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Strawberry Marshmallow Complete OVA Collection Anime DVD Review

6 min read

Strawberry Marshmallow DVD Front CoverA more mature Strawberry Marshmallow experience

What They Say:
There’s rarely a dull moment when Chika Ito and her friends get together: whether they’re telling ghost stories, playing games, or taking trips to the beach and park, every day brings a new adventure. Of course, not everyone appreciates the constant presence of a pack of 12 year olds, and Chika’s big sister Nobue might sometimes wish that Chika’s friends weren’t always underfoot. Especially troublemaking Miu, whose “help” with Nobue’s job hunt is definitely not appreciated! Then again, Miu can cause problems just about anywhere, even when she hits her head and thinks she’s in Heaven! And when the girls make a trip to the public baths, does anyone think they’ll make a clean escape and scrub away every single piece of evidence? Either way, the funs sure to continue as the whole gang reunites in the complete OVA collection of STRAWBERRY MARSHMALLOW!

The Review:
Audio:
The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. Like the TV series, the show is dialog driven, but as children at play in a quiet room, the soundstage remains active and always ready to support any special effects. As the OVAs offer more styles than the original series, the frequent sound effects have natural spacing and doppler effects creating a fun sound experience.

Video:
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback in variable bitrate. Even though these are DVDs, the colors are saturated and maintain an even presentation that does not get interrupted by changes in scenery, motion, or darkness. There seems to be some kind of horizontal lines going on that really show up in upconverting. Nothing bothersome and not something that will be noticed from a normal viewing distance. I double checked on a PS3 connected to a 1080 computer monitor, and even though there is some noise, the video holds up well enough that it would not bother me watching from closer than normal or on a laptop.

Packaging:
The standard keepcase size has hubs on the inside front and back covers. The front cover has a low detail of the four young girls floating in a space with colored marshmallows. The spine has the title in the top third and a full body profile of Nobue in the bottom half. The design matches the TV collection spine, so when both cases are together on the shelf, Nobue is looking down at Miu. The back cover is busy with most of the right side covered in text, some original art of the young girls bordered by smaller scenes from the show. Special features and the technical grid are easy to read. The discs are printed with original art.

Menu:
Both main menus have a vertical stack of episode titles on the left and artwork showing the girls on the right.

Extras:
Both the OVAs and the later Encore episodes come with clean openings and closings.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fans of the Strawberry Marshmallow TV series will find the OVA collection a treat, but this set seems less all ages and primarily geared for teens and up.

What makes the original series work was situating characters in settings where their conversations and games were driven by their personalities. We quickly learn that 21-year-old Nobue swings between slacking off, working part time jobs to pay for her vices, and watching over her little sister, Chika, Chika’s classmate Miu who lives next door, and the cute fifth graders Matsuri and Ana. The episodes remained dialog driven with, mostly, realistic slapstick. While the girls were supposed to be 11 or 12, they seemed to act younger and more immature. In the OVAs, the humor becomes more direct and the situations more mature.

encoreroofOne of the running gags in the TV series was Miu’s jealousy when Nobue gave her attention to the fifth graders. Nobue often stands in for a mother figure. Whether trying to help a girl feel less lonely or inviting them out for cake, her role seems to be mostly caregiver but she does not discipline the kids and allows them to act out in socially unacceptable ways. This is one of the reasons Miu’s feelings toward her seem to be childish narcissism.

Nobue seems less motherly and more focused on the children as cute objects in the OVAs. When Miu sabotages Nobue’s job interview, the young woman retaliates with her own childish revenge. While this happened on one of Nobue’s part time jobs in the TV series, the slapstick balanced with Miu’s ever increasing bad behavior. The age and maturity gap of the original has shrunk.

By the time Miu once again gets jealous at Nobue’s attention, she acts out in a childish manner. But instead of her usual nonsense, Miu addresses Nobue as a romantic interest and then pins down Chiki to kiss her. While still in the heat of her tantrum, the joke reshapes Miu’s need to interact with Nobue and her emotional outbursts when other girls get big sister’s attention. It also makes Nobue’s interest in the cute girls seem potentially prurient.

Nobue’s vices become more pronounced in these OVAs. We see her going through an attempt to quit smoking only to fall prey to her addiction. When she has a bad day, she gets in the soaking tub and drinks alcohol. While smoking and alcohol use appear in the TV series, we spend more time conscious of Nobue’s behaviors as they become the focus of scenes and stories.

One other major difference in the TV series and the OVAs is the characters’ self conscious sexualization. Miu becomes very concerned with her breasts, and when the group visit a public bath with one way windows, they become aware of their perceived exhibition. Making the girls sexual objects, even in their own minds, is uncomfortable for me to watch. The humor never crosses over into objectification, but for viewers who like the lack of prurient jokes in the TV series, this adds a new thread that may make some uncomfortable.

encoremiuBoth video and character designs seem more suited to scenes with backgrounds with wide open vistas and special effects. In the episode “Good Afternoon,” Miu hits her head and goes to the afterlife. While there, the character defies gravity and flies with a visceral momentum through the halls of a building. With effects completely outside of the slice of life genre, the episode tries a different style of animation using the familiar characters.

In Summary:
Fans of the TV series should prepare themselves for an otaku edge that did not appear in the original episodes. This is still a slice of life show that creates humor from interpersonal interactions, but that humor does cater to the otaku fans of 2007 and 2009, when the OVAs were produced.

New viewers will get an interesting slice of life where tween girls experience the world guided by an often tipsy and heavy smoking big sister. There are fantasy scenes, but most of the experience is listening to their conversations and play.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Clean Opening and Ending, Sentai Trailers.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 12th, 2016
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 150 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Review Equipment:
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.

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