Manga Review- Ichigo 100%

August 31, 2010

Panties in your face…  A simple yet daring sentence that sums up the situation of the start of Ichigo 100%. What more could a guy ask for? Used panties in your face maybe. Something that almost happens in the beginning of the series because the girl didn’t take her panties off and is still wearing them. But hey, our hero is already having a nose bleed and couldn’t be happier. But we can.Ichigo 100% is a lengthy manga (for a romantic comedy) about Manaka Junpei who seeks the girl with strawberry panties. That is the whole point of the manga. At least in the beginning. Manaka sneaks up to the rooftop of the school and finds a pretty girl falling flat on her face in front of his nose. And of course the first thing a boy does in that kind of situation which requires a great deal of self-respect, motivation to help and well trained hand-eye coordination is… staring at her panties. Strawberry panties specifically. The beautiful sunset which lights the panties up to be seen by the whole world, the gentle breeze which moves her skirt just enough to watch underneath and the intense eye-contact the two are having. No clichés are spared on this fateful encounter in the very first pages of the series. The girl then runs away and while Manaka was having the moment of his life, he now is in complete shock. Who is this mysterious girl? Why was she falling so hard on her face? How much does a pair of strawberry panties cost?

Number one: Ichigo 100% is a shounen manga. Number two: Kawashita Mizuki is the writer of the series. Number three: She’s a genius. This may come out of nowhere and can be experienced as a total shock but the writer is indeed female. As a shounen manga, the protagonist is naturally male as the story has the point of view of males in mind. This is where Mizuki shines. She knows what she wants to tell in a story. She knows what the readers want to have in their stories. It’s no easy feat to achieve a high position in the popularity rankings of the magazine Shounen Jump if you’re making a romantic comedy. Ichigo 100% stands and will be standing for a long time as the classic ecchi manga. And this success can be explained in a couple of steps.

For starters, the eyes look beautiful. Now this is a small detail that is somewhat weird to mention but it’s actually a build-up for the whole art of Ichigo 100%. The drawings of the writer are amazing. It’s obvious that most of the time drawing is spent on the character’s face, starting with the eyes. None of the little details are forgotten. The size of the mouth which complements the situation at that time. The soft and hard strokes which make up the blushes.
And most importantly: the depth of the eyes. It can’t be stressed enough as this series proves how important it is how eyes are drawn. For example: two characters sitting in a fairly dark room with a small light bulb on and one of the characters is a bit sad. This is perfectly reflected in the eyes. The somber look gently drawn with carefully placed strokes, together with the reflection of the light bulb in the back of the iris. You have to see it in action. This is basically a whole new dimension of giving off emotion in manga. Something that only the talented drawers who understand emotional storytelling on paper can do.

But the one thing that truly is the major selling point of this series is the characters. At first, the characters look and feel very one-dimensional. Very little information is given about them and their history. Manaka is the average kid next door who gets lucky with the girls and can’t decide which one of them he wants and the panties-girl doesn’t hold a lot of depth in her personality either. To make matters worse: Ichigo 100% is a harem manga with four hot girls who would make any reader want to look no further than their bodies. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up to you. But after a few dozen chapters, the manga changes. Something happens with the characters and the way they are presented. They slowly grow and become more likeable. None of them has dramatic histories but are believable characters with different experiences. And these experiences come together as the characters meet, greet, eat and talk together.

It’s progressive, it’s adventurous yet it’s so realistic. People fall in love in this manga and people get their hearts broken. People fall flat on their faces in this story but they keep on trying, never stopping to believe. It is the human feel what makes this story so darn well. They mature in body and mind, reflected in their relationships and even manner of talking. One hundred chapters further and every major character gained a whole dimension of depth and personality, making them completely different than when the story started. The author manages to give such a realistic reproduction of real-life relationships with all the pain, happiness, luck and work involved… on paper. And even if there are some half-naked bodies in scattered around in chapters, consider this as an extra. It’s only eye-candy in the beginning but manages to be of some value to the story later on.

And that brings me to the biggest drawback this series has. ”Later on”. This combination of words will be contained in almost every opinion of the people who’s read this manga. The beginning is so uninviting to read further. Most people will probably read a chapter or two in their spare time but won’t be running home from school or work to read the next chapter. Everything is calm in the first chapters. No big bangs, no major events—all but a preparation for the amazing storytelling AND character development later on.

Who could’ve guessed that one of the best harem mangas in a boys’ magazine would be written by a woman? The details of the drawings are amazing, especially the girls. One would then wonder where the writer gets the source material needed to do such details, and then finds out that the author is female and can get the source material by herself. But Ichigo 100% has something. Something that’s very hard to put your finger on. It has to do with the characters, they develop themselves so naturally that they automatically grow on you. Like a friend who you’ve known for a long time and can’t actually remember the time before the two of you met. It was already there. It’s like the characters are communicating directly to you and you understand in an instant what their situation is like and feel sorry for them. Feel happy for them and feel sad when the story ends. The series has its drawbacks like cliché ecchi moments and some tedious chapters in the beginning, but it’s all worth it for later on the manga—when the build-up of the beginning is showing its fruits.
Just like a real relationship.

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