Strawberry 100% Vol. 2 (Viz Media)

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strawberry.jpgThis male-centric romance tale has a sweet flavor all its own.

 

 

189 pgs. B&W; $7.99

(W / A: Mizuki Kawashita)

 

Though it's being released under the Shonen Jump Advanced imprint, Strawberry 100% (a.k.a. Ichigo 100%) is more romance-oriented than most of the titles included in Shonen Jump, Viz Media's male-oriented monthly manga magazine. You won't find any explosions, giant robots, or fighting here. Instead, Strawberry 100% takes the tropes usually found in fluffy shojo romance stories and filters them through a guy's distinctive point of view. The result is a thoroughly fresh take on the romance genre.

 

The rather suggestive cover to Strawberry 100% Vol. 2. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Junpei Manaka is an average junior high school student, frantically studying for high school entrance exams while trying to impress the girls at his school. In Volume 1, he had a strange rooftop encounter with a beautiful and mysterious young lady wearing strawberry-printed panties. Soon after this fateful moment, Junpei met and befriended Aya, a bespectacled and bookish aspiring writer looking for someone to read her latest novel. He also got together with Tsukasa, the hottest girl in school-much to his shock and amazement. Still, even though he's the envy of every boy at his school-particularly when he finds himself alone with Tsukasa in her bedroom—Junpei can't forget about the girl in the strawberry panties.

 

Volume 2 joins our beleaguered, hormone-driven hero on the eve of his all-important high school entrance exam. Against his will, Junpei's attraction to Aya has grown to the point where it's distracting him from his relationship with Tsukasa, and his studies. So, naturally, it's more than a little shocking for Junpei when he discovers what the reader has known all along—Aya, sans glasses and librarian hairdo, is the mysterious strawberry panty-clad siren! And, if that wasn't enough, a new mysterious girl hits him in the head with a soda can. Future love interest alert...

 

It's a little surprising to see writer/author Mizuki Kawashita do away with the "secret" of the strawberry panties so early in the series. However, one gets the feeling that even with the knowledge that Aya is his "dream girl," Junpei still has a lot of growing up to do. Kawashita's handling of the male romantic standpoint is expert, particularly during Junpei's PG-13 fantasy sequences. The art, while fairly generic, is well detailed and smoothly arranged on the page, and the story is fast-paced, yet engaging. Though Kawashita indulges in many of the typical shojo storylines-accidental nudity, love triangles, couples attending different schools—the presence of a believable, likable male main character separates Strawberry 100% from many of its contemporaries. | J. Bowers

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