Quirky, occasionally shocking, but ultimately superficial
Strawberry Shortcakes is a sometimes quirky, touching and shocking look at the lives of four women in modern-day Tokyo. Satoko (Chiziru Ikewaki), unlucky in love, works as the secretary at an escort agency, where she isn't as glamorous as her co-workers, but she hasn't given up hope that she might find a man who finds her special. Akiyo (Yuko Nakamura) who is one of the prostitutes working there (who sleeps at night in a coffin in her apartment) has found the man she wants to be with, an old college friend who, like her, hasn't made much of his life but he only sees her as a friend. Saddened by this, Akiyo increasingly humiliates and abases herself, taking on even the most revolting of clients. Humiliation is also the fate of Chihiro (Noriko Nakagoshi), a pretty but superficial young woman, scorned by her colleagues at work for her pleasant but servile manner with the management. She is also heading for disappointment by putting too much faith in a casual relationship she is having with a young co-worker. Chihiro lives with Toko, a graphic artist, designing covers for book publishers. Toko (played by the original manga artist Kiriko Nananan herself), seems to be successfully getting over a broken relationship, but she's blocking the pain through bouts of bulimia and by throwing herself into her work.
The film certainly manages to involve the viewer in the lives of its characters, putting them through all manner of humiliation, disappointment and resignation as well as a few moments of self-revelation, but the depiction of these women's lives is superficial and their outlook is limited and essentially the same - each of the women are ultimately just looking for love. The film has an episodic feel, never really finding a flow, skipping from one character to the next without really developing their situation or being realistically representative of life as it is lived by most modern women in Japan.
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