So for now, this is my first and probably only review of a light novel, and that’s actually no surprise considering the fact that Strawberry Panic is also the only translated yuri light novel that I know of (other than the Sono Hanabira ones).
I don’t really know how to organize this review or what kind of aspects beside the story and the author’s writing style I should really mention, so bear with me with this one.
This light novel has been around for quite some time already, but I first came across this only a few weeks ago, when someone on Twitter recommended I read this novel. So now that I have it, well, so far, only the first of the three volumes, but anyway, let’s start the review.
So first things first, what this novel is all about is the life of a few young girls that attend one of the three affiliated all-girl schools on Astraea Hill. Let me just skip the names and what each and every of these three schools are mostly known for and get straight to the characters.
The first girl we get to know is Aoi Nagisa, a 15-year old transfer student who’s entering this school in her 4th year. She’s the main character of this book and is presented to you as a cheerful and cute girl that seemingly attracts the attention of quite a few other students, like her roommate Suzumi Tamao, first year Tsukidate Chiyo, or her sempai, Hanazono Shizuma, who is easily one of the most popular girls in all Astraea Hill.
Other than that, we have a lot of important characters from all three schools, but the most important characters (despite Nagisa and Shizuma) are Konohana Hikari—another transfer student—and Otori Amane, who’s one of the school’s most popular students and who, thanks to her rather masculine appearance, most girls refer to as “Prince”.
The first of the three volumes revolves around two major themes. For once, we have the relationship between all the girls, and trust me that there’s a lot going on in this aspect, and then there is the “Étoile” election. If you haven’t seen the anime and don’t know what that is all about, let me explain it to you. “Étoile” is the word they use for a specific pair of students that, throughout a competition, earn that title and thus become the figurehead of all the three schools. Needless to say, this couple is pretty popular throughout all the schools, and of course, every school wants to have a pair of their own students earn this title. So to make it short, other than the relationships between the characters, the Étoile election is the biggest part of the story of the first book.
If you have already seen the Strawberry Panic anime adaption, you’ll most likely be acquainted with many of the happenings in this novel, but it turns out that the story of the light novel and the one of the anime are slightly different. So far, I have only read the first chapter of the Strawberry Panic manga, but it’s clear that the manga follows the events of the novel and that the anime is a little different from both of them. So if you liked the anime, you should probably consider getting this novel, since the story is quite different in many aspects.
Now, what do I have to say about it? In the beginning, when I started reading this, I was a little wary at first. A complete novel translated into English is quite a lot of work to do, and I already know that especially in manga, some translation groups tend to pick some weird ways to paraphrase specific Japanese words or expressions, so I was surprised to find that Seven Seas actually did a great job with the translation. Not that I can compare it to any other light novel, but I especially liked the fact that they left some specific Japanese words as they are and just explained their meaning on a few additional pages. That’s a really nice way to not make this book lose it’s Japanese touch, you could say.
Other than that, I can say that I pretty much enjoyed the writing style, and the only thing that probably bothered me a little is the length of most scenes. Just when I start to get into a scene, it’s already over and a new one starts or some flashbacks happen, and that just ruins the flow of the story, at some points. I was also a little irritated at the amount of yuri scenes in this one, since it definitely shows more than what we saw in the anime. And even though it is nice to read about all the female characters having crushes on each other, it’s still a little too much. The school is even described as a place of “…friendship and love, as well as mental and emotional bonds and passionate physical aches.” And don’t forget that this is an all-girls school, a Catholic one on top of that. But what am I even complaining about? The anime wasn’t that different, and the idea that Catholic all-girls schools are the perfect hot spots for young lesbians is also not new.
All in all, I think this is a must-read for all Strawberry Panic fans, especially the ones who, like me, haven’t yet read the manga. I think yuri fans in general will come to like this one pretty much too, since the yuri content is really high, and the story, even though completely unrealistic, is still very nice to read.