It doesn’t take much to come up with a premise for an anime series these days. Just add one part cute girls, mix in a random hobby of your choice and hey presto you have the recipe for a hit show. We’ve previously seen high school girls dabble in music, kendo and even tank warfare… so what’s next? I present to you Stella Women’s Academy: High School Division Class C3 – a thirteen episode animated series revolving around an all female airsoft club. Also known as Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C3-bu, in its native Japan, this anime adaption of Ikoma’s manga features plenty of chuckles, some gravity defying gunfights and an unexpected analysis into the self-destructive nature of people who suffer from social anxiety.
Stella Women’s Academy: HSDC3 begins with protagonist Yura Yamato enrolling at the show’s titular school. The shy teen is hoping that a fresh start at a new institution will mark an end to her solitary ways. Sadly for her a change in setting proves to be an ineffective remedy for her timid disposition. Yura ends her inaugural day at Stella friendless, as she is too bashful to chat with the academy’s other freshmen. Fortunately for Yura the school’s airsoft club is looking for fellow weirdoes to bolster their ranks. Through unsubtle coercion and the use of yummy cake (as bait) the C3 Club convinces Yura to enter their fold. All seems well at first with the club giving Yura some much needed companionship. As time passes however the sport’s competitive aspects begin to take a toll on the emotionally fragile girl.
Yura’s companions in the C3 Club are Sonora Kashima, Rento Kirishima, Karila Hatsuse, Honoka Mutsu and Yachiyo Hinata. Sonora is the club president and Yura’s roommate. She’s a pro when it comes to wielding replica firearms that spew out plastic pellets, but she doesn’t take airsoft too seriously. Unlike her rival Rin Haruna, Sonora plays airsoft purely for fun. Rin, who heads an airsoft club based in another school, on the other hand is extremely competitive and will do whatever it takes to triumph in competitions. An American soldier, who sadly perished in the line of duty, trained both girls in sharpshooting… in addition to coaching them on how to prepare the perfect rice ball.
Out of the other C3 members, Rento is by far the nicest. She always looks out for Yura’s wellbeing. I think she is so “sweet” because her parents bake cakes for a living. Karila is the club’s resident tomboy, which is rather amusing as her less masculine brother likes to cross dress as a girl. Honoka, the well-endowed bespectacled beauty, is the most academically gifted girl from the group. She takes managing the club’s finances extremely seriously. Last, but not least, is Yachiyo. She’s a loli sniper – so if you have a thing for tiny girls wielding big guns Yachiyo is your gal.
Stella Women’s Academy: High School Division Class C3 is a mildly entertaining anime that never quite manages to live up to its potential. Overall it is inferior to other “cute girls doing cute things” shows because I didn’t find its cast of characters to be particularly memorable. Using the series as an excuse to learn airsoft’s various rules was however interesting and I did enjoy the unrealistic gunfights, which shatter the laws of physics. Part of the reason why the matches are so fun to watch is because they are presented through Yura’s perspective. Her overactive imagination transforms the humdrum battles into epic military operations and exciting Wild West showdowns.
What distinguishes Stella Women’s Academy from other similar shows has to be the dark turn it takes during its latter half. Yura’s obsession with becoming the best airsoft player possible results in her sacrificing both friendships and her own health. Viewers who came into the series seeking a light-hearted K-On with guns will be put off by the story’s change in tone, but I personally found it to be riveting stuff. The direction the plot takes reminds me of other socially awkward people I know. In their case it was competitive online games instead of airsoft, but the parallels are uncanny. When lonely people find acceptance in a game it can take over their life. Understandable really, as it’s the only way they gain praise from others or feel any sense of worth.
If you are looking for a sports-centric girls show I would recommend Bamboo Blade or Girls Und Panzer over Stella Women’s Academy. Bamboo Blade is funnier whilst Girls Und Panzer does a better job of portraying its sport’s strategic elements. Stella Women’s Academy isn’t without merit though. I appreciate how towards the end it tried to do something different, even if it risked alienating its core audience in the process. In airsoft when a player is shot they need to concede defeat by yelling out “hit!” Is Stella Women’s Academy a hit? No, but it’s still worth watching providing that you can forgive it’s flaws.
FINAL RATING: THREE STARS