I just finished the series (13 episodes, 25 minutes each) because my computer kept complaining I have no virtual memory left, so I had to watch something and delete it. (I now have a little over 2 gigs.) I stupidly deleted the entire thing without getting any screenshots, so I’m going to have to borrow some posed shots for reference. I My Me! Strawberry Eggs first came out July—September 2001, so obviously, this review is old news to everyone except me. (Wiki here.)
Amawa Hibiki in the last episode, “Someday, Without Make-up As Promised”.
Meet Amawa Hibiki—aka “Amawa-sensei” and “Hibiki-chan”—a young man who’s just graduated from college and is looking for work as a teacher. He finds a place to live, but the school nearby hires only women as teachers, which goes along with the principal’s and vice-principal’s idea that all men are horrible. So, Sanjo Lulu—aka “Ba-chan”—helps Hibiki dress as a woman to get the job. (Ba-chan is also Hibiki’s landlady, so she has an ulterior motive, though she later proves that she’s in it for more than just the money.)
Though the school is headed and taught by only women, the Director is a man and there are male students who each create their own brand of problems. (Honestly, I’m not sure what the Director’s role in the school setting actually is since here in the U.S. the highest rankest official in most schools in the principal. Maybe he could be like a district superintendent or board of directors chairman?) Amawa-sensei has to navigate the misandry, keep the boys’ pranks in line, and help keep the girls’ confidence up, all while actually trying to teach and keep anyone from finding out he’s actually a man.
It’s nearly impossible. In one episode, he has to sleep over at the girls’ dormitory and ends up comforting Kuzuha Fuko (first name Fuko) because she’s afraid of the dark, lightening storms, or something. Amawa-sensei definitely a woman, down to the choker she wears everyday to school to modulate her voice, and Hibiki is almost discovered one night when Fuko runs into him and notices he’s wearing a bra. After that, he’s “Bra Man” and the students verbally and physically repel him every chance they get.
In another episode, Amawa-sensei is given a physical along with all the students. The boys’ physicals are in the gym, but the girls’ are in the music room, which is sound proof and has no windows. The teachers are trying to avoid the “Ms. Nice Body” contest that happened last year without permission of any of the participants as a prank. The girls admit that they’ve been stuffing their bras since they believe that being found out—despite all the precautions—is a foregone conclusion. Amawa-sensei has to calm everyone down and gives a speech about how we shouldn’t cater to the opposite sex—and then is almost found out herself during her own physical. Her secret is kept safe for a little while longer.
As the storyline progresses, two primary things happen. First, Hibiki grows tired of hiding that he’s really a man. Second, he falls in love with Kuzuha, one of his 14-year-old female students. Yeah… problematic, obviously. If he wants to keep his job, he has to keep crossdressing. If he keeps his job, he’s more and more in danger of acting upon his feelings for Kuzuha. Not good all around.
Apparently, crossdressing is a Big Deal. Admittedly, when I first saw the first episodes of this series at Anime Expo one year (2002, I think, my first year there), I was immediately interested for the very same reason many other people were not interested. (I remember my sister rolled her eyes every time I mentioned it and sighed one of those long-suffering “oh there’s V.E. going off about boys in drag again” sighs.) That said, I My Me! puts into stark perspective the sexism girls and women face every day by turning it on its head and focusing it on men.
Maybe crossdressing is just a Big Deal in the U.S. because hells know it’s a somewhat common theme in anime. If you don’t believe me, just look up Watarase Jun from Happiness!, Utena from Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Lady Oscar from The Rose of Versailles, Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club, Elendira the Crimsonnail from Trigun, Arakune from Angel Sanctuary (a series that has its own issues, let me tell you), Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi, and [omg] Bridget from Guilty Gear XX. There are others, I’m sure, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
And there are plenty of male characters who have women voice actors (at least in the original Japanese) such as Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, Haku from Naruto, Goku, Gohan, and Krillin from the multiple Dragonball series, both Elric brothers from Fullmetal Alchemist, Luffy from One Piece, and so on, and so on. Not that voice-acting really has anything to do with this post.
Anyway, this review got away from me. It’s not really a review, in any case.. more like a reaction. Aside from having to keep his sex under wraps, even in the most difficult of situations, Amawa Hibiki’s story is actually pretty realistic. And by that I mean, it’s realistic enough for me not to have too many issues with it. It’s a stretch to think that someone wouldn’t have found out sooner, but he was discovered, and then things get REALLY realistic. They shun him. Everyone shuns him, call him names, fire him practically on the spot, and generally torment him until he literally picks up and leaves town. Students, teachers, parents, everyone. And the vice-principal goes so far as to out him to the entire school all at once during an assembly.
And… then at about the 15-minute mark in the last episode, things go off almost completely into fairy land. Previously always-timid, cheerful, and all-around teacher’s pet Kuzuha storms up to the stage, grabs the microphone from the vice-principal, and defends Amawa-sensei. “She helped us! She did chores with the boys! She kept us out of trouble even when we deserved to be punished! Amawa-sensei was a good teacher and it doesn’t matter if she’s actually a man. Being a man has nothing to do with being a good teacher!” And suddenly the students clamor forward, agreeing and crying their apologies and chanting for Amawa-sensei to come back.
While I agree with the sentiment, I just laughed out loud at the execution. There’s no realistic way to make the series end well after Hibiki’s secret is revealed, especially since his almost-relationship with Kuzuha is also revealed, but I was hoping the writers/directors/animators/whoever wouldn’t try to make it a happy ending. Maybe I’m just jaded and cynical, but seriously. Dead Poet Society-esque endings never happen in reality. To their credit, Hibiki does still leave town, so I’ll give them that.
So anyway. Overall, I liked it. The last 15 minutes… not so much. I guess I just wanted it to end the way it really would have ended. I have much less faith, apparently, in humanity than the directors do. Eh, I’m used to that.