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Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C³ – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Considering the escalating trend within the anime medium towards having a group of young girls being overtly cute in whatever activity a series may subscribe to, the concept of moe has developed into a rather prominent sub-genre within the medium as a whole. This specific focus on cute, preadolescent girls has extended to some of the more popular series as of recent memory, including the likes of the K-on! and AKB0048 series, two series that respectively focused on the internal workings of female-centric groups and their relationships to one another. And while those two series were centered around the musical aspirations of their characters, other series such as Girls und Panzer (2012) and Upotte! (2012) have followed in a similar vein albeit focused more so on the application of militaristic endeavors rather than simple, innocent pop music. But despite their apparent differences in terms of execution, they all still focused on a group of young girls as they engaged in – at times rather odd – extracurricular activities, with Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C³ being yet another series following suit.

Based on the manga by author Ikoma, C³-bu is rather unique in its premise despite sharing many qualities with that of other series. To call it “creative” may be stretching it though, but by introducing the concept of airsoft weaponry as a prime focus for a series that is mainly about a group of young girls, it will certainly make many potential viewers take a second glance as to what the series could offer to them. The series focuses on freshmen Yura Yamoto as she enters into Stella Woman’s Academy, and it is here where she meets third year student Sonora Kashima who invites her to join the “C3” (Command, Control, and Communications) club, a club designated in military survival and airsoft weaponry. As the academy is an all-girls school, the series explores how they adjust and work as a team within a historically male-centric environment such as the military. The militaristic terminology is also heavily prominent within the series as well, which at times rather humorously inverts much of what we think about the military considering that the main characters are essentially preadolescent girls.

The series is definitely directed more towards viewers who enjoy the military and its various applications of weaponry, techniques, and strategies. In many instances though, it may better suffice to say that the series is entirely directed towards the gun otaku-specific crowd due to how it heavily indulges in the craftsmanship of weaponry and in showing off the various strengths and weaknesses of each particular model. Gun models such as the P90, AK-47, Desert Eagle, and M60 – just to name a few – are all introduced with a certain preoccupation that is hard to deny and will please gun enthusiasts who care about the intricacy and appeal of such weaponry. For some viewers though, this may all appear as mind numbingly banal – especially to those who dislike guns altogether – with much of the series seeming bizarrely captivated with the concept of cute girls carrying guns around. While it is never to point of, say the levels of Gunslinger Girl (2003) – they are just using airsoft guns here after all – it does seem a little exploitative at times, which one could certainly make a case for why a series such as this one exists in the first place.

But where C³-bu ultimately struggles is with its direction, seemingly moving through a narrative that does not know exactly what it wants to be. This is not to say the direction of series is plainly awful, it is just that director Masayoshi Kawajiri and staff showcase a difficult time in thematically following through on each subsequent episode. With episodes that range from being very character development-driven to that of exploring elements of the supernatural, the diverse themes in which the series subscribes to never truly follow a singular path. This approach just does not fit entirely too well within the episodic structure of the series itself, in turn producing a series that never does one thing well but instead does several things in a rather unexceptional fashion. Perhaps this is due to Kawajiri’s inexperience as a director – with C³-bu being his directorial debut – but having episodes that have no impact whatsoever on the overall narrative can indeed negatively affect the overall series, which is unfortunately the case here. Much of the emotional leverage that was established in previous episodes is lost when such an approach is taken here, with filler episodes within a 13 episode series such as C³-bu negatively standing out more so than that of longer series.

The series does succeed when showcasing the various expressions of teamwork, which is its greatest strength. With Sonora adhering to leadership qualities that she and her many teammates admire, to the numerous teammates each partaking in their specific roles within the squad, the series does examine the importance of teamwork and how personal growth can influence a team as whole. This is especially seen in Yura, whose development is seen throughout the series as both a mental and physical acclimation to her newfound status within her school club. We see her grow as an individual, with her rather dark past creeping in every now and then to reallocate her character as one who is not simply a cute and cheery girl. Her drastic change towards the end of the series may seem somewhat implausible considering how she appeared in the opening arc, but it does expand her character outside of simply being a naive girl with a vivid imagination.

Overall, C³-bu is not a series that is very original in regards to its execution, but its premise is one that at least attempts to be different. While the series is not exactly stretching for originality, its adherence to the cuteness of its characters and their association to that of guns is obviously its main element in pulling in viewership. Those viewers who could care less about weapons or the military will not find much here besides an endearing and comical cast, which is rather unfortunate considering that the series could have expanded its base by removing itself from being too directed towards the gun otaku crowd. Also following a rather unascertainable narrative structure, C³-bu is simply a series without much of a distinctive identity to set it apart and leaving much to be desired when compared to other, moe-specific series that have done better in combing cute girls with that of niche activities.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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