First Impression: Kageki Shojo!!

The Red Flower Opera Music School (Kouka for short), trains young women for the all-female acting troupe of the same name, and is auditioning its 100th class. With a screening process as demanding as Tokyo University, only 40 girls out of over 1100 candidates make the cut. Among the successful applicants are twins Chika and Chiaki; the heritage prospect Kaoru, whose mother and grandmother were both Kouka stars; prima ballerina and theatre otaku Sawa; the exceedingly normal Ayako; and former idol, Ai “Naracchi” Narata, whose sole motivation for entering Kouka is a chance at two years sequestered away from men. She’s had a series of bad experiences with male “stans” (verging on stalkers), including one whom she confronted for his creepy behavior, only to then be forcibly “retired” from her idol group for doing so. She’s learned to put up high walls around herself and top them off with razor wire intimidating enough to keep everyone but her uncle, who is a teacher at the school, at bay. That is, except for Sarasa Watanabe, the bumbling urban equivalent of a country-bumpkin from Asakusa in Tokyo and Ai’s (very much unwanted) roommate. She was accepted as a wild card, in the hopes that her great height and fearlessness would provide sufficient raw material to be shaped into a star. When Ai learns about this from her uncle, it only adds to her ire at being stuck with someone so utterly unable to read a room and leave her to her isolation. Let the new school year begin! Oh wait, is that the creepy stan on the bus headed to Kouka?!

Kageki Shojo!! promises to be a charming girls’ school series perfect for fans of Shojo Kageki Starlight Revue, classics like Glass Mask and Rose of Versailles, and Japanese theatre in general, from Takarazuka to kabuki and everything in between. Or simply for fans of mc’s who are also best girls. And here I’m talking about Sarasa. The tall girl’s utter disregard for her surroundings and general cluelessness is such a delight! She reminds me of Bakarina, but even more irrepressibly cheerful and a lot less anxious about, you know, being killed or exiled. Her face-off with the Japan Self-Defense Forces officer in charge of training them to move in sync hints at the depths of strength—both physical and mental—that her genki persona masks, and so I’m expecting her story to be an interesting one. Her teachers are certainly already intrigued, and spend the closing credits debating in the staff room as to whether it was a capoeira pose she adopted to resist the officer’s shove, some other marital art, or perhaps even a sumo move. The elderly yukata-wearing Kirishima-sensei recognizes its true origins though as a kabuki stance, that is, a pose garnered from the all-male acting tradition. Which makes sense since Sarasa’s grandfather seems to have been a kabuki actor back in the day. Will his influence help her achieve her dream of playing Oscar-sama one day? Looking forward to seeing how this diamond in the rough navigates—and no doubts transforms—the elitist environment of Kouka, her roommate included.

“I won’t move an inch from this spot!” declares Sarasa as Ai (left), Kaoru and uncle Narata-sensei look on.

Kageki Shojo!! can be streamed on Funimation. Read our thoughts on all the new summer anime series, in addition to comments from our other writers, on our Summer 2021 Anime First Impression master post.

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