Hibiki Amawa has a fire burning in his soul... he wants to be a gym teacher. He wants to help his charges realise their full potential and be the best athletics instructor he possibly can. Fresh out of university and almost penniless but full of enthusiasm, he meets a slight problem upon discovering that his local school only employs women. However his pistol-packing landlady has a suggestion.
What loon thought up that title? That aside, this is another adorably deranged show from the makers of Hand Maid May. I like the art, I like the characters and I'm still scraping my jaw off the floor about the fact that they succeeded with this story.
Hibiki Amawa must pretend to be a woman if he wants to become the local gym teacher! (Yes, the headmistress is a man-hating harridan and yes, the schoolgirls are cute and short-skirted.) Dodgy fanservice alert, yes? Actually no. Hibiki's pupils are fourteen years old, so wonder of wonders the animators show some restraint in that direction. There's the odd panty shot, but it's infinitely better than I'd expected. For most of its run this is heartwarming silliness with a delightfully light touch with its comedy. Hibiki is very likeable, never getting a perverted buzz from all these schoolgirls (thank goodness!) but instead only wanting to be the best possible mentor for these young people in his charge.
There are love triangles, no less serious for being played out chastely among fourteen-year-olds. A girl loves a boy, who loves a girl... who loves Hibiki-sensei. She thinks she's turning into a lesbian, except that she's so naive that she hasn't even heard of the concept and just thinks she's going strange. Of course Hibiki knows he's really a bloke, but he also knows that: (a) he's their teacher, and (b) even if he wasn't, he shouldn't be getting involved with fourteen-year-olds.
Then Hibiki realises that he's reciprocating her feelings. As the audience's eyes bug out of their sockets and roll gently across the floor, the story starts going places that cannot possibly under any circumstances turn out well.
Amazingly, it works. Somehow this lethal material becomes a sweet, optimistic tale in which you really want the best for everyone. It's never tasteless. Everything stays approximately platonic; it's just feelings being explored rather than sex. Hibiki behaves honourably throughout... but even so, there's enough explosive power in the story's premise that I ended up screaming at the television. There's drama in those closing episodes. And all things considered, the ending is the best that it could possibly have been for the characters.
It's not perfect. Hibiki's schoolgirl-ogling fellow tenants are cliched and dull, though at least they're incompetent enough to be inoffensive. The subtitles on Pioneer's R1 DVDs are distracting too. Odd bits of Japanese vocabulary are left untranslated, and apparently not just in the subtitles but in the English dub too. Had this phenomenon been restricted to the subbing, I'd have been wondering whether it was clever or unprofessional. Extending it to the supposedly general-appeal dubbing strikes me as bizarre... but hey, it's only the dub.
This is one of those rare stories that could only have been animated. I'm trying to imagine real actors in a live-action version of this show and I think it would probably make one ill. Animation softens the edges, distancing you from the material's extreme potential to disturb. No less importantly, Hibiki is completely convincing as both a man and a pretty woman, so plausibility is never a problem. (The loveable cuteness that made Hand Maid May so ridiculously sexy is a huge asset for this show, except that it's been put to use in making it fluffy and inoffensive instead.)
This is a fascinating series, and one of the most fascinating questions about it is whether its production team knew what they were doing. On the one hand, these people gave us Hand Maid May. Cute, yes. Sane, no. This is a fluffy heartwarming comedy about the love story between a crossdressing teacher and his fourteen-year-old female student. However this is anime. What's a little homoeroticism and ephebophilia between friends? What's more, the tone is surprisingly assured, with the comic and dramatic elements never undermining each other but instead combining into a surprisingly sweet whole. There's also some intelligent exploration of the theme of "love is blind", my favourite being episode seven.
I did the entire show in two consecutive late-night sittings, despite the fact that I really needed my sleep, and then immediately went back for a partial rewatch. It's not afraid to be cheesy, it stretches credibility and if you're looking for a mature, realistic sensei series then I recommend Great Teacher Onizuka. I My Me Strawberry Eggs however is surprisingly powerful underneath its light-hearted surface. Its characters are sincere and likeable, none more so than our hero Hibiki. This show struck me as charming, heartwarming and demented.