The best slice-of-life comedy since Azumanga Daioh, this anime is very cute indeed. Ichigo Mashimaro (‘Strawberry Marshmallow’) follows the daily lives of a group of little girls, and it’s by turns sweet, sentimental and ulcer-rupturingly funny. Less wacky than Azumanga, and with no continuous storyline or any significant angst, it was a show that relied purely on its characters to work, and fortunately, the characters are all incredibly loveable. There are five principle girls: Chika, the most normal of the bunch, who worries about putting on weight and tries to keep the others in line; Miu, who steals the show as a hyperactive, self-centred girl who does just whatever she wants and has a wild imagination, but underneath is really starved for affection; Anna (or ‘Ana’, as she writes it), a very sweet British girl who’s forgotten just about everything about being British and is more typically Japanese than most Japanese, to her horror; Mashiro, the most childlike and naïve of the bunch, who still believes in Santa Claus; and Noboe, Chika’s big sister, a sardonic, jaded teenager who nevertheless finds the others irresistibly cute.
It was quite odd to discover that this funny, charming little comedy was aimed at boys in their late teens and early twenties. Even odder was the realisation (especially with the manga, which is full of panty-shots and bath scenes) that I was supposed to find these little girls sexually appealing. Now, I have nothing against Lolicon stuff, and have no compunction in admitting that loli-ish characters tend to be the cutest, but Ichigo Mashimaro works better the more innocent and charming it is. That’s how I felt the anime was presented, and I prefer it that way. It there’s to be loli, I don’t want it pushed down my throat.
Wait, that sounded very, very wrong…
Anyway, this anime is a lot of fun, regardless. It’s charming, honestly funny and very sweet. It’s a shame it was only 12 episodes long, because it was one of the few current anime that was really making me smile. Well worth watching. Whether or not you secretly have a bit of a thing for Anna and Miu. Wait, did I just say that out loud?
(Originally written 20.2.06: two OVAs were to follow)