Strawberry Vinegar, the latest release from OELVN writer ebi-hime (Asphyxia, The Way We All Go), features a cynical 9-year-old girl, a dad with pink hair and pink aprons, a mother who is a famous actress, and a young demon capable of eating more than professional food eating competitors. For those of us accustomed to reading VNs, watching anime, reading manga, and generally engaging in Japanese media as our hobby (you nerds), the premise isn’t so outlandish, nor does it really feel all that unique. Despite that, however, Strawberry Vinegar is a VN that is enjoyable, despite not doing anything too unique. Let’s dive into this sugary-sweet VN and see exactly why it works so well.
Strawberry Vinegar opens with our protagonist, Rie, going about her daily life. Her stay-at-home dad cooks extremely well and takes care of the house, while Rie’s mother goes off to act in various shows. Rie is rather lonely, and doesn’t have any friends at school, and her interactions with her parents feel rushed and exasperating to her. Everything changes, however, when a demon appears and steals a tray of cookies Rie has baked. “Feed me, or I’ll reap your soul!” the demon exclaims. Rie now has a week to placate the hungry little demon by feeding her delicious Japanese meals, or have her soul reaped.
The characters in Strawberry Vinegar are all very enjoyable to read, and they all play off of each other very well. Rie is a snarky 9-year-old (though maybe too snarky to be believable for her age) who finds herself annoyed with her family, and generally avoids them. The introduction of Licia, the hungry demon, changes everything for the better. Licia’s hunger drives Rie to cook for her, and thus bond more with her father as he helps her prepare various dishes. Rie’s mother, who is out working most of the time, also now spends more time with Rie and her father eating these varied yet delicious-sounding meals. Through this, we see a family that started out drifting apart coming back together and bonding over a mutual love of food. The innocent, childish joy of Licia eating various foods, and Rie’s typically sarcastic reactions made for fun reading. The two play off of each other very well, just as well as Rie’s mother and father play off of one another. It was interesting to see not only the familial relationship grow tighter, but also individual relationships between characters.
I can’t speak for the authenticity of the Japanese meals cooked throughout this VN, and there are a lot, but they all sounded delicious and enjoyable. This is not a VN you want to play hungry. Most of the CG work in Strawberry Vinegar is dedicated to showing off these dishes, and throughout the VN you are even given the choice, as Rie, to choose what to cook to feed Licia. Her reactions to each food are different, though she always thoroughly enjoys whatever she is eating and typically finds it to be the best food she has ever had. The art work is gorgeous and cute. If you don’t like the color pink, however, avert your gaze. Everything in this VN seems to be pink. It sets a cute, playful atmosphere for the VN that mirrors the writing quite well. The art style for characters isn’t quite anime-ish but also isn’t all that far from being in an anime style. It balances western and anime art, and it pays off, keeping this VN from feeling like a cheap imitation of a Japanese developed VN. In terms of the actual art style, it looks very soft. Instead of the bold lines that seem to be in most VN character art work, Strawberry Vinegar uses soft pastel color for its characters. It creates a cozy atmosphere for a laid-back read. The music is mostly forgettable, and does not really help, nor hinder this VN.
Strawberry Vinegar is a VN that doesn’t do very much. The story is short, simple, and sweet, with very few surprises in it. However, the story and characters are so charming and cute that it makes it hard to dislike the VN. It was a reminder of why I originally enjoyed VNs. Stawberry Vinegar was just a lot of fun to read. If something is fun, it becomes very easy to look past its flaws. That is the case here. The characters, while cute and funny, are fairly one-dimensional, the story is simple, and the VN itself is short. If you are looking for a cute, cozy, warm, fun, yuri VN to read, this is just the VN for you.