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One of my recent entries talked about Mahoromatic and how much I liked the series, barring the ending. One of the interesting things I discovered looking into the manga is that there wasn't a single creator. I know that it's becoming more common to see collaborations nowadays but it still seems strange to me to have one person write the storyline while another illustrates. Maybe I'm a bit biased since I have absolutely _0_ artistic talent (something which I sort of regret) but it seems like an unfair division of labor, doesn't it? It surely has to be easier to write a story than it is to draw unique and likable characters, especially in a visual media like manga. I would be the first to argue the reverse if we were talking about a novel or even a short story, which simply had a few illustrations placed within. It all comes down to what the central experience consists of, graphical or textual.

In Mahoromatic's case, the art was by Bow Ditama (who sadly doesn't have a wiki page of his own) and the story/character design belonged to Bunjūrō Nakayama. Upon learning of the collaboration, I immediately started wondering who was more responsible for the fact that I really liked the end product. The characters are all visually adorable and the storylines, hilarious. I had never experienced the work of either man before this and so it's not like I had a frame of reference to work with.

Anyway, while I was pondering all of this, I stumbled across another series, Ichigo Mashimaro (Strawberry Marshmallow), this time solely by Bow Ditama. I had nothing else interesting lined up (A complete lie given the 400someodd gigs of backed up anime I have saved) so figured I would give it a whirl. I have to say right off the bat that Ichigo Mashimaro might be the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. This anime should be banned by the Geneva Convention as an unconventional weapon of mass destruction adorableness. The subject line of this entry is by no means an exaggeration and my cuteness meter has been absolutely wrecked and ruined for future anime. It's like how if you taste something so incredibly, unbelievably sweet your taste buds will actually shrink back and get so overloaded everything else tastes bitter by comparison.

Now, you might think this is all hyperbole, and you could be right. Try watching a few episodes and see if it affects you the same way. What's really amazing about Ichigo Mashimaro is that it's not saccharine, or rather it doesn't come across that way. I've seen some intentionally cutesy anime in my day and loathed a good number of them for being trite, banal, and empty. The reason you might not have read reviews about them here is I never ended up finishing the whole series. Two which immediately come to mind are Sister Princess and Pita-ten. Now, maybe one day I'll go back and finish both and for all I know they improve greatly, but at the point I stopped I just couldn't handle any more. The funny thing is, anyone comparing the plot of the three animes would immediately come to the conclusion that Ichigo Mashimaro should be the one most full of fluff. How it manages to avoid that is almost ninjitsu.

Ichigo Mashimaro is about nothing. It's like the Seinfeld of Elementary School without the horrible, twisted people (for the most part) and with enough cuteness to rot your teeth. Look at the picture above and just try not to 'Awww'. The cast features 2 11-year olds, 2 12-year olds, and 1 chain-smoking 16-year old. It doesn't sound like it'd be a workable concept but the interplay of the characters is fantastic. The anime and the manga both focus on their daily lives and there are no aliens or super powers or relationship angst or anything really. It's just a bunch of girls and one older nee-san, though no one would peg the group as completely normal. During one of the story arcs, the four girls make Teru Teru Bozu which pretty much sum up their role in the show.

Chika is the normal one. It's also her sister Nobue who ends up spending time with the lot of them. Matsuri is the meek, studious dojikko. Ana is the blonde-haired, blue-eyed ojou who is almost completely ignorant of English much to her chagrin. Lasty, Miu is the genki jerkass. You knew there had to be one somewhere. Someone has to be responsible for causing trouble after all. Just look at all those links to TVtropes and you can see that this anime is like the perfect trope salad. Toss thoroughly for cuteness.

In addition to the anime, I also grabbed what volumes of the manga were out and read through them as well. This might be the one time where I think I actually liked the anime better. A lot of the storylines follow the manga exactly, almost panel for panel, but there's something about seeing it all animated that brings something extra. Not to mention, someone really took some effort with the story and direction when it came to tying together scenes or adding content. This is not to say the manga wasn't good too, but the anime lovingly recreated all the characters. As for the manga, the following page made me laugh out loud and I thought I'd share. It's a dream sequence that happens after the girls end up killing a cockroach in the room after a lot of rigamarole.

Another reason to love the anime is Sasazuka got more screen time. Poor, poor Sasazuka. Since this has already run on a bit, I won't bother to explain. If you actually watch the series, you'll get it anyway.


domo costume
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight
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