Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
Author/Artist Ichigo Mashimaro
Macho men back away now, as Strawberry Marshmallow will likely sicken you to your stomach. The intense sweetness of this book, which follows the adventures of 4 young girls, is overpowering.
As regular readers of my ramblings will know, I'm at an age where certain manga and anime series are just a bit wrong. Strawberry Marshmallow is very much in that category. It's cute, harmless and, in places, very funny. But do you want your friends down the pub to know you read it?
So, establishing that I'm not the target audience for this book, lets look at what it does well - to start with the artwork is fantastic - excellent character designs beautifully drawn, with some fantastic, expressive panels which really draw you in. Each of the four girls is distinctive, from chain-smoking elder-sister Nobue, to cute and shy Matsuri, the character dynamic is perfectly balanced - not too over the top, but lively enough to hold your interest.
The book is split into short, self-contained chapters, which is great for younger readers, and makes it a good choice for a light reading session.
In fact, only one thing stands out as slightly odd - the book would be perfect for young readers if it weren't for the very occasional swear word and panty shot (which made me feel uncomfortable given that the girl in question was 11). It's harmless in context, but someone glancing over your shoulder on the wrong page would likely raise an eyebrow. If the artist could have controlled himself, the book would be a brilliant introduction to manga for very young readers, as it is, I'd probably feel uncomfortable recommending it without reservations.
Sickly cute, but charming. Just be careful who you give it to.