⚠ This article contains descriptions of animal cruelty which may be upsetting to some readers. Discretion is advised.
I’m a simple person; I see a frog on a book cover, I’m buying it. What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer chaos hidden within the pages of The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan.
Written and illustrated by the late Ai Morinaga, The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan (Strawberry chan no Karei na Seikatsu ストロベリーちゃんの華麗な生活) first appeared in the late 1990s as a serial gag manga in ZERO, a sci-fi magazine for girls. Each chapter was only a few pages long. The chapters were later collected in two volumes, the second titled The Super-Cool Life of Strawberry-Chan (Strawberry-chan no Chō Karei na Seikatsu ストロベリーちゃんの超華麗な生活). Both were licensed by Media Blasters in 2007.
It’s hard to explain exactly what this manga is about. The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan follows its titular character, a talking frog, and his daily life with his owner, a teenage boy named Taro Akiyoshi. Strawberry-chan resides in Akiyoshi’s dorm room at an all-boys boarding school. A boy and his pet, living in harmony. Sounds simple enough, right? Well…
The first chapter is a kaleidoscope of dark comedy, visual gags, and what can only be described as animal cruelty. We meet the very cute and round Strawberry-chan, who immediately gets crushed by a book thrown by Akiyoshi. He makes a comment about the frog’s weight, then proceeds to blow up Strawberry-chan like a balloon by sticking a straw… somewhere. Not off to a great start!
In chapter two, Akiyoshi gets a new roommate, upperclassman Masayuki Fujikake. Upon seeing Strawberry-chan for the first time, Masayuki is smitten, much to Akiyoshi’s disbelief. Their “romance” quickly becomes a running gag throughout the manga. Whenever Masayuki interacts with another animal, Strawberry-chan gets jealous. In the obligatory “beach episode” chapter, Masayuki blushes at the thought of seeing Strawberry-chan in a swimsuit, frog-sized of course.
While Strawberry-chan’s relationship with Masayuki is loving, his relationship with Akiyoshi is straight up abusive. Although there’s a slapstick quality to all the violence Strawberry-chan endures, it’s still uncomfortable to see at times. There are many scenes of Strawberry-chan being thrown around, squished, buried, you name it. And most of the time, Strawberry-chan feels like he deserves this treatment because Akiyoshi is his master. Strawberry-chan, you can’t think like that! Luckily, Masayuki and his friends are usually around to stop Akiyoshi’s cruel behavior.
Despite the questionable content, The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan has some moments that actually made me laugh out loud. One chapter has Strawberry-chan starting an intense workout regime to lose weight. We’re entertained with a montage of dieting and exercises, culminating in Strawberry-chan revealing a delightfully grotesque froggy six-pack.
Another chapter parodies the typical Valentine’s Day plot found in many manga. Masayuki has a dream in which everyone at school is in love with “Ichigoyama-sempai,” a human-sized, cool guy version of Strawberry-chan. Masayuki is determined to give Ichigoyama chocolates, but obstacles keep getting in his way. Finally, he’s about to confess his love, but Ichigoyama cuts him off, revealing he’s had a crush on Masayuki this whole time! The panel of Ichigoyama winning over Masayuki while dressed in a school uniform was probably the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.
At the end of the day, Strawberry-Chan’s absurdity is what makes it so special. Yeah, it’s not the greatest manga ever written, nor is it the most coherent, but it takes some incredible comedic risks. Not all of them pay off, especially the moments of animal cruelty, but the ones that do are certainly memorable. Overall, it’s an entertaining and short read, a perfect choice for those days when you just need to shut your brain off.
RightStuf periodically has the Strawberry-chan bundle in stock, so if you want to read this out-of-print manga, this may be your last chance!
The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan
Original Title: ストロベリーちゃんの華麗な生活
Author: Ai Morinaga
Release Date: 1999 (JP); May 28, 2008 (EN)
Publisher: Zero Comics/Libre (JP), Media Blasters (EN)
From the publisher: Once upon a time there was a talking frog. This frog’s name was Strawberry-chan. Strawberry-chan loved his boy, Akiyoshi, very much, but Akiyoshi liked nothing more than to use a straw to blow Strawberry-chan up like a balloon, much to the chagrin of Strawberry-chan. Akiyoshi’s friends all feel very differently about Strawberry-chan. Some wish he were treated better, some really love Strawberry-chan and one even wishes he was Strawberry-chan. With all of this love and abuse, will our frog possibly survive the first volume?
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