Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Adachi and Shimamura
Adachi and Shimamura are the social outliers at their high school, although how much of this is on purpose depends on the girl. Shimamura, although looking like a delinquent with her bleached hair, is mostly just bored by school, while Adachi houses a deeper anxiety and loneliness. The two girls meet in the loft space of the gym while skipping classes, and over time develop a friendship that's by turns awkward and sweet. The more time they spend together, the more Adachi's feelings for Shimamura grow, but does her friend return the sentiment? Or does Adachi need Shimamura more than Shimamura needs her?
Slice-of-life can be an uneasy fit when it transforms from a novel to an anime. That's mostly because as genres go, it's not one with a lot of excitement, emotional or otherwise, and that definitely holds true for the adaptation of Hitoma Iruma's Adachi and Shimamura light novel series. Even among quiet, slow yuri tales, this one is particularly subtle with its plot, and while that works decently well in book form, it does make for episodes that drag a little. In part that's because it's an imperfect adaptation, but mostly it's simply because the alternating first-person narration of the novels and the glacial pacing just don't translate well into a medium that relies on overt movement.
The story itself follows the two characters named in the title, high school girls whose first names we don't even know for most of the series. Adachi and Shimamura are first-year high school students who both tend to skip classes for their own reasons, to the point where neither of them are initially even sure they're in the same homeroom when they first meet in the gym loft. For Shimamura, the more emotionally healthy of the two, skipping is a way to stave off boredom brought on by a general lack of interest in school; for Adachi, skipping seems to be more of a coping mechanism to help the introvert get through the day. We learn relatively quickly that Shimamura's family life is on the whole much more of what we think a family “should” be – she has two parents, a younger sister, and spends time with all of them while still being allowed to be herself rather than being pushed into conforming to her parents' ideals. Yes, her mom would prefer that she go to class more, but she also gently nudges rather than yells at her daughter. This stands in direct opposition to Adachi's home life – an only child, she rarely sees her parents and when she does, their interactions are fraught with disappointment on all sides. Shimamura becomes the one person she can trust and open up to, and that absolutely drives her character throughout the series, and at times informs Shimamura's actions as well.
One of the most striking scenes, therefore, is when Shimamura decides to go to the gym with her mom and bumps into Adachi's mother. She hears Mrs. Adachi essentially saying what an annoying, weird kid her daughter is, and immediately grows angry. While Mrs. Adachi doesn't handle the situation all that well, we get the impression that this is the first time she's been forced to think about her kid as something other than a disappointment, and Shimamura is firmly established as a good friend to Adachi even if she doesn't always understand what the other girl is thinking or feeling. She has other friends herself (which at times alienates the painfully uncomfortable Adachi, who wants Shimamura all to herself), but she really does do her best to be there for Adachi once they get to know each other.
There is, however, a distinct sensation that she doesn't feel quite as strongly about Adachi as Adachi does about her. In part this is simply because she has other people around, but it also raises the question of what, precisely, she feels for the other girl. By midway through the series, it's very clear that Adachi has a major crush on Shimamura, but Shimamura makes a lot of remarks about feeling like she has a second little sister. It could be that this is an easy way of deflecting Adachi's feelings, because otherwise some of what Adachi asks to do could be very uncomfortable, such as wanting to sit between Shimamura's legs and other similar things. It also feels as if Shimamura wants Adachi to put in a little more effort into maintaining the friendship; when they move up to second year, Shimamura is well aware that if she eats lunch with new classmates Adachi won't join them, but does it anyway in the hopes that Adachi will eventually speak up. She also doesn't always tell Adachi about when she sees her other friends, possibly in order to claim a bit of space for herself, although it could also be because she knows it will upset the other girl. Either way, things aren't shaping up in a particularly healthy manner, regardless of whether or not you see Shimamura as liking Adachi back romantically.
That the story is intended to be yuri, however, is never in doubt. Partially this is achieved by the near-total lack of male characters (or at least ones who speak), but the camera work and images also drive the point home. There's an impressive fixation on the girls' legs to the point where the camera goes out of its way to linger on them, and it definitely becomes noticeable in a vaguely ridiculous way as the series goes on. More time is spent on Adachi's musings about her feelings as well and what she wants from Shimamura even as she's conflicted about her own emotions. There is an effort in the final episode to make it look as if Shimamura returns the feelings, but it really feels a bit like too little, too late when you put it in the context of her behavior for the rest of the series.
Side characters, as novel readers may recall, are a stumbling block for the source material, and that does hold true to a lesser extent in the anime. Yashiro, a character from Itoma's Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl, is brought in from the books even though I'd argue that she adds nothing at all to the story except annoyance. (There's perhaps a point to be made that Yashiro and Shimamura's younger sister have a sort of “baby yuri” plotline, but again, this doesn't add much, if anything.) Shimamura's friends Hino and Nagafuji exist to fulfill the “girl-on-girl groping humor” requirement while her elementary school friend Tarumi is framed as the romantic rival, although again none of them really add enough to the main story to make up for any issues they cause; they simply could have been mentioned in order to show that Adachi is uncomfortable around other people and doesn't want to share Shimamura, although admittedly that would leave the cast pretty light on characters.
Leg fixation aside, the art is really very pretty, especially Yashiro's hair, and there are some lovely uses of reflections in the show as a whole. The music is likewise pleasant, and if the animation isn't spectacular, it does work well to give us an idea of the girls' body language. Overall, Adachi and Shimamura is a little bit boring as a series and doesn't work as well as its source material, and it may not be a strong enough flavor of yuri to work for all yuri enthusiasts. But it is good enough to merit watching once if you don't mind your slice-of-life stories on the slower side.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Gives a good idea of who each girl is, some lovely imagery.
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