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AKA: ステラ女学院C3部 (Stella Jo-Gakuin C3-Bu)
Genre: Action comedy/drama.
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, but also available on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: PG-13 (Pretend violence, fanservice, overwrought drama.)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: Girls und Panzer, Upotte!!, Taisho Baseball Girls.
Notes: Based on the manga written by Ikoma and illustrated by Tomomoka Midori, which in itself is based on a web manga. It is serialized in Kodansha's Young Magazine.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars
 

Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3

Synopsis

Due to her severe social handicap, Yura Yamato has a bit of a problem finding friends, even as she joins an all-female school. However, one school has their aim set on her, and quite literally too, since they are the school's airsoft combat club, the C3.


Review

When I was young, me and my friends would sometimes play with toy guns. This was before airsoft guns, though, so the whole game was basically based on the word "BANG!" and the honor system, but my point is; we played with...fairly realistic representations of real guns in all their plastic glory. That's why I can sort of understand the appeal of Stella Women's Academy; both the show and its hobby. Despite its core "cute girls take part in a hobby" aspect, there isn't anything particularly wrong with the idea itself.

However, the reason I can easily say that is because my own home country doesn't really have this huge gun culture thing that will probably turn away a lot of its prospective viewers. Because that's the flip side of the show; people are firing very realistic guns, and taking part in games that simulate warfare. This was the main reason why Zac Bertschy hated Stella Women's Academy, and I doubt he is the only one who will feel really uncomfortable about this part of the show.

The first impression the show made was pretty terrible, though; while Yura's entrance was fair enough, and her whole personality revolved around her handicap, the C3 club members came across as pretty terrible people, resorting to stalking and skullduggery to score Yura for their team. Rento, in particular, had this odd smile and a tendency to refer to the club members as "freaks". This continues pretty far into the second episode, and it's only from the third that things finally starts improving.

And this is where the show is at its best; you can tell the girls here enjoy what they do, which proceeds to bleed into everything they do. The third episode play it serious with a tournament arc, which ends with another lesson for Yura, and after which the show proceeds to have fun for a good while; games, training missions and various other activities, this is Stella Women's Academy really shines.

It also helps that the art and animation is actually pretty damn good. Characters look a little... I'm not going to say typical, but their personalities don't really go far beyond the ones for Girls und Panzer, and the latter did at least have an excuse, since it had around ten times as many girls as Stella Women's Academy in its roster. Still, the battles -- potential gun culture loathing notwithstanding -- are always fun to watch, and feels more in line with what I would consider a realistic representation. That is, if you can ignore Karila spazzing out, reckless parkour style, in a behavior pattern that would have gotten herself shot quite easily in real life. But there are also weird dream sequences and these odd pseudo-historical hallucinations going on, so who am I to preach realism?

Unfortunately, Gainax law states that someonehas to lose their goddamned mind before all this is over, so shedding that bad first impression wasn't enough for Stella Women's Academy. Oh, no no no, it had to completely shatter its final arc as well. And so, what could have been a fun show all the way to the end, Stella Women's Academy turned brooding. Then angsting. And then... then things turned really dumb. In an attempt to outwit the viewers, Yura makes some outlandishly stupid decisions during the last half of the show; one more facepalm-inducing than the other. She goes through so many phases and mood swings that bipolars would ask her to calm the hell down. Its will to do every single overreaction in the book is only matched by its unpredictability; when Yura's about to do her "crying in the rain" bit, it's shut down by a bright yellow soft gun pellet. And then...

Looking back at it, Stella Women's Academy also included many of the things I really detest in dramatic scenes; the shouting. The lecturing. The sheer bullheadedness of main characters who are either unable or unwilling to work through their problems when the answer is literally being shouted in their face, instead choosing to drive themselves far past their exhaustion points. Rumbling Hearts was probably not the first show to do this, but it was the first one where I just couldn't come to terms with popular opinion labeling it compelling drama. The same happened later with Ano Hana. And while Stella Women's Academy isn't specifically a drama in the same vein -- well, not intentionally anyway -- it sure is trying to emulate it in its last half. Or until things got resolved and the penultimate episode cranked up the comedy again, while rounding things off. The last episode was basically filler; made for fanservice and comedy based on popularity contest. And you know what's crazy about that? I enjoyed that episode, even if it went seven kinds of bananas. I enjoyed it at least a good deal more than the direction the show took after the fun part was over. It was like a band aid of stupid and fanservice placed over the wound the overwrought drama inflicted on me. Meaning the wound is still there, kinda-sorta festering, but the band aid felt like a small pain reliever and made it a bit easier to get through at the end of the day.

(Bad, fun, fun, WTF, bad, a little better. That's the mood swinging groove this show took me on.)Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Aside from the whole thing with the gun culture subtext mentioned in the review, there isn't much to complain about in this show. Violence is mostly kept to the competitions and the duels, where being hit means saying so. There is also some relatively mild fanservice; the girls go to a beach and have survival games in the jungle, which means swimsuits, bouncing boobies and even some cleavage. The 13th episode even turns the fanservice dial a good deal higher compared to the main show, but there is still no nudity or any overt sexual stuff.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3 © 2013 Gainax, Stella Production Committee
 
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