No other medium of entertainment exalts the glory years of school quite like anime, a playing field that would have you believe that cherry blossom-lined hills and immaculate indoor shoes are the normal youthful experience. Enter Komichi Akebi as a first-year student, a small town girl with very little experience in a large school setting. Her sailor uniform is a right of passage, one signifying her acceptance and independence; that her mother is making it by hand makes it all the more special. What starts in the first episode as a touching homage to the student experience transforms into an uncomfortable worship of girlhood.
I’m betting quite a number of viewers were tricked by the first episode into continuing with ASU only to find themselves inundated with images of bare feet and midriffs. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the latter, but it’s certainly not expected (let’s forget about the nail clipping) with the introduction and setup. That first episode treated us to some of the most gorgeous visuals of the season in both art and animation–do a search of Akebi tying up her hair and you’ll see what I mean. So much attention is paid to the little details, mannerisms, textures, all of it. I found myself either grinning or tearing up throughout the first episode, joyful at the uniform reveal, equally excited as she made her way to the entrance ceremony, then horrified at the reality of the updated uniforms and that beautiful family moment somehow being ruined by embarrassment. When Akebi decided to stay with the sailor outfit, I nearly cried with relief and pride. I walked away that week confident in the prospects of this show moving forward.
So when the following episodes turned into the blatant Akebi Fan Show, disappointment doesn’t quite capture my full feelings at the time. The show itself still looked fantastic, but the camera’s focus and that of the writer fixed itself adoringly on Akebi, her body, and those of her classmates. So many scenes spent an unnecessarily long amount of time gazing close up at bare feet and collar bones. Akebi captured the eyes of not only the audience, but also every classmate featured per week–they just couldn’t get enough of her open quirkiness.
In most cases with similar healing-type of shows I wouldn’t object to a friend of the week kind of framework. One such example can be found in my favorite anime of all time: ARIA. Pretty much every person who comes across Mizunashi Akari falls in love with her, and while you come to realize she personifies the city of Neo Venezia itself, there’s still this undeniable attraction. Unlike in ASU, I never felt like some voyeur when watching Akari and her friends; we were on this magical adventure looking out at the world together rather than at each other in a barely-controlled desire to bonk.
This isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate burgeoning sexuality in a coming-of-age story. With the proper set up and handling, this kind of tale can be told to great effect (feel free to drop some titles in the comments). ASU sadly isn’t a good example of that. My favorite moments took place in the home among her parents and sister, as well as some of the side character stories, like Kojou and her bookmark. These character windows are small but memorable in their poignancy.
Rating: 1 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.
I highly recommend viewers of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform to read VeeValory (@VeeValory)’s “Thoughts on Akebi’s Sailor Uniform,” which discuss the various ways in which the anime series explores the human body.