I am in love. With three girls. At the same time. Well, three fictitious girls, but my heart is still split three ways. What I wouldn't give to have the problems of Manaka Junpei... Yeah, when you start wishing for the life of a fictional, dorky, Japanese teenager you know you've hit rock bottom.
Anyway, the world of "Japanese harem anime and manga" hits an all time, record breaking high in Mizuki Kawashita's 19 tankobon (volumed) manga series, Ichigo 100% (aka Strawberry 100%) . Now let me be clear about one thing: Most harem anime and manga suck perverted, Asian, businessman dick. But that suckiness rule applies to pretty much every piece of entertainment ever created, but it's even more prevalent in terms of harem series. It's like 90% of all movies suck; 90% of all books are a waste of a tree's life; 90% of women are skanks; and 99.999109% of harem series should have been stabbed out of their creators' brains long before they were put to paper/animation cell.
For those of you who are really really goddamn dumb, a "harem anime" or manga is a series in which there is a single male protagonist who has never had any luck with the ladies, but pretty much overnight, and to the disbelief of all the other men around him, this loser becomes the point of affection to two or more really hot or cute chicks, but then he has no idea what to do with them until the last episode or printed volume where he picks the one who we (the viewer/reader) knew he would from the first episode/page. Ichigo 100% follows the general outline above, but it has one key ingredient that makes it better than any of the other harem manga I've ever read: You don't know who Junpei will pick until the last few pages of the last issue.
Well, that's not the only thing that sets it apart, and quite honestly the fact that NONE of Junpei's lady friends are either stupid, bitchy, annoying, or retarded will make you scratch your head in disbelief. See, in EVERY harem story ever written (before Ichigo) there is always one (and only one) perfect choice for the protagonist to make. There is only one girl who you KNOW he'll end up with, who he's destined to be with, and that's because the other girls he's surrounded by are (although hot or cute) possessive and/or bitchy and/or really really stupid (Hikaru from KOR being the prime example using all of those negative qualities). Or incredibly vain. Or only chase after the main character because of a (stupid) misunderstanding (once again pointing to Hikaru... Whatta skank!). You would shoot the author if he ended things with the guy falling for the one who wasn't his obvious soulmate. In Ichigo, ALL of the prospective love interests are leading lady material. At various points in the story I was rooting for each and every one of them to be "the one." I won't tell you who Junpei ends up picking, but my personal fave is Kitaouji Satsuki. Holy fuck. If I ever came across that goop that that one guy uses in that one episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories (the goop where if he spread it on the picture of a woman in a magazine or in a book she came alive and popped out of the page and into his life), then I would so totally use it on Kitaouji. So hot... so daring... so big breasted... so... sooooooo.... Damn, I am well beyond help at this point. Though truth be told I was always this messed up. I remember being infatuated with Rogue of the X-Men up until my 8th grade year when the writers callously tossed her spunky, Southern, fine ass into the Siege Perilous, and thusly made me think they killed her off. I think I needed therapy for like a year after that... until they brought her back and made her Magneto's bitch in the Savage Land. Then I needed heavy medication. But I digress.
Anyway, Ichigo 100% goes a little something like this: Manaka Junpei (literally) runs into a cute girl on the school roof one day, and he becomes captivated by her (and her ichigo [strawberry] panties that he grabbed a horndog glimpse of). Only problem is he couldn't really see who she was thanks to the setting sun behind her, and the fact that the girl (one Toujo Aya) had her hair down and her dorky-as-fuck glasses off when she dropped on top of him. Reeeeeally long story made a bit shorter -- Junpei soon becomes the apple of Aya's eye, but he proceeds to ask out the hottest girl in the class, Nishino Tsukasa , thinking he'll never find the real ichigo girl of his dreams again and he might as well aim for the best and live life to its fullest. He soon discovers Aya's hidden identity though (well, it's not really hidden, he's just kind of sloooooow), and makes things even harder for himself by making Aya, Tsukasa and himself all study-buddies. Hilarity and hotness and the mandatory Three's Company-styled misunderstandings then ensue. But this is only the first year of the story.
Soon Junpei, Aya and Nishino graduate middle school, and Tsukasa goes off to an all girl's high school pretty much leaving Junpei and the newly hot Aya (at this point she's stopped wearing her glasses, and keeps her hair out of braids, so now every guy can see how hot she is) to their own devices in the school that they chose (well, Junpei picked it because of the film club that the school has, and Aya picked it to follow Junpei). Instead of simmering down though, things get really heated the fuck up, as Kitaouji Satsuki pops in and falls for Junpei as well. Satsuki being the tall, athletic, sexy beast who shares all of Junpei's favorite hobbies. Soon Junpei restarts the film club, his childhood friend, Yui, comes back to town (she's not really a love interest, more like the monkey wrench in a lot of Junpei's romantic plans), and Tsukasa stops by to visit and to check up on her once boy toy. From there things get complicated, but through it all you never get bored and you fall in love with all of the chicks whom Junpei gets entangled with. You really do sympathize with the poor schmuck since you realize that you'd have a hard as hell time picking one above the rest too. But then you'd probably realize that you (unlike little Junpei) have a decent to large cock, and would love to show it to all of the girls, preferable all at once. Seriously, why are Japanese kids so goddamn reserved?!
Each of the girls is a complete and totally different dynamic character all to herself. Aya is introverted, smart and a great writer, and very fuckable. Satsuki is hot, athletic, a bit hot-headed, sexy, and into raunchy comedies. And she's even more fuckable than Aya. And Tsukasa is sly, cunning, determined, and soon a great chef who you'd love to fuck. Yui's just annoying, but she acts like a little kid and is obviously not in the harem herself, so whatever. My point is that all of the characters are fully developed (in more ways than one in Aya's and Satsuki's departments... They're a little top-heavy... They're feet are tiny 'cause nothing grows in shade... They have big hooters), and all of them are great in their own ways. Yeah, overall I'd choose Satsuki, but both Aya and Tsukasa stole my heart on many separate occasions too.
Other than the girls themselves, the other part of Ichigo 100% that made me cry tears of joy when I finished it was how well told the whole story was. Yeah, there were of course the required "two dates promised at the same time" and "hiding certain situations from certain other girls" problems to overcome, but the entire narrative (all four years worth) was written in an incredibly well plotted out arc that had a clear beginning, middle and end. The dreams of all the characters is really what made this tale just fly by. If it was just hot chicks chasing after one lame moron, then it would have had a tough time beating Negima's 30 to one, chick to man ratio. Instead you start to care more about the Ichigo cast's lives and dreams (and other sappy things) as much as they themselves do. Neither the KOR nor the Maison Ikkoku manga really pulled this off for me. In KOR, the only real problem for the protagonist, Kyousuke, is whether he'll end up with Madoka... And trust me, in the manga it is made even clearer than in the anime that this will be the case in the end. And in Maison, yeah, Godai is trying to graduate college; but why is he doing this? His only reason is to marry Kyoko. Junpei (and all of his hotties) all have dreams and goals beyond their teenage lusts, and at times you care more about their goals than who's gonna end up with who.
Oh man... I've made a total goofy choad of myself in this review -- going on and on about a manga most definitely aimed at young, horny, never-gonna-get-some Japanese boys. Whatever. Though damn, would I ever bang the living SHIT out of Satsuki.
As I read through this well drawn, but seriously deranged, foreign, serial, comedy series I came to realize one thing: The Japanese are one fucked up culture. Never before had I seen a tale with a lead character as pathetic as this young lad. He was stupid, he was indecisive, and he had a tendency to completely freak the fuck out whenever the slightest stressful situation arose. If I lost my mind every time I jotted in two dates or two meetings with body parts sellers for the same midnight rendezvous then I'd have an ulcer the size of Cleveland by now. Calm down there, little Japanese boy. You know your life is pretty good if your biggest concern is which attractive and large-breasted female you plan to take out for the night.
Other than the strangeness of writing a 3,300 page chronicle about the life of a horny Asian youth, I was most perplexed by the absence of any giant, robotic, guardian force, or any tentacled demon who needed young, supple, female juices in order to survive. That's like leaving the engine out of a car and calling it "complete"! What were they thinking?...
Although I tried, the scientific method does not work on something like this; something as complex and alien to the Western brain. First of all, the fact that this tiny whelp of a man got more than three very attractive females sexually interested in him is an improbability of 1:600,000. Add to that the fact that he never consummated his relationship with any of the ladies (and he had plenty of alone time with all of them), and the improbability raises to 1:20,000,000! On top of that this kid supposedly has an incredible talent to do something other than masturbate (he can make movies like nobody's business), and yet he never tried to make a self-acting porno with any or all of the girls... That's about a 1:5,760,000,013 probability. Hell, if this was a German youth you know that before the first of nineteen volumes was complete he would have had all of the women tied up, covered in melted wax, and he'd have begun to drop his trousers in order to defecate into each of their open mouths (this action itself would probably be held off until volume 2 in order to build up the suspense).
Jesus fucking Christ on a crutch! Is this the kind of shit that the Rossman dreams about happening to himself?! "Ooooh, maybe today's the day that three, hot, bouncy chicks will fall in love with me FOR NO REAL GODDAMN REASON AT ALL!"
Hmmmm, though maybe I'll be able to use this information against him someday... Set a trap up with some of my friends, have them all ask him out, and then lure him into a trap where I can finally cut off his cock and balls! Then it'll be one down, and 3 billion more to go!