OVA: Three more episodes of Nobue and co.
Post TV-series OVAs tend to come in two forms- either they pick up where their predecessor left off and fit quite naturally into the franchise, or they cover a new and generally quite uninspired storyline that makes you wish they’d just left well alone. Fortunately, the Ichigo Mashimaro falls into the former category, and indeed, if you didn’t know it was an OVA, you might just think what you were watching were episodes 13-15 of the TV series.
As always, the appeal of Ichigo Mashimaro, whilst certainly present, is somewhat hard to explain- just what is that makes a tale of the minutiae of everyday life so absorbing? Most likely, it stems from the interactions between the characters, as they let themselves get carried away on an amusing tangent, or make a surprisingly apt observation through their random discussions. Either way, the results are usually enjoyable to watch, and whilst the second episode in particular does drag in places, overall the OVA delivers some solidly entertaining material in keeping with the rest of the series.
Where the first two episodes are just about sewing together some of the later manga chapters, however, the third and final instalment tries something a little different, creating an original story where the girls go on an overnight trip to Izu. Despite a “we’re not on TV now!” moment where Nobue is caught scooping up Matsuri in the middle of the night and Miu kisses Chika in retaliation, the episode is generally entertaining, and those who dislike Miu will be more than happy to learn that at one point she spends eight hours in the boot of a car.
Visually, the OVA retains the clean and bright animation from the TV series; it may not be the flashiest or most complex thing you’ll ever see, but it still looks good and fits the tone of the series. Background music is reused from the series, with even the new OP and ED following the same style as their predecessors.
Manga volume five [end]
It’s something of a shame that the manga had to come to an end at this point, because it was really in this volume and the last that it started to find its feet, with Barasui finally getting a handle on comic timing, improving his artwork and generally losing the random panty shots. This is truly the Ichigo Mashimaro that those who started with the anime have come to know and love, and it just seems a shame that, having taken so long to reach this stage, we couldn’t have had a few more volumes of the series at its best.
In terms of content, these chapters are basically what went into the first two OVA episodes, so there’s nothing new to see; however, for the first time with this series I found myself preferring the manga version because I could take it at my own pace. As to be expected, there is of course no real ending, with the last proper story seeing the group explore the idea of what it means to be friends and even best friends (it’s less sappy than it may sound here), before the closing chapter puts together some short 1-2 page jokes to round the whole thing off.
Despite its somewhat shaky start in manga form, Ichigo Mashimaro was one series that was able to pull up from a less than impressive beginning to offer both genuinely amusing later volumes and a memorable animated adaptation. Sadly, unless the few remaining unused manga chapters and some more original content are tied together to make another OVA, this seems to be the end for Ichigo Mashimaro, so from now on we’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got.