With their big, round heads and eyes, the characters in Strawberry Marshmallow look like sweet little cherubs. In fact, they’re the girls you grew up with in your neighborhood–siblings, friends, people you hung out with, borrowed money from, and supported or teased depending on the day. Strawberry Marshmallow chronicles the sweet/tart adventures of a loose-knit group of neighborhood girls. 16-year-old big sister Nobue, illicit cigarettes in hand, leads the pack, which consists of 12-year-old Chika, Chika’s best friend Miu, and 11-year-old Matsuri. Like Azumanga Daioh, the manga is a funny, meandering look at ordinary life; the girls go to the beach, they play their own peculiar version of baseball, Nobue attempts to quit smoking, and Miu does a school project observing her friends movements 24-7 (a text message from Matsuri: HELP – night endless – miu hs tken over merciless hope 4 slp abandoned ).
It’s hard to describe what makes Strawberry Marshmallow’s random humor so hilarious (like when Nobue forces the girls to cut school and they end up spending the day at the squirrel park), but manga fans will get it. So what’s not to love? The grown-up in me takes issue with the smoking (and in one story, drinking), especially because Nobue does look like an 8-year-old, but it’s not necessarily unbelievable. As a manga fan, I can also get over the occasional panty-related prank. Some other reviews of Strawberry Marshmallow (which is also an anime series) have dismissed it as cloyingly cute shojo or held it up as a great all-ages title. In fact, this manga was created by a man for male readers. Should that bother teen guys or girls who appreciate its humor and style? I’m not sure. If you ignore the implications of its intended Japanese audience, Strawberry Marshmallow offers a zany girl’s-eye view of the world. If you don’t, the parade of cute little girls seems less innocent. American fans will have to decide for themselves.
Strawberry Marshmallow, vol. 1