Akebi's Sailor Uniform
by Mercedez Clewis,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Akebi's Sailor Uniform ?
Community score: 4.0
Most of episode 3 is really good: we get a lot of nice character development around Komichi, some touching moments with her and the new character Kei, and in the back half, we get to see her with Kojou as they explore all the clubs the school offers. There's the same sincerity from all the characters that drew me to Super Cub, and honestly, it's what'll keep me watching for the next nine weeks.
The episode starts with Komichi's classmates debating which clubs they'll join. Naturally, Komichi's thinking about this too, though it's pretty evident she doesn't know what she'll do. Then Akebi demonstrates her abilities to run like Woody Woodpecker, and suddenly, she's rocketed into popularity because every single athletic club wants Akebi's superspeed on their side. But there's still practically a million clubs to try. What's a girl to do?
Well, in this case, the solution is to make a new friend in Tanigawa Kei, a shy girl struggling with the same dilemma, which provides the foundation for another character study.
Kei is like a lot of “good kids”: she keeps to herself and does her best to avoid drawing any attention specifically so she doesn't have to deal with the adults in her life. She does everything she can to not stand out, and in doing so, is perceived as being mature. Komichi is the opposite: she mimics her favorite idol, lives life at her own pace, and stands out by wearing a sailor uniform instead of Robai's modern blazer and skirt combination. The two make good foils for another, which is why it's so lovely to witness their budding friendship. While not necessarily new, their dynamic demonstrates just who Akebi is: a naturally curious girl who just wants to make friends and be happy. Her innocent kind of unjaded joy is really fun to witness, especially in a time where IRL kids are often deprived of joy so that they mature fast.
Which brings us to the middle of the episode where Kei, a child who's matured due to nature and nurture… takes selfies of her body. It's something that I think a lot of folks experiment with: I, myself, have taken selfies of my body as an act of radical self-love and as a way to engage with the changes of age in a positive way. But I'm also 29 and an adult: I can consent to the ways I choose to engage with my body. And while kids have the same right of consent, they can't apply that to the leering eye of an adult, or in this case, the camera.
What I think this episode is trying to do with Kei's selfies is demonstrate how young women engage with their bodies, identities, and growing up. But it does make me feel uncomfortable. It's a mashup of pastoral innocence with a… kinda predatory voyeurism. A friend of mind put it this way: 99% of the time, Akebi's Sailor Uniform would be a perfectly ordinary school story… but then the camera shifts, emphasizing the way clothes fall or the legs of the girls, and keeps amping up the jarring juxtaposition between the naivete of the middle school cast and their bodies. At base, the girls themselves aren't sexual: it's the camera and cuts, and it's… upsetting because this really is a lovely show outside of that. Episode 3 has one of my favorite scenes thus far, and it's so sweet… until we hard cut to Kei taking her selfies, which is just the tip of the iceberg.
Akebi's Sailor Uniform as a series is… interesting, and I'm not sure if I mean that positively or negatively. At base, it's an utterly gorgeous show that gives me Wonder Egg Priority vibes, but wholly grounded in reality. But then there are all these weird little instances that are genuinely off-putting in an otherwise beautifully benign show. And it's not just the feet: it's the sexualization paired with Akebi being twelve, which in a time where Japan is dealing with very real issues around teenage bodies being mishandled… feels unaware of what it's doing with these girls underaged bodies and lack of autonomy. And, like, sure, there could be a very genuine reading of those scenes as insight into girls discovering aspects of their bodies that are changing or new, but honestly, it always comes off like it's supposed to be fanservice… I feel kinda icky.
I'm still by and large enjoying Akebi's growth as a kid starting middle school. That feels nostalgic to me, to my own female friendships, and to the frenetic memories I have from that time in my life. It's just the moments in-between that make it hard to watch. My hope is that these will lessen, allowing the genuine charm of Komichi and the life she's leading to shine through. While I'm not sure how the source material is structured (currently, it's legally unavailable in English), I hope that there's a point where it digs into Komichi's life more, into the genuine, tender friendships, into the mundane comedy of being a kid in middle school. I think if the show can lean more towards that, then it'll truly be one of Winter 2022's best. But as it stands… it's a roller coaster between heartfelt and unsavory.
Mercedez is a JP-EN translation and localization Editor & Proofreader/QA, pop culture critic, and a journalist who, when not writing for ANN, writes for Anime Feminist, where she's a staff editor, and for But Why Tho?. She's also a frequent cohost on the Anime Feminist Podcast, Chatty AF. This season, she's reflecting on her youth with Akebi's Sailor Uniform. When she's not writing and reviewing, you can find her on her Twitter or on her Instagram where she's always up to something.
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