Tuesday 1 October 2013

Anime REVIEW: Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 C3-Bu

When it comes to Gainax, I've become the kind of person that'll watch whatever they put out regardless of how good it is. Sure most of the staff that made it my favourite studio may have moved on to form Trigger, but it's still the place that created some of my absolute favourite anime. I'm a bit more sceptical when it comes to their manga adaptations, but after enjoying both seasons of Medaka Box I thought "Why the hell not?" Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (or Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jo-Gakuin Kōtō-ka C3-Bu for its equally wordy title, just use C3-Bu) may not be Gainax's usual comfort zone, but it sounds like a fun ride.

The story follows the shy Yura Yamato as she transfers to the prestigious Stella Women's Academy, and struggles to make friends or fit in on her first day. She catches the attention of the school's misfit airsoft club, which goes by the name of the C3 Club (which stands for command, control and communications). After eventually being persuaded to join the club, Yura discovers both a passion and skill for airsoft and goes on to compete in various skirmishes and tournaments.

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 C3-Bu Airsoft
The fun times

The first episode suggested that this show was going to be great. Despite the rather cliché moe girl club premise, once it hit the airsoft fight sequences episode really began to hit its stride - detailed character and background animation, wonderful background music and (perhaps most importantly) it kept the tactics of the fights interesting for someone who has no interest in airsoft whatsoever. The next few episodes kept it going, and I really thought I had a surprise winner on my hands.

Then it began to get weird.

What was originally a show about girls having fun playing airsoft became a "girls playing airsoft show" that didn't know what the hell it wanted to be. Not only did Yura turn out to be be "the chosen one" when it came to being good at airsoft figuratively, the show tried to make it literal via the use of weird visions of Japanese warriors and ghosts of the past that didn't fit the tone of the previous three episodes that came before it. After that brief stint of weirdness came a few more charming, if a little stereotypical of the genre, episodes followed by another massive turn in style. Yura goes from this klutzy, shy girl who's good at airsoft to one of the most unlikeable protagonists I've seen in anime. There's nothing outright wrong with the main character losing sight of the fun and getting obsessed with winning, but the story remains completely focussed on Yura while presenting her in an almost completely negative light - it just doesn't work and makes for really irritating viewing.

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 C3-Bu Rento Honoka Karila Yachiyo
It needs more of this...

During this time it would have been nice to learn a bit more about the other C3 -Bu members, but they're still sadly mostly relegated to the background. C3-Bu isn't a show that really has any time to dedicate to backstory which isn't a problem in itself, but it would have been nice to know the characters outside of their single characteristic. Karila's a tomboy, Yachiyo is short (in stature and temper), Honoka is the calm rational one and Rento the smiling friendly one. Each of them have their moments, but it's never once THEIR story (although you could argue Honoka's case in the final episode). The only other one's who have fleshing out are Sonora (who's insanely boring) and Rin (who is much more enjoyable despite being the cold rival). Anime shows about highschool clubs certainly usually focus on one character, but here the others feel like walking personality traits rather than characters the writers actually care about.

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 C3-Bu Yura
...and less of this.

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 could have been wonderful, just like it's first episodes suggested. However as it went on it just became more and more muddled on what it wanted to be, lost sight of being fun (which is ironic as that's the exact same problem the main character was facing) and just became a chore to watch. I know it wasn't their original story, but Gainax can do MUCH better than this.

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