This is review number two hundred and forty. This anime is part of the Summer 2013 lineup. I still have a long way to go but I can also see the finish line. I think I’m half way through the lineup and I just need to push some more. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a bunch of girls shooting each other while they have fun in their club. It’s a show about girls and their guns. It’s a decent show. I have my complaints though. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a shy girl named Yura Yamato. She is a new student at Stella Women’s Academy and she plans to have a wonderful time here. She was a bit of an awkward girl back in middle school and she really had no friends. She plans to change this time around but it seems that it will not be an easy task. One day, she discovered the school’s airsoft club and the members liked her. They wanted her to join their little club. Yura is now introduced to a world new to her and some new experiences that she feels can really change her. Yura now discovers the beauty of airsoft games and it seems that she can finally become a better person. Yura now wants to be the best in airsoft guns but it seems that this comes with a pretty hefty price.
Taking the Pants Off
“Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3” is a weird anime. It belongs to the girls with guns genre. I actually like that genre. You take cute girls and you give them highly defined weapons. It’s the best of both worlds. I’ve also seen the concept fly pretty greatly in the past. Upotte and Girls und Panzer has made the concept work beautifully. They’re still clunky in some areas but the creators seem to know how to nail the idea down. That’s why I knew an anime about girls playing airsoft won’t be that hard to like. Just take the addictive appeal of the game, mix in some girls doing cute things, add a simple yet familiar story and you basically have a decent anime here. For some reason, this anime didn’t work though. It had all the components to really make itself great but somehow, it just wasn’t able to. I think the first few episodes clearly showed the anime’s faults. From the low quality animation to the disjointed story, C3-bu is a show I was honestly excited to watch. A case of botched execution gives the show a pretty bad overall quality though. There are some things to like and I’ll note that later on. As I keep watching this anime though, I often wonder what the hell Gainax was doing. This anime had tremendous potential yet it seems that they were satisfied making this anime achingly mediocre.
The premise of the anime is pretty easy to grasp. It’s just about a bunch of cute girls shooting each other with pellets. The main appeal is the beauty of airsoft guns and the bonds the girl share while they play among each other. It’s pretty straightforward from here. The girls improves their skills, they meet stronger people and join various tournaments that results in some exciting confrontations. It’s interesting though because this anime is a good example of how the “girls with guns” concept is hard to pull off. A show that seemingly has all the components to become a really awesome “girls with guns” show was able to botch almost every single thing it presents. I often wonder how Girls und Panzer was able to make me sit through all the plot holes and still be able to make me jump from my seat in anticipation. I think the keyword here is execution. This show wasn’t able to properly execute all of its components and it results in an awkward club themed show with no clear direction and a distinct lack of cohesion. Let me talk about the three main plot points of the show and discuss how they all missed the mark.
The first plot point is the airsoft battles. The show was really able to decently establish the rules of the game with ease. Players just have to shoot each other with pellets that fire from airsoft guns that look a lot like real guns. A player that gets hit must yell out “HIT” and they’re considered dead. The beauty of the game is that most players are really serious about it. They’d use hand signals, adapt military formations and really go down and dirty just to beat their opponent. I’ve seen this kind of game before but the show was able to utilize the cool stealth moves of the characters, the awesome shooting scenes and the chess-like one up strategy aspect of the game to really make an entertaining anime. The show was smart to feature at least one airsoft battle per episode so there is always something to look forward to as you progress through the anime. The fact that there are many variations of the battles is also a great thing. From one-on-one to capture the flag battles, the anime knows how to mix things up. If you take all the wonderful things about the game and add the fact that you have cute girls doing all this then you really have a sure fired success. There is really a lot of ways to make the first plot point even cooler. The show just has to develop some rivalries, introduce stronger opponents and introduce more technical things about airsoft guns. It honestly writes itself.
The anime seemed to have missed the opportunity though. I was a bit disappointed when most battles don’t really mean much in the show. They just often add an airsoft battle for the heck of it. There is no build up for future airsoft battles, there is no rivalries formed in the anime and the tournaments are badly rushed. The show can’t seem to work out how it will present the first plot point. Will it focus on it alone then use the “cute girls doing cute things” angle as a side dish? Or does it present both at the same time creating a balanced serving of the two? Nope. It did neither. It just awkwardly presented the two with no proper cohesion. The airsoft battles aren’t technically deep. It wasn’t able to feature the cute girls and there was no smart pacing in each fight. The girls just shoot at each other. They’d look cool from time to time but there is often no pay off from the fights. You’ll see a match up and then see another one. The show wasn’t concerned about introducing strong characters, creating exciting moments in each match and incorporating the strategic beauty of the game. In the end, the whole thing is just a plot device for the show. It is meant to progress the story and to fill up some time in the anime. Now to be fair, the show did try to make something more meaningful at some of the battles but it often ends with a mediocre progression for the show. For godsakes, they got the girls to join a serious tournament then introduced potential opponents like some battle hardened marines, some overly serious military enthusiasts, some stupid detective group that only uses hand guns and… did nothing with it. Did the girls fight those awesome groups? Nope. The anime fast forwarded most matches then focused on those that will progress the story. It’s a huge waste of potential and a bit annoying because they bothered to introduce those teams yet they didn’t really do anything with it. So, what was the point? What is the goddamn point of all this? It’s a question I often ask myself as I watch this anime.
The second plot point is about the “cute girls doing cute things” angle. The show is about a bunch of girls in a club so the show also presents some episodes about the girls just fooling around. In some episodes, the girls would fight in an airsoft battle but then ends the day eating cake and drinking juice. There are some beach episodes and other things you’d expect in the genre. The whole point is to bring out the cute and fluffy side of the girls. It’s also a great way to illustrate their beautiful friendship as they waste time hugging and being cute to each other. This was a great contrast to the intense feeling the first plot point is supposed to give you. I totally understand the appeal. The second plot point represents the laidback cute school life of the girls while the first plot point represents their intense passion for the game. It’s a nice marriage of rough and smooth if there ever was one. The girls would laugh their heart out doing cute and funny things one moment then shoot each other in the face with replica guns in the next. It’s a pretty awesome concept, to be honest. Of course, the anime manages to f*ck that up beautifully.
The second plot point is probably the most unnecessary part of the anime. The problem was that the show wasn’t able to capture the smooth and rough combination. Instead, it gave us a lot of stupid and utterly useless moments to clutter up the rest of the show. Most of the cute and fluffy moments often don’t make any sense. The girls would set up an elaborate Nagashi Somen (catching noodles from a running stream in bamboo) activity. They would hung the noodles from a tree and then shoot the noodles down using their guns. They would then catch the noodles with their chopsticks. There would be a gag where the girls would add some cake, pork and some other stupid things instead of noodles. The scene is obviously set up to make the audience laugh or something. Instead, it just feels awkward and forced. You’re often hoping that the show would just focus on a story and drop all of this stupidity. It’s often a bit tasking to sit through all the non-sense of the show. It doesn’t make the anime better. It doesn’t make the characters look good. It doesn’t make the audience feel entertained. It just feels weird and boring. There are actually a lot of reasons why the show wasn’t able to capture a laidback “cute girl doing cute thing” angle. I think the biggest reason is the characters themselves. This club themed genre only works if the characters are interesting themselves. The girls in the anime aren’t. They’re too one dimensional to appreciate so the cute moments just ends in bust. In fact, I think the anime realizes that but doesn’t want to ease up so the girls would do more awkward things as the show progress that does absolutely nothing to improve the story. Wearing paper clothes then soaking each other with water guns, baiting each other with cake and even fighting off imaginary imperial ghosts, this show seriously doesn’t ease up.
The third plot point of the show is Yura’s personal journey to finding herself. I actually like this part of the anime. This is where the anime truly shined. Yura is a girl that wanted to become a true member of her group so she does her best to fit in. You can actually feel the insecurity pouring out from our poor main character and I love how you just can’t help but cheer her on. As the anime progresses, Yura is engrossed in the sport and she improves on how she engages opponents in the battlefield. She develops a rather unpleasant personality and it causes some problem with the rest of her club members. I think the third plot point is the strongest aspect of the show. It highlights Yura’s personal growth and the rather unique style of storytelling of the anime. The anime rejects the idea of winning is the only kind of victory there is. The C3-bu members believe that having fun as you shoot people is also a great way of feeling victory. There is this camaraderie ideal that the show tries to share to others. The wonderful thing about it is that our main hero doesn’t share that ideal and the audience will probably don’t as well. The other characters would just hope for the best instead of eliminating their competition with ease. They’re talented enough to truly become a force to be reckoned with yet they stand by their feeble minded beliefs so adamantly that it is kind of annoying. Here’s the catch though: Yura isn’t a likable heroine.
Despite understanding Yura’s belief that they should do their best to win and not just prance around with dandelions in their ears, the story progresses in a way that is a bit off putting. I’ll try not to spoil it but Yura goes through a really wonderful transformation where you both hate and love her. Her personal journey to finding herself is so deep and complex that it really makes up for all the missed opportunities of the show. You love her because she does her best to come out on top. You can feel her efforts paying off and you cheer for her more. The more she focuses on being the best airsoft player there is, the more you want her to succeed. You‘ll hate her though because she becomes a bit of a b*tch. I know. It’s pretty crazy but the anime was able to really spin a nice story of how Yura transforms into a well-rounded character. The personal struggle, the conflict with the other characters and her actions throughout the anime makes the third plot point the best thing the anime can offer. The anime screwed things up a bit on this part as well though.
The third plot point is such an engaging part of the anime yet it wasn’t able to fully focus on it. The first and second plot point really ruined the buildup of this third plot point. It was honestly supposed to help it become more interesting but it just became useless clutter for the show. The first plot point was supposed to build some intense rivalries and add bulk to the conflict of the third plot point. The second plot point was supposed to contrast all the seriousness by giving some comic relief but still keeping the serious tone of the show. It honestly can work. I can see it coming together beautifully yet it doesn’t really come out that way. Despite the intriguing aspects of the third plot point, the anime is still very much directionless and it wasn’t able to build up some moments to make the experience all worthwhile. The whole thing is just awkward and forced. I think I typed awkward so many times in this anime. It really has some great potential but I seem to remind me of my dark days watching Zettai Bouei Leviathan. It’s frustrating because the anime could’ve been so much more.
The characters are all one dimensional and utterly embarrassing at times. They simply aren’t interesting and they were simply built on their stereotypes. Most of them are happy go lucky high school girls that love to hang out with each other and do some random stuff together. This was a bad thing for the anime because you need some stand out characters for the “cute girls doing cute things” to come through. I’m not really asking much. This genre is repetitive as hell but it’s built upon the engaging interaction and the balance the characters create. When you have poorly develop characters with horribly one dimensional characters that relies on cliché to make themselves look good, then you have a pretty bland anime. There is honestly a lot to work with here. There is variety among the characters but the anime can’t seem to make them interesting. It’s not with a lack of trying. The anime tried to make the show interesting seemingly cramming every scene with cute or fan service~y moments but it just wasn’t able to make things work. I appreciate the effort but it was just a horrible miss. I think another reason the characters seem so awful is the fact that the show is a bit “cartoony”. Boy, this is the first time I ever used that word while reviewing an anime. Let me explain. The characters often do some slapstick comedy with a kind of Looney Tune approach to the gags. The show has delayed gravity before objects fall, cheesy sounds effect, and stupid facial reactions among other things. The only thing missing is a mallet and a mouse to chase. This is a bit off putting because you’re used to a different kind of comedy in this kind of anime. I honestly expect comedy through moe. This wasn’t the case for the anime. So not only are the characters bland and clichéd, they’re also off putting so you can’t really enjoy them even if you force yourself to. Even Yura, despite the beautiful transformation she undergoes, was badly utilized in this anime. Without something to truly focus on, the third plot point often just comes and goes whenever it pleases. The show doesn’t properly build it up so Yura often comes on a standstill in her transformation and most of the drastic changes are lost within the chaos of the show. You can still track her growth character wise but doesn’t have the same intrigue you’d expect because of the messy presentation of the show.
The rest of the characters are even more horrible. They don’t have a place in the anime so they just appear from time to time. Characters you’d expect most main characters would build a rivalry with often just don’t do anything meaningful but take up space in the show. I can honestly see the wonderful rivalries the characters would’ve made with each side character but it never came to be. Most of them just join the characters in their awkward performances throughout the anime. The worst part is that they’re even more cliché and one dimensional than the main characters. Some of them even felt a bit forced in their participation in the episodes. Characters like the blonde girl’s twin brother or the tanned speedy airsoft player often just appear so the anime have something to exploit as it goes around in a helpless circle.
This show could’ve been better. I’m really a bit sad and angry at how this show went down. Again, what the hell was Gainax thinking? It’s interesting though that I don’t see a lot of anime from this studio. They’re busy milking off the Evangelion series, I guess. I can’t believe they’d match Gonzo though in presenting subpar anime. They could’ve done a lot more to improve this show. At least put effort in the visual presentation, for god sakes. It’s often a bit embarrassing watching this show because of the awful animation. Here’s something interesting I noticed. Photokano, InuHasa and C3-bu all have one thing in common. They were all handled by debuting directors. I am a bit glad that I can actually witness new blood pumping into the industry but I think most new directors are horribly green or maybe the studio backing them doesn’t trust that they’ll make good anime. These three anime not only have debuting directors but they also were shows that have tremendous potential but were massively mishandled. Are all debuting directors for this modern anime era all going to suck? If they do then I hope they can bounce back and learn from their mistakes. I always see potential in their works but all of them were also disappointing. Anyways, this is a learning experience. C3-bu is decent but it definitely could’ve been awesome. I’m talking Girls und Panzer awesome instead of the stupid messy show it turned out to be.
Sight and Sound
Animation is really where the anime could’ve saved itself. The production value of the show is pretty cheap. Faded colors, stale backgrounds and unpleasant movements made this show a bit hard to appreciate. It honestly just needed some awesome cinematography. The fact that the show was able to present some cool camera angles means that they were obviously putting effort in the show. It’s not enough. The “cute girls doing cute things” aspect of the anime would’ve come out more if the show had high production values. This is a lesson I learn in anime today. It doesn’t matter if you have a stupid story or one dimensional character as long as you do your best to make them great eye candies and you make precise animation that enhances their cuteness or sexiness. This show was in desperate need of some wonderful looking animation because I honestly think that’s all it needs to salvage itself. Instead we have sloppy movements, characters that don’t blink, cheap cute characters that act cute yet only looks awkward, inconsistent animation, lack of details when the characters fire their guns and a whole lot more. I’ll mention Girls und Panzer one more time. That particular show was also a bit subpar. The story is predictable and the characters are also one dimensional at best. The thing that sets it apart is the high quality animation. Most tank battles feel like a cut scene from a video game. If this show stuck to the same standards then we could’ve had another awesome “girls with guns” anime.
Character design is simple. It’s decent enough to work for the anime but it honestly looks a bit cliché as well. There is no detail work for the characters, the outfits are plain and the faces look too simple. I love the eyes though. The almond shape design was a nice touch and it does look pretty good on the characters. I just wished they did the same kind of care for the rest of the body. There is no finesse on the characters and the bland looking color palette makes them look a bit boring. A wonderful character design wouldn’t work for the anime anyways. The lack of care for the animation would just make the characters look more awkward if they were good looking characters. Some of them will appeal to you as you keep watching. I’m certainly attracted to the blonde girl but it’s really not enough because the characters are forgettable in both design and personality.
The anime’s OP is “Shape My Story” by Anna Yano. It’s a decent song. Anna has a nice voice that does capture the lighthearted feel of the anime. It has the inspiring spirit of the anime and it has a really wonderful chorus. The steady pacing and the smart instrumentals were also a nice touch. The OP sequence features all the good bits of the anime and, funnily enough, a look of what should’ve been happening in the anime. It has amazing animation, some cute moments and awesome airsoft battles that is much better than the one sin the show because of its flashy style.
The anime’s ED is “Hajikero! C3!” by Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C³-bu (Yui Makino, Miyuki Sawashiro, Ai Kayano, Chiwa Saito, Rima Nishizaki, Madoka Yonezawa). This was sung by the main characters and it’s a pretty cute song. It’s decent because of how they work together to sing the song. It’s catchy, I guess. The chorus is also pretty cute if you listen to it again and again. The ED sequence features all the characters looking cute and awesome. One thing to note is the wonderful color palette used on the characters that should’ve been done in the actual show. It also features a much more detailed design of the characters. Honestly, it’s the small things that set it apart from the actual show but I can’t deny how much better it was. It’s a bit off putting if you think about it.
3/10 “It’s a disjointed mess of a show with a concept that could’ve easily given audience a wonderful anime experience but an awful execution ruined the whole thing.”
There is a lot of potential in this show. I was able to finish it so I can tell the show has something to offer. It just wasn’t presented properly. The wonderful concept turned into a muddled mess that just wasn’t all that good to watch. There are bits and pieces that stand out but the overall experience is pretty subpar. If you like the girls with guns concept then it wouldn’t hurt to check the anime out. If you like mindless shows that give little to no payoff then you could torture yourself with this one. It’s best to leave this one alone though.