I, My, Me: Strawberry Eggs (anime)

Hibiki Amawa is a recent college graduate who has taken up residency in a boarding house owned by aggressive, gun-toting land-lady Lulu Sanjo. He is looking for a job as a Physical Education Teacher and is living off of his meager savings, but eventually his savings run out. Nearby Seito Sannomiya Private Co-Ed School is hiring a Phys Ed. teacher, but despite Amawa’s excellent credentials refuses to hire ANY male faculty, claiming that men do not have the instincts to care for and instruct children. Still desperate for a position, Amawa disguises himself as a woman and is hired on immediately. The series is, for the most part, a standard and expected gender-switcheroo comedy, full of close-calls, odd crushes, and goofy disasters. Thematic issues with gender and sexuality do play out in some interesting, albeit mostly predictable, ways, but it is ultimately the sweetness of the show that kept me watching. The characters genuinely care for one another, and want to see each other succeed. With great episode titles like “Forbidden Eyeliner,” and very tender moments between friends and classmates, the series is worth watching.

There is, however, something in this anime that makes me slightly uncomfortable, to say the least. Amawa throughout the series develops strong feelings for awkward, immature, and naive student, Fuko Kuzuha (and vice-versa). Amawa is approximately 20 years old, and Kuzuha is 15. Their age difference is disturbing given the current conditions of their relationship (teacher/student…and erroneously same-sex?), but the age difference wouldn’t cause much uproar later in life. This isn’t a case of pedophilia really, because the closeness of their ages seems to thwart that interpretation, however the age issue is still too great to be deemed socially acceptable. And, in defense of the main character, he/she recognizes the problems with succumbing to a more physical relationship (and is adequately disturbed by his love for Kuzuha), and the series ends with a declaration of love, a reveal of identity, and promise from Amawa to return once Kuzuha reaches maturity. Despite the obvious problems with the relationship, and sexual tension, between these two characters, there is something sweetly innocent about their affection for one another.

So, to sum up: I, My, Me, Strawberry Eggs has a stupid title and contains at least one potentially skeevworthy relationship, but somehow manages to remain funny, sweet, a little sad and completely watchable.

Monster (anime)

“Once upon a time, in a land far away lived a nameless monster. He was dying for a name.”

Monster is a long running anime based on the graphic novels of Naoiki Urusawa. This extremely elaborate drama/thriller is set in Germany and the former republic of Czecheslovakia. It’s part fairy-tale (ala Grimm Brothers rather than Disney) and part gritty crime story. The story follows Dr. Tenma, a brilliant neural surgeon mistakenly framed for multiple murders after saving the life of a young boy, Johan Liebert. Johan, and his twin sister Anna, are the only survivors of the violent murder of their adopted parents. From the first episode viewers realize that there is something inhuman about the young boy, despite his charisma. Tenma, falsely accused and on the run from several groups of people interested in catching him, takes to the road to both clear his name, and discover the truth. (Image by Angel Zakuro.)

What follows is a complex, multi-character story which spans decades. A large part of the series deals with the internal battles each character faces regarding regret, responsibility and redemption. Later discussions of belief and faith in oneself are complex and interesting. Identity is a central issue as well. Johan, with his incredible ability to influence others, is a compelling villain with charm and beauty. He becomes symbolic of the darkness possible in each person, and is molded by the Eastern Bloc Government from youth to be a perfect leader and brilliant strategist. His sister Anna and Dr. Tenma, are his counter, and embody love and forgiveness.

It really is a fantastically complex (albeit sometimes slow-moving) anime. But, I’m still wondering WHY this is animated. The animation is beautiful, and the architecture and scenery is amazingly rendered, but there isn’t any apparent reason why this story needs to take anime form, or graphic novel form. There are no special effects, transformations or dream sequences…nothing that couldn’t be done live-action at all. Despite the strange decision to animate at all, this is a really complex and intelligent series. I am awaiting the next season and the conclusion to this epic.