Going back to old media can be a mixed experience. While some shows are still as good as they originally were, other popular titles have dated poorly due to their handling of specific topics. Nowhere is this better seen than with the subject of gender. Audiences' understanding of this and typical standards for its portrayal in fiction has changed massively in the last 20 years. With that in mind, how does I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, an anime centered around crossdressing, hold up?
I My Me! Strawberry Eggs first hit screens in 2001. It was created by YOM, directed by Yuji Yamaguchi and animated by TNK -- a studio likely most known for High School DxD. It ran for one 13 episode season and made its way to America thanks to Geneon Entertainment Inc. A manga was later released and published in Dengeki Daioh magazine.
The series follows Hibiki Amawa, a man who dreams of becoming an athletics teacher. However, he is struggling to achieve this dream. When he falls behind on his rent, Hibiki heads to Seito Sannomiya Private School, hoping they will hire him. Alas, the principal Chieko Sannomiya refuses to do so, stating that she never hires men because she thinks they make bad teachers. Unphased by this, Hibiki, with the help of his landlady Lulu Sanjo, disguises himself as a woman and gets a job at the school, keen to prove his merits as a teacher.
However, Hibiki soon learns that maintaining his disguise is more challenging than he first thought -- especially when one of the students, Fuko Kuzuha, falls in love with his female alter-ego. The situation is made worse when the vice principal Reiko Mukogawa becomes suspicious of Hibiki. On paper, this isn't that unusual of a story. Many stories feature a man crossdressing to get something he couldn't previously have. In fact, several famous movies, including Some Like It Hot, Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire have used this exact trope and been praised for it.
However, I My Me! Strawberry Eggs has dated badly in several significant ways. The biggest issue with the series is its highly outdated gender politics. Chieko Sannomiya and Reiko Mukogawa's man-hating lacks nuance, feeling like it's only there to push the plot forward rather than fitting the characters. Moreover, Hibiki's crossdressing journey veers wildly from the dramatic to the comedic, often without warning, making it hard to tell if the writers wanted audiences to support him or mock him. This leads to a show that feels scattered and uncomfortable.
This only becomes worse when Fuko Kuzuha's crush is introduced. While it isn't unrealistic for teenagers to deal with complex feelings, I My Me! Strawberry Eggs has Hibiki encouraging the infatuation a little too much, going as far as to suggest that he is also falling in love with Fuko despite knowing that he can't start a relationship with a young girl in his care. On top of this, several scenes where Fuko and Hibiki get physically close with each other will likely leave modern viewers uneasy. For many audience members, the series might come too close to the highly offensive trope that incorrectly implies that those who break gender norms are sexual predators and a risk to children.
Besides all this, while Reiko Mukogawa's desire to expose Hibiki makes sense in context, to a modern viewer, the zeal with which she does so might feel a little too close to modern movements that seek to delegitimize gender non-conforming people and remove them from public spaces. This comparison only becomes starker when Reiko decides to publicly out Hibiki by using illicit photographs she took of him while he received treatment for burns.
Even putting aside these issues, I My Me! Strawberry Eggs feels dated simply because of how it is produced. It both looks and feels like a stereotypical "early 2000s" anime series due to its animation style and sense of humor, and a lot of its jokes are ones that viewers will have seen done better in countless other shows. The anime isn't terribly written or produced, but it isn't very memorable either, and viewers will likely forget massive chunks of it once they've completed the final episode.
Unfortunately, I My Me! Strawberry Eggs has dated poorly in the last 20 years. Those who go back to watch it now may well find the series a very uncomfortable watch. The show's handling of gender issues and crossdressing simply hasn't held up well, and the idea of a romantic student/teacher relationship will put many viewers off. That said, going back to I My Me! Strawberry Eggs after two decades does help people see how audience expectations and standards have changed over the years.