Title: Ichigo Mashimaro aka Strawberry Marshmallow
Company: Geneon Entertainment/Geneon USA/Doumu
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 15 Jul 2005 – 14 Oct 2005
Synopsis: Itou Nobue is a twenty-year-old chain-smoking University student who lives with her younger sister, Chika. Chika has three close friends: Matsuoka Miu, Sakuragi Matsuri and Ana Coppola.
Characters: Miu stars in an otherwise lacking cast for a comedy.
Comedy: Impeccable timing helps sometimes wanting jokes.
Music: Cute OP song.
Moé-factor: Copious… but it doesn’t help the comedy.
Slice-of-life comedy is a genre that’s seen a semi-revival since the unbridled, critical and popular success of the brilliant Azumanga Daioh. Though some, such as School Rumble, have tried to emulate AzuDai’s comedic style, to this day none have been as consistently funny… leading many anime fans to suspect that comedy is a genre where lightning won’t strike twice. One of the more recent entries into the genre, Ichigo Mashimaro, makes a gallant attempt to strike another bolt, but ultimately can’t produce more than a few sparks.
Ichigo Mashimaro’s greatest asset is its knack for deathly perfect comedic timing and delivery in all of its jokes. Though the jokes themselves are a mixed bag, the timing helps guide many of the potential misses into memorable and hilarious hits. Having an all-star seiyuu cast helps Ichigo Mashimaro’s cause to no end. With that said, the cast has a clear stand out in Orikasa Fumiko (Hikaru in Figure 17, Pacifica in Scrapped Princess), as the eccentric attention-seeking Miu. Orisaka’s performance is extraordinary – I don’t think I can remember a seiyuu in a comedy taking to a role with that much flair since the amazing Wakamoto Norio‘s portrayal of Onsokumaru in 2×2=Shinobuden. Miu herself is the highlight character in the series, stealing every scene she’s in and orchestrating pretty much every humourous situation. To say that Miu is the main reason Ichigo Mashimaro is funny is no fallacy… if anything, it’s an understatement.
This, though, is where Ichigo Mashimaro’s biggest flaw lies. Momentarily ignoring Nobue, outside of Miu the main cast is bland and boring. Admittedly, their best work is done when they stand around being adorably cute… but this, unfortunately is all they ever contribute. Matsuri is little more than the standard fraidy-cat goody-two-shoes. Ana’s predicament, brought about by her own stubbornness and vanity, is sad and garnered only pity from me, as opposed to laughs. Chika deserves some credit for holding her own better than the other two in Miu’s presence… but considering how invisible the other two are when Miu’s on screen, that doesn’t exactly mean a lot. Ultimately, though, she’s just there for the same reason the rest of the cast is: to be antagonized by Miu. Nobue, as the slightly disturbing older sister, does a good job of contributing her share of humourous moments, but when there’s such a large fraction of unfunny characters in a supposedly funny show, something is wrong. Something is wrong with IM’s final third as well. The comedy goes on life-support, with jokes seeming fewer and more far between. When they do appear, less hit the mark and the ones that are funny lack the wit of those in the earlier episodes.
Ichigo Mashimaro is destined to live in AzuDai’s shadow in the slice-of-life comedy genre, failing to do for 12 episodes what AzuDai managed to do for 26. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed… at its best, this series was as good as AzuDai, but its weak final few episodes and lack of comedic on-fire characters will unfortunately relegate this to being quickly forgotten by all but its most esteemed fans.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun