#1 Delightful characters
Strawberry Marshmallow is straightforwardly a ‘cute girls doing cute things’ show. It’s an anime about the silly antics of a group of friends as they all hang out together. No crazy gimmicks or super-specific themes. Just friends being friends and enjoying their time together.
Main character Chika is mature for her age. She is responsible and calm, but in that charming way of a kid wanting to appear more adult. She is still plenty playful and prone to getting swept up in the energy of her friends. The difference being that she needs time for herself and will thus draw a line whenever their fun gets too hyper.
Matsuri is a timid girl and a bit of a klutz, who is also incredibly sincere. This makes her an easy target for teasing while also making it hard for her to keep up when her friends are too excitable. Nevertheless she is very caring and supportive of everyone. Matsuri is also in the same class as Ana, who joins the story a bit later. Ana is an English girl who moved to Japan at a young age, so she is well-adjusted to life in Japan. This has to adverse effect that she has lost touch with her English heritage. She wants to speak English again and live like a Westerner, but struggles now that doing so no longer feels natural to her.
The cast is then rounded out with Chika’s older sister Nobue. A somewhat-cynical college student with a love for cigarettes and a hatred for couples in love. Despite being in her 20s, Nobue tends to hang around with her kid sister and her friends a lot. Partly to be the cool older sister, partly because she just likes to play along with their games. She also may or may not have a complex for moe.
#2 This little asshole
Don’t worry, I did not forget about Miu. I don’t think anybody could forget about Miu. It’s just that I wouldn’t describe her appeal as “delightful” as with the other characters.
Miu is a menace. She is Chika’s childhood friend and neighbor, though you frequently can’t tell whether they actually are on good terms or not. Miu is hyperactive, chaotic, and incredibly fickle. What she wants to do changes on a whim and that whim is then forced on all her friends. She comes up with wild ideas, drags everyone along, then loses interest in doing it instantly. And if any of them resist, then Miu resorts to persistently annoying them.
It is hard not to understate how fucking obnoxious this kid is. Or how amazed I am that Strawberry Marshmallow managed to wrangle a character like that into something funny and endearing. At times her behavior strays into outright bullying. There is one episode where she finds out that Nobue has a job and makes a point of it to show up every single day to cause problems that put that employment in jeopardy. In another episode, she gaslights Chika into thinking she’s gaining weight, causing her real distress. Anytime the cast has something fun going on, Miu actively seeks to ruin it for everyone. Even if doing so will ruin her own day in the progress.
I admire the dedication to being a little shit.
#3 Impeccable comedic timing
Comedy series like this are a dime a dozen and have been that way for years. Moe slice-of-life wasn’t a new concept in 2005 and 18 years hasn’t done it any favors in terms of originality. What makes Strawberry Marshmallow stand out is just how snappy its comedy is.
This is again best reflected in Miu and her antics. There are a lot of scenes that set up some prank by her, which are then followed-up by a second punchline in the form of her being punished. These jokes are delivered quickly and land very well. I had to laugh so much at times that I had to pause the video.
Strawberry Marshmallow has a diverse range of jokes and all of them benefit from its strong comedic timing to some extent.
#4 Soothing artstyle
I was also a fan of the artstyle. It doesn’t stray too far from the trends of the time, but has a warmer, fuzzier feel to it than its contemporaries.
The characters look particularly cuddly and there are a lot of very nice contrasts between colors in the background. Not much to add here, really. Just a really nice-looking anime.