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Saving Strawberry Panic?

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  • crimsonlotus20
    Well, first and foremost, greetings. I m CrimsonLotus (my pen-name as well) and a new inductee to the Yuricon group, though I have been drawn to shoujo-ai/yuri
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 3, 2007
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      Well, first and foremost, greetings. I'm CrimsonLotus (my pen-name as well) and a new inductee to the Yuricon group, though I have been drawn to shoujo-ai/yuri anime for some time now, having proceeded via yaoi. I thought I should mark my entry with a humble, critical skit of mine on that emblematic - for better or for worse - yuri anime: Strawberry Panic.  

      If there is one item of contention in the Yuri community which radically divides opinion, it is Strawberry Panic. Whereas I generally adopt Erica Friedman's view that it is, perhaps, at its most successful when it does not take itself seriously - when one considers how preposterous the whole premise is - I think there are a few points about it that merit consideration: both positively and critically.

      First, there is a very interesting Platonic hyper-reality element which can also be detected in Simoun and ICE. That is, a world populated entirely by female characters (or biological females who willingly transgender to become males). There is a certain strength to this premise, inasmuch as you have character interaction and social/romantic exchange without the overbearing presence of a male point of reference. It presents female-ness (without saying femininity) as a self-contained, finite universe which is self-sufficient on its own terms, yet is knowable to the viewer through pre-acquired notions of the female experience. This would have been a fascinating thought-experiment, had Strawberry Panic not botched the operation, insofar as this world is voyeuristic and unsubtle. I think the voyeuristic criticism is the stronger one, since there is some fairly transparent pandering to ecchi-esque conventions starting from Episode 1 wtf-ness when Tamao takes Nagisa's measurements (I mean, how hackneyed can you get?) and continuing pretty much throughout the series.

      But we all know about that. My unsubtle criticism has been expressed a number of times by other viewers, but I want to give it a new spin. Strawberry Panic start, whether consciously or subconsciously, with what was actually a very clever idea: take the Ages of Woman and assign their archetype to each one of three sub-divisions of the School. Thus, Lulim (Maiden - plastic, fluid identity; creative; irresponsible); Spica (Mother - powerful; dynamic; competitive); Miator (Crone - wise; intrsopective; brooding). So far, so very interesting, but then they took the Classical Greek (and arguably Classical Japanese) aesthetic too far by suggesting that the only 'healthy' sexual relationships are senpai/kohen based: Nagisa/Tamao and Hikari/Amane are both 'good' because there is a clear relationship of dominance; conversely, poor Momomi/Kaname (who, in my humble opinion, have by far the healthiest and most balanced relationship on campus) are treated fairly unsympathetically throughout the series. Ditto the unrequited Yaya/Hikari and Nagisa/Tamao romances, which are portrayed as morbid or unabalanced.

      In the end, I don't think I can isolate where Strawberry Panic, in my eyes, went wrong, inasmuch as there are glimpses of interest and insight throughout interwoven with fairly trite and gratuitous moments. It never quite works as a self-parody (through the Mrs. Robinson ending came as close as possible to being parodic without, quite taking the final leap) and it never quite works as a serious romance (but then again, I would argue that Marimite - a generally far more accomplished series - doesn't either). So what is there to save? I think Strawberry Panic should serve as a starting point for studios interested in shoujo-ai anime plotlines as a thematic, rather than substantive, inspiration. In watching the series - which on a superficial level, I found perfectly enjoyable - I was always left with the regret that so much more could have been done with the basic ideas and that opportunities were repeatedly missed along the way. 

      Just my humble opinion. Which, since we're on it, I've said it once and I've said it again: Hikari is perhaps the most odious, spineless character I have encountered in a long time. There, I said it. Now, perhaps when I have more excess time on my hands, I'll devote a few lines to how she probably represents the Romanticist 'pure soul' or feminine ideal.

    • Ellen Kuhfeld
      Platonic hyper-reality? I really must write up my explanation of fan-fiction in terms of commedia dell arte and Hilbert space! Ellen Rose ... From:
      Message 2 of 6 , Nov 3, 2007
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        Platonic hyper-reality? I really must write up my explanation of fan-fiction in terms of commedia dell'arte and Hilbert space!
         
        Ellen Rose
         
        -----Original Message-----
        From: Yuricon@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Yuricon@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of crimsonlotus20
        Sent: Saturday, November 03, 2007 11:43 AM
        To: Yuricon@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [Yuricon] Saving Strawberry Panic?

        Well, first and foremost, greetings. I'm CrimsonLotus (my pen-name as well) and a new inductee to the Yuricon group, though I have been drawn to shoujo-ai/yuri anime for some time now, having proceeded via yaoi. I thought I should mark my entry with a humble, critical skit of mine on that emblematic - for better or for worse - yuri anime: Strawberry Panic.  

        If there is one item of contention in the Yuri community which radically divides opinion, it is Strawberry Panic. Whereas I generally adopt Erica Friedman's view that it is, perhaps, at its most successful when it does not take itself seriously - when one considers how preposterous the whole premise is - I think there are a few points about it that merit consideration: both positively and critically.

        First, there is a very interesting Platonic hyper-reality element which can also be detected in Simoun and ICE. That is, a world populated entirely by female characters (or biological females who willingly transgender to become males).  

        [snip] 

        .

      • crimsonlotus20
        Ellen, I actually like the Commedia dell Arte idea. As a student of Romance languages, it makes quite a lot of sense (taking stock characters and constantly
        Message 3 of 6 , Nov 3, 2007
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          Ellen, I actually like the "Commedia dell'Arte" idea. As a student of
          Romance languages, it makes quite a lot of sense (taking stock
          characters and constantly re-interpreting them). To my knowledge,
          however, Commedia dell'Arte did not have Mary Sue/Stus.

          As for the Platonic hyper-reality: well, yeah, a bit gas-baggy, but
          they are all archetypal 'Forms' of feminity in the collective
          unconscious.

          --- In Yuricon@yahoogroups.com, "Ellen Kuhfeld" <ellen@...> wrote:
          >
          > Platonic hyper-reality? I really must write up my explanation of
          fan-fiction
          > in terms of commedia dell'arte and Hilbert space!
          >
          > Ellen Rose
          >
          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: Yuricon@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Yuricon@yahoogroups.com]On
          Behalf Of
          > crimsonlotus20
          > Sent: Saturday, November 03, 2007 11:43 AM
          > To: Yuricon@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [Yuricon] Saving Strawberry Panic?
          >
          >
          >
          > Well, first and foremost, greetings. I'm CrimsonLotus (my pen-
          name as
          > well) and a new inductee to the Yuricon group, though I have been
          drawn to
          > shoujo-ai/yuri anime for some time now, having proceeded via yaoi.
          I thought
          > I should mark my entry with a humble, critical skit of mine on that
          > emblematic - for better or for worse - yuri anime: Strawberry Panic.
          >
          > If there is one item of contention in the Yuri community which
          radically
          > divides opinion, it is Strawberry Panic. Whereas I generally adopt
          Erica
          > Friedman's view that it is, perhaps, at its most successful when it
          does not
          > take itself seriously - when one considers how preposterous the
          whole
          > premise is - I think there are a few points about it that merit
          > consideration: both positively and critically.
          >
          > First, there is a very interesting Platonic hyper-reality element
          which
          > can also be detected in Simoun and ICE. That is, a world populated
          entirely
          > by female characters (or biological females who willingly
          transgender to
          > become males).
          >
          > [snip]
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        • Albert Lunde
          I would say, for me, the key to enjoying Strawberry Panic is reduced expectations, and on repeat viewing, use of the fast- forward control: I watch parts that
          Message 4 of 6 , Nov 4, 2007
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            I would say, for me, the key to enjoying Strawberry Panic is
            reduced expectations, and on repeat viewing, use of the fast-
            forward control: I watch parts that I liked and try to
            ignore the rest.

            At the moment, I'm listening to tracks from the CD, which hold up
            fairly well.

            It seems to me hard to talk about originality in a piece of work
            that is so aggressively derivative.

            The existence of a female-only world is an obvious consequence
            of setting the work in a girls school: an idea which has been
            used for decades in both Japan and the west.

            It seems to me as likely that the creators decided "If one
            girls school is good, then three will be better." Plus
            it increases the opportunities for rivality and cosplay.

            If only because it gave them a way to include Chikaru
            in the characters, I approve, but I hesitate to read
            something deeper into it.

            --
            Albert Lunde albert-lunde@...
            atlunde@... (new address for personal mail)
            albert-lunde@... (old address)
          • crimsonlotus20
            I agree when you mention reduced expectations . SP is best taken for what it is, rather than as the nec plus ultra of yuri anime, as some have held it up to
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 4, 2007
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              I agree when you mention "reduced expectations". SP is best taken for
              what it is, rather than as the 'nec plus ultra' of yuri anime, as
              some have held it up to be.

              Nevertheless, I defend my statement on the relative uniqueness of
              SP's universe. You are quite right that schools for girls have been a
              recurring topic, as early, indeed, as the classic St Trinian's novels
              and, later, films. What struck me about SP is that, unlike Marimite
              (where there are male characters and there is a very real feeling
              that there is a male universe out there) SP seems to deliberately
              ignore such a possibility. The world of Astrea seems to be an
              isolated, exclusively female continuum, making it almost something of
              a dreamscape.

              Which reminds me, on a very topical note: has anyone seen the
              film "Innocence"; I think, thematically speaking, it meshes quite
              well with what SP could have done, had its creators wanted to make a
              more thoughtful anime. In both cases, the burdens of the adult world
              and, necessarily, interaction with the opposite sex, are viewed as a
              dimension apart. The only major difference is that in "Innocence" the
              cut-off point is much earlier (ie. adolescence).

              --- In Yuricon@yahoogroups.com, Albert Lunde <atlunde@...> wrote:
              >
              > I would say, for me, the key to enjoying Strawberry Panic is
              > reduced expectations, and on repeat viewing, use of the fast-
              > forward control: I watch parts that I liked and try to
              > ignore the rest.
              >
              > At the moment, I'm listening to tracks from the CD, which hold up
              > fairly well.
              >
              > It seems to me hard to talk about originality in a piece of work
              > that is so aggressively derivative.
              >
              > The existence of a female-only world is an obvious consequence
              > of setting the work in a girls school: an idea which has been
              > used for decades in both Japan and the west.
              >
              > It seems to me as likely that the creators decided "If one
              > girls school is good, then three will be better." Plus
              > it increases the opportunities for rivality and cosplay.
              >
              > If only because it gave them a way to include Chikaru
              > in the characters, I approve, but I hesitate to read
              > something deeper into it.
              >
              > --
              > Albert Lunde albert-lunde@...
              > atlunde@... (new address for personal mail)
              > albert-lunde@... (old address)
              >
            • atheniag
              ... as ... Welcome! ... radically ... One? Hahah. Oh, right, you re new. lol ... which ... I have to say, while I consider your ideas to be really goo, I take
              Message 6 of 6 , Nov 5, 2007
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                --- In Yuricon@yahoogroups.com, "crimsonlotus20" <crimsonlotus@...>
                wrote:
                >
                >
                > Well, first and foremost, greetings. I'm CrimsonLotus (my pen-name
                as
                > well) and a new inductee to the Yuricon group,

                Welcome!

                >
                > If there is one item of contention in the Yuri community which
                radically
                > divides opinion, it is Strawberry Panic.

                One? Hahah. Oh, right, you're new. lol


                > First, there is a very interesting Platonic hyper-reality element
                which
                > can also be detected in Simoun and ICE. That is, a world populated
                > entirely by female characters (or biological females who willingly
                > transgender to become males).


                I have to say, while I consider your ideas to be really goo, I take a
                different view. There's nothing at all "hyper" about an all-female
                society. Even setting aside all-girl or all-boy schools, of which
                there are many in Japan, because the Jesuits were the first ones to
                set up a school system, there's always been all-female communities in
                existence, and I don't mean Dianic covens. ;-) The two that come to
                mind immediately are nunneries, Christian and Buddhist, and the women
                of the silk weaving world in China.

                These were (and in a few cases, still are) realities that exist. As
                do the all-girl's schools. And one has to assume that most of the
                women and girls in these communities are straight, so platonic
                relationships would be the most common. That some women would take on
                slightly more "masculine" roles comes as no surprise - someone's
                going to be the tallest, or strongest in a room, no matter how weak
                or short the population might be. lol

                So I don't see the situations in Simoun or ICE (travesty that that
                series is) as "hyper". Just a fantasy/sci-fi take on a all-female
                world.


                There is a certain strength to this
                > premise, inasmuch as you have character interaction and
                social/romantic
                > exchange without the overbearing presence of a male point of
                reference.
                > It presents female-ness (without saying femininity) as a self-
                contained,
                > finite universe which is self-sufficient on its own terms, yet is
                > knowable to the viewer through pre-acquired notions of the female
                > experience. This would have been a fascinating thought-experiment,
                had
                > Strawberry Panic not botched the operation,

                take the Ages of Woman and assign their
                > archetype to each one of three sub-divisions of the School. Thus,
                Lulim
                > (Maiden - plastic, fluid identity; creative; irresponsible); Spica
                > (Mother - powerful; dynamic; competitive); Miator (Crone - wise;
                > intrsopective; brooding). So far, so very interesting, but then they
                > took the Classical Greek (and arguably Classical Japanese)
                aesthetic too
                > far by suggesting that the only 'healthy' sexual relationships are
                > senpai/kohen based: Nagisa/Tamao and Hikari/Amane are both 'good'
                > because there is a clear relationship of dominance; conversely, poor
                > Momomi/Kaname (who, in my humble opinion, have by far the
                healthiest and
                > most balanced relationship on campus) are treated fairly
                > unsympathetically throughout the series. Ditto the unrequited
                > Yaya/Hikari and Nagisa/Tamao romances, which are portrayed as
                morbid or
                > unabalanced.

                Now this I can buy. The nature of sempai/kouhai is an exchange
                between unblanced powers. It's not entirely alien to us, as
                mentor/mentee - in the business world it's fairly common for
                executives to groom subordinates for later, greater things. In Japan
                (and Greece) as you point out, the tradition existed with sexual
                favors exchanged for entree' to inside networks - the balance of
                power had to be uneven.



                > In the end, I don't think I can isolate where Strawberry Panic, in
                my
                > eyes, went wrong, inasmuch as there are glimpses of interest and
                insight
                > throughout interwoven with fairly trite and gratuitous moments. It
                never
                > quite works as a self-parody (through the Mrs. Robinson ending came
                as
                > close as possible to being parodic without, quite taking the final
                leap)
                > and it never quite works as a serious romance (but then again, I
                would
                > argue that Marimite - a generally far more accomplished series -
                doesn't
                > either).

                The two differences there is that marimite isn't *trying* to be a
                serious romance - it's a romantic series, which is an entirely
                different thing. :-) And that the large portion of people who enjoyed
                SP *as* a serious romance relaly can't tell that it's not - and that
                it's poking fun at their inability to tell.



                So what is there to save? I think Strawberry Panic should serve
                > as a starting point for studios interested in shoujo-ai anime
                plotlines
                > as a thematic, rather than substantive, inspiration.

                Hah.

                In watching the
                > series - which on a superficial level, I found perfectly enjoyable -
                I
                > was always left with the regret that so much more could have been
                done
                > with the basic ideas and that opportunities were repeatedly missed
                along
                > the way.

                Well yes. Of course.

                >
                > Just my humble opinion. Which, since we're on it, I've said it once
                and
                > I've said it again: Hikari is perhaps the most odious, spineless
                > character I have encountered in a long time. There, I said it. Now,
                > perhaps when I have more excess time on my hands, I'll devote a few
                > lines to how she probably represents the Romanticist 'pure soul' or
                > feminine ideal.

                AMEN.

                And btw - good post. Got me thinking. I needed that.

                Cheers,

                Erica

                Hungry for Yuri? Have some Okazu!
                http://okazu.blogspot.com
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