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This is another shorter manga series from the manga producer Tokyopop which will soon stop publishing and producing manga in English in the UK and Ireland, which is unfortunate especially with this manag as it is very hard to come by as it is. Larger more popular manga will probably be lifted by other big anime and manga firms but this one probably won't as it is a bit obscure. So if you see it pick it up, Tokyopop was also in charge of GTO please see my other reviews for further info.
Born in 1980 Barasui is a new up and coming manga artist whose only other work includes Dearest My Brother. Since he is new and young to the scene very little information is known about the artist but I would support him by buying his manga in book form instead of reading it from an illegal scan online (yes people do this).
Just to make things clear strawberry marshmallow in Japanese is Ichigo Marashimaro which some readers and watchers of the manga and anime series Bleach may already know.
The manga follows the rather mundane but super cute activities of four rather naive and imaginative preteens and an older sister who is in high school. Unlike other manga of the comedy genre which have lots of kawaii little girls this does not involve any romantic scenes or any real action for boys at all which was a refreshing relief as the manga scene was stuck on a continual cycle of lovey dovey romantic comedy garbage for a while there which I grew rather tired of. Instead this manga focuses on slapstick and the weird notions and questions that kids have when they are innocent and sin free which makes you feel all nostalgic inside.
Nobue-She is 16 and the big sister of the group there is nothing she likes more than a lit cigarette or a tin of beer, not the most likely candidate to become the role model and best friend of a load of pre-teens but amusing enough she enjoys taking the girls out to parks or making her little sister make cake and dinner for the whole.
Chika-She is 12 and Nobue's little sister you would almost think that it's the other way around with the level of mental maturity with the way Nobue acts some times. She is largely the peace maker and the observer as the other girls in the group get carried away with ridiculously amusing games and activities, and she enjoys cooking.
Miu-Also 12 absolutely insane in every way, from entering the house through the bedroom window to writing weird school reports on her friends entitled "Objective Assessment of my friends" and informing the class that Nobue had moved to Paris and Matsuri had went out hunting for old men. Her red hair marks her mischievousness and she comes across as mini the minx or Bart Simpson.
Matsuri-She is 11 innocent, short sighted and the usual suspect for torture of Miu. Easily Nobue's favourite adopted little sister Miu becomes easily jealous and thus ends up the brunt of most practical jokes even if they were not intended for her. She also has a pet ferret called John which is totally bizarre as I can't imagine why a Japanese person would name their pet after an English person.
Since the manga runs in a sequence of short stories as opposed to a sequence of flowing events I thought it best to describe each chapter individually.
Izu Anguish-We are introduced to the characters and randomly Nobue decides to lift all the girls on the way to school and take them to Izu instead
Wastebasket Woes-Chika spends most of her time observing the other characters from her bedroom waste basket after falling in and nobody offering to help her out.
Sinister Sleepover-The girls have a sleepover.
Violent Night-The girls stay up late trying to make Nobue a birthday present.
Burnt Turkey-Nobue tries to give up smoking with little success.
Outside in the Cold-The girls try to play numerous sports with humorous results.
Determined Dead!-Miu pretends to be a corpse for the chapter which proves difficult when Chika provides cake.
The Hat's Meow- Matsuri decides she wants a new hat but ends up acting like a cat for most of the chapter due to a decision by Miu.
Critical Investigation-Miu writes up a hilarious false account of what her friends get up to in their spare time and submits it as homework
Beach Challenge- The girls head to the beach to teach Matsuri to swim.
Overall nothing terribly exciting happens in this manga it just records the antics of a group of girls going about their daily activities at home, school or wherever but at the same time it's a much more interesting and enjoyable read than any reality television programme I have ever watched with slapstick and more innocent and curious humour which would only come from the mouth of a child. There is no smut in this manga to make it funny and it doesn't need it. There is some partial nudity in this manga though but its only when the girls are in the bath so you don't see anything but the manga has been given a rating of 13+ which I don't really understand but maybe that has something to do with Nobue smoking but overall I would say this can be read by most age groups as I don't think its offensive, unless it provokes kids to try out the practical jokes themselves of course.
The artist's style gets better as the graphic novel goes on though there are some physical changes to the characters their personalities and names remain the same throughout. Though the lack of continuity is a little off putting the first time you read it.
If you find this little gen it should be available somewhere in the range of £6.99, it is maybe still available on amazon.co.uk but I have found the further in the series you go the more expensive the manga costs. Though I would highly recommending the series if you can get your hands on it.
I am not entirely sure how to describe this manga/graphic novel in one sentence...maybe because it is pretty much about absolutely nothing but it is still pretty dam hilarious!
Well initially because it was really pink and cutesy looking on the cover I had my doubts about it. I thought it would be overly girlie and the little girls in it would be all into makeup and barbies as they are aged between 11-16 but upon further inspection I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the level of sophistication and slap stick comedy.
The plot follows the daily lives of a chain smoking 16 year old teenager Noboe who takes great pride in being able to consume six beers in one session and distracting her little sister from her homework.
Chika (12) who is probably the most sensible of the group, she usually acts as a buffer and is constantly tortured by her older sister Noboe and her school friend Miu. However she can usually give as much as she gets.
Miu (12)the most annoying and energetic of the group, is excessively competitive and constantly looks for new and daft ways to show off and capture Noboe's attention, though her actions usually make Matsuri (11) cry, which accordingly results in Miu being booted in the bum by Noboe ironicly.
Matsuri the youngest and baby of the group who is usually the brunt of Miu's practical jokes even if they were intended for Chika or Noboe. Matsuri is a walking disaster area but short sighted with super cute giant glasses, so despite Miu's efforts Matsuri is always the one to capture most of Noboe's attention.
There is a fifth girl called Ana (11) but she doesn't appear until the second volume.
As previously stated this manga isn't really about anything, it just follows the lives of this group of girls and demonstrates how cruel, silly and cute little girls can be. The plot is really very innocent compared to other manga and even western novels which are released nowadays. The slap stick and ironic comedy is genuinely funny and it doesn't need sex, violence, nudity, action or bad language to make it interesting.
The plot also deals with realistic problems that young girls may have, for instance in the first volume there is a chapter on Noboe trying to go cold turkey and trying to give up her cigarettes. One featuring Noboe and the other girls heading to the beach over summer break and teaching Matsuri to swim and another where the younger girls stay up all night in order to make Noboe a birthday present. You also never see anybody's parents which give it a very Charlie Brownish theme.
There are maybe 10-15 chapters per volume each lasting on average around ten pages. Each of these chapters begins a new short story usually which keeps things fresh and easy to read. A few of the other manga I reviewed were maybe a bit intense and if you missed a volume you would miss a vital part of the story, but I didn't have that problem with this manga, which I liked as it can be difficult to find certain volumes of manga (volumes 4 and 5 in particular).
There was an anime or animated cartoon version of this produced also but I found it too compressed and the timing for some of the jokes was off so I would definitely recommend the manga over the anime.
The drawing style does look a little generic but it definitely has a unique quirk to it and in the first few chapters the artist can't seem to decide on what hair style and colour to give the girls. By chapter three however Noboe and Chika have dark hair, Miu ginger and Matsuri a kind of weird mixture of black and white which is apparently natural and genetic. I do know a few guys that have this condition also but I still find it pretty funny that the artist picked out such a unique characteristic.
In between chapters the girls are drawn in different outfits depending on the season which is pretty unusual as in other anime and manga the characters rarely change their outfits at all, for instance take a look at pokemon, tenchi muyo, naruto, dragon ballz and practically every other anime/manga which is popular at the moment. This is pretty cute though and made me appreciate the artists work all the more.
The back also contains advertisements for other manga by the producer Tokyo pop and a warning that the manga reads backwards just like traditional manga. There are maybe 180 pages, it is given a 13+ rating due to alcohol and cigarette consumption but there generally isn't anything objectionable. I actually bought my copy in America for $9.99 but you could maybe pick it up in the UK for £6.99 or cheaper depending if you buy online or not. I think if you were trying to get you girl friends into anime or manga this would be a good one to start on.
Apologies if this review is a little disconnected but I am a bit sick with severe tonsillitis and have been banned from real work until I finish my medication.