The other week I wrote a review of the first volume of the Strawberry Panic manga. In summary, the characters were vapid Mary Sues, the book didn’t realise it had a plot until half way through and Catholic nuns are surprisingly ok with schoolgirl lesbians. I also found the second and final volume in the local library so of course I want to review that too and find out just how many more ways this manga could be terrible.
The last book ended on a cliffhanger on who Amane’s partner in the Etoile competition was, and we finally see that it is….Some character that has never been seen or mentioned before. What was the point of the cliffhanger?
By the way, it’s worth noting that Kaname is the only dark skinned character in the series and her appearance was completely changed in the anime. It seems that even Japan is whitewashing its characters…
This scene also leaves me a little confused about what relation the Etoile candidates are supposed to have with each other. The position is supposed to be held by two girls, usually one older and one younger, who work together and share the Etoile’s duties. I watched the anime and assumed the position was supposed to be held by two girls with a strong, sister like bond between them, which is why Nagisa and Tamao entered together in the anime. Maybe it’s a mistranslation, but the dialogue in the manga suggests that the Etoile must be a pair of lovers. Not just any lovers, but those who have sworn to be together for all eternity.
It gets even more confusing when Amane says she doesn’t want to enter the contest with Kaname because they both sort of look like boys (although the miniskirts kind of give it away). That’s a problem…how exactly? I thought she was opposed to it because she has a crush on Hikari and Kaname is kind of a bitch. (In the anime she tried to rape Hikari several times.)
Meanwhile, Hikiari and Yaya are in the locker room and…you can guess where this is going, can’t you? Yaya ‘accidently’ unhooks Hikari’s bra then tells her she needs to wear sexy lingerie to impress Amane. Did I mention that these two are in middle school?
She also says ‘Is it the same one you wore at the library the other day?’ implying that they really did do it in that scene in the library! Wow, this manga actually referenced something that happened before! Too bad it doesn’t really contribute anything to the overall story arc.
Shizuma pushing decisions onto Nagisa has finally had some consequences as the other girls who are jealous of Nagisa and Shizuma’s new ‘relationship’ have forced clean up duty onto her and Tamao to punish her. And yet Nagisa is the one who apologises for it and says it’s her fault! Did she forget that Shizuma forced her into it without her consent? Did saying no ever occur to her? Worst of all, Shizuma only did all of this to show off Nagisa as her latest girlfriend! And Nagisa is such a ditz that she just says ‘that’s ok then!’ and starts angsting over a girl she spent maybe an hour of time with. This manga is not only stupid and poorly written, it’s starting to make me angry.
Next we learn that Shizuma previously entered the Etoile contest with her former lover who died of a terminal illness or something. I know that it’s getting repetitive for me to keep comparing the manga and the anime, but in the anime Shizuma’s backstory was hinted at several times before devoting an entire episode to revealed it in a dramatic and heart breaking way. In the manga it’s brought up with virtually no foreshadowing and rushed out as a pitiful explination for Shizuma’s actions, plus an excuse to show girls in swimsuits.
It doesn’t even contribute that much to the story since the very next scene is of Shizuma getting cosy with Nagisa (and I swear they were having a garden party in their pyjamas). Since she’s seemingly already gotten over her past and moved on with Nagisa, it doesn’t form any kind of road block to the two of them getting together.
The Etoile contest finally begins with a sort of opening ceremony in which the various candidates are forced to essentially vow to be in love for all eternity. No pressure girls, you’re only making a promise to be with the same person forever in front of your Catholic Gods. It’s not like your lover could break up with your or die or something. Oh wait…
And it is only after making this vow of eternal love that Nagisa actually asks someone about Shizuma. How is it that this manga took so long to start the story and still develops their relationship too rapidly? What do the two of them even know about each other?
Next we have the first round of the contest – A horse race where the ‘older sisters’ need to race their horses to a tower where the ‘little sisters’ are being held. The little sisters have to jump from the tower, be caught by the horse rider and race together to the finish line. I’m starting to wonder how much these girls parents are paying to send them to this school and how much they are actually told about their education because THIS CONTEST IS INCREDIBLY STUPID AND DANGEROUS!! This manga is so awful it’s making me type all in caps and overuse the exclamation mark!!
The whole thing is so reliant on split second timing and expert level horse riding skills that it would be very likely for one of the girls to crack her head open or be trampled by a horse. In fact, the tower is so overcrowded that Nagisa gets knocked out and almost falls to her death. She’s only lucky that Shizuma somehow caught her in time.
This contest feels like something out of Ouran High School Host Club, put together just for the romantic visuals of girls being rescued from a tower and carried by their ‘princes’. In fact, I think even Ouran would consider this too over the top.
What does this have to do with being an Etoile? What does an Etoile even do anyway? The manga never explains what the Etoile’s duties are other than look pretty and have the rest of the student body swoon over her. In the anime it mostly involves growing flowers. Does the position often involve rescuing princesses from towers? Maybe the next round will be slaying a dragon while serving tea.
The horse race between Shizuma and Amane is probably the only exciting part of the whole manga, as idiotic as it is, but it’s over in about two pages and we don’t even get to see the end, just a cut to the prize giving scene to reveal that Amane won. But of course she would because she’s in the equestrian club and this round gave her a huge unfair advantage.
In the final scene, Nagisa and Shizuma confess their feelings for each other and kiss, ending with ‘Continued in volume 3!’ You’ll be waiting a long time for that because this manga was unsurprisingly cancelled after only two volumes.
This book was at least somewhat better than the first one. There are far fewer stupid moments, the scenes fit together most of the time and there’s an actual plot. The art is nice and the girls all look adorable, despite one panel where Nagisa looks stoned instead of aroused. But the plot that we do get is awful, the main romance is developed poorly and there are many parts that just made me angry. Nagisa has so little personality and Shizuma is so unsympathetic that it’s hard to feel any support for the two of them getting together.
If you want a cute yuri love story that actually develops characters, relationships and backstories then watch the anime or track down the light novels. You won’t be missing much by skipping this manga.