail since the last volume, The jokes don't repeat themselves and are equally as humorous also which was good to see with little extra scenes in between the chapters portraying what the girls would look like should they take on various job roles such as teacher or Priestess. There are also mini scenes where we see what happens when each of the girls individually purchase something from a vending machine. In short nobody ends up with anything they actually wanted; instead they get notes saying "refund ticket no.23" or a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
For the first time we see evidence that the girls aren't in a world on their own, we see teachers, tourists and fellow classmates in this volume including a repeating joke involving a boy called Sasazuka who despite the fact he says nothing he is quite regularly told to standing the hall even when it was Miu or Ana who misbehaved. When portraying his job he is an astronaut.
There is little extras to this volume, just a few extra advertisements from other manga series and a very brief preview for the next volume. I would have liked to find out more about the artists as they are so new and obscure, some other artists tell us a bit about their works in the backs of volumes but Barasui seems to be very secretive.
Available initially for £6.99 it is still available on amazon.co.uk
I shall reiterate for those who have not read my review for the last volume of strawberry marshmallow.
The story is pretty simple and never really goes anywhere. Even so it is incredibly entertaining and comical. There are five main characters all young girls aged between 11-16, the chapters involve them getting into mischief and using their imaginations to create the most absurd and bizarre situations. Their adventures move along in quite a Charlie Brown like way with very little interaction from adults or parents.
Nobue is 16 and the oldest of the group, she smokes, drinks and constantly teases her little sister and her friends. However she does have a soft side and helps her young friends out when they are in need of her.
Chika is 12 and Nobue's little sister she is the most serious of the group and likes to cook and bake cookies. She is usually the target of the groups practical jokes however she usually sees them coming and Matsuri takes the brunt of the abuse.
Matsuri is 11 and is the cute crybaby of the group (the girl in ther above image with glasses and white hair). She has a pet ferret called John and becomes upset and tearful at the drop of a hat.
Miu is 12 a ball of energy who plays the role of wind up merchant, this usually ends up with Matsuri crying and Miu being kicked out of the room. She also really dosent like Ana who although is a year younger than Miu has started to develop a bust.
In this volume another girl called Ana is introduced (the little blond in the picture above). She is supposedly English and refuses to speak any Japanese in class. This is quite humorous however considering even Matsuri who is not particularly good at anything can speak better English than her.
This volume also involves the girls playing doctor, the girls going to a public bath house and running a mock and trying to keep Matsuri's faith in Santa Clause alive by dressing up in Christmas costumes.
The art work is actually quite unique also as the lineart is very fine and delicate, unlike manga from shonen jump which is very bold and chunky looking.
In between each chapter the girls are dressed up in the clothes as several professions including police woman and bride which is a nice touch to break up the manga.
The back of the book also contains adverts for other manga available from the same publisher as well as a paragraph of what is to come in the next volume. I think there are 5 volumes in total and each remains very cute and unique.
Available for 6.99 in the UK or cheaper on play.com