The Super-Cool Life of Strawberry Chan
written by Ai Morinaga
“People assume things about me because of this manga,” whines mangaka Ai Morinaga (Your and My Secret, My Heavenly Hockey Club) piteously. Unfortunately for her, the misapprehension of the “people” to whom she refers is quite understandable. I mean, have you ever even contemplated sticking a plastic straw into a frog’s butt and blowing? For fun?! Didn’t think so. Those “people” might be on to something….
Nevertheless, if the idea of sticking a straw into a frog’s butt and blowing sounds fun to you, you have come to exactly the right place. Those secretly (or not so secretly) nurturing a wide sadistic streak will surely regard The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry Chan and its long-in-coming sequel The Super-Cool Life of Strawberry Chan as paradise in printed form. Few do pointlessly perverse, comedic violence as skillfully as Morinaga, and she is in full flower here with a full 47 chapters of frog torture, bestiality, and homoerotic (?) desire.
This is, in short, what the Japanese call a gag manga. Of profoundly lowbrow tastes. Suffice it to say that the Strawberry Chan series has no narrative arc to speak of, not to mention less still in the realm of character development. Its sorry excuse for a plot goes, as Morinaga apologetically admits, precisely nowhere. But that is of course the whole point of the exercise…and you will be too busy laughing to ask why, anyway.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around pet frog Strawberry Chan, who loves his owner, Taro Akiyoshi, deeply and wishes only to be loved (by Akiyoshi or somebody else) in return. Unfortunately, Akiyoshi is an unreformed sadist. Not even ardent frog-lover Fujikake or the refreshingly normal Watanabe can do much to relieve this twisted relationship. The cast resides in a boys’ high-school dorm.
Most of the chapters are quite short; eight pages is standard, but many are only six pages, and a handful are only two. Plots as such typically revolve around either Akiyoshi coming up with new ways to torture Strawberry Chan, Strawberry Chan coming up with new ways to win Akiyoshi’s affections once and for all, or Fujikake fantasizing about his beloved Strawberry Chan…and their offspring (tadpole/human hybrids, anyone?). Occasional one-off plots include an effeminate underclassman with a crush on Akiyoshi trying to become a frog in order to please him and Strawberry Chan’s failure to be a normal frog.
Hands down, the best subplot involves the appearance of Shizuka Koizumi, a female student who (with hilarious nods to Fist of the North Star) is more manly than her biologically male classmates. She is so manly, in fact, that the boys worship her. No one suspects that there is a girl at this all-boys’ school—even when confronted with her full-frontal nudity! The Koizumi chapters, which appear in the second volume, are priceless gems of Morinaga-style perversity.
Series artwork is typical Morinaga. Though published sporadically through the late ’90s and into the early 21st century, complete with notable character design changes, the differences, such as they are, are actually quite subtle. And in any case, like the works of many mainstream creators these days, the pages are clotted with the contradictory artistic impulses of an army of assistants anyway, so the distinctions present are probably only of interest to nitpickers and to Morinaga herself. Overall, her style looks like it’s stuck in the early ’90s…which is certainly not a bad thing. Several other prolific mangaka who straddle the line between shoujo and boy’s love draw similarly, with Makoto Tateno (Yellow, King of Cards) the most notable.