Rice paddies and those that call them home: a songbird, a couple of farmers and a girl who runs for the pure joy of it. She pauses to gather herself, thinking of her favorite idol and her goal of making friends at her new school, before throwing herself into a cartwheel that turns into a handspring, followed by an arcing leap and a perfectly executed corkscrew—well, almost perfect. She lands in the irrigation ditch. This opening sequence captures the threads of exuberance, elegance, and awkward coming-of-age that weave through the rest of the episode. Akebi Komichi is a protagonist who is both heartwarming in her earnestness and vulnerable in the way she wears her dreams on her sleeve. In fact, one of those dreams is quite literally threaded into her sleeves, since it has been her heart’s desire to wear a sailor uniform throughout her years at the local village school, where she has always been the only child in her year group. There are hints as to the inspiration for this dream in the decor of her room: the photo of her mother as a teen, when she too attended the prestigious middle school, Roubai Academy, and donned the sailor uniform; the poster of her favorite idol, sporting a similar outfit. But Akebi’s uniform is also infused with an emotional resonance all its own, as she and her little sister Kao choose the fabric with their mom, Yuwa, who then makes the uniform by hand. Akebi even carries out all the household chores in an attempt to free her mother up to spend more time at the sewing machine. When the garment is ready, it is a work of art, stitched through with love. But when Akebi and her mom arrive at the entrance ceremony, something strange is going on. All of the other girls are wearing blazers! Will Akebi trade in her seifuku for a smart jacket to fit in with her peers, or will she stick to her dream and don the sailor uniform all alone? Would wearing her dream outfit help or hinder her other dream of making many friends?
Folks, give this one a chance. Please. I promise you won’t regret it! Yes, the title’s a bit meh, and the premise may sound a little too niche, suited only to fans of “cute girls doing cute things”. But that’s not at all what this is. In its opening episode, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a thoughtful, delicate and luxuriously animated work shot through with color, joy and background art that is so tangible you feel as if you could step right into the scenes. The opening fifteen seconds alone will transport you to another world, one that is equal parts Non Non Biyori (for its setting and vibe) and The Heike Story (for its cinematic quality). As it progresses, or should I say, blossoms (because that’s what it feels like), strong echoes of Super Cub emerge in terms of its aesthetic, emotional nuance, and attention to the kinds of small details that make a show stand out. And no wonder, considering that this series and Super Cub share a common source: the mangaka and character designer Hiro. This is also CloverWorks at it’s Naoko-Yamada-inspired best, reminiscent of the first episode of Wonder Egg Priority. I mention all these other series not because Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is derivative. It isn’t. Instead, it’s as if Akebi’s production team has been the student in the back of the classroom quietly absorbing everything from the greatest teachers working in anime today, and is now standing before the class, demonstrating not just what has been learned, but where things can be taken from there. And indeed, most of the team behind this beautiful work is relatively new to the industry or in their roles. This would normally make me a little nervous for the show, but if what I’ve seen today remains consistent, and the content of the story is up to the task, then I have to say, I think we have a contender here for my favorite of the season. Here’s hoping, at least!
Akebi’s Sailor Uniform can be streamed on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
10 thoughts on “First Impression: Akebi’s Sailor Uniform”
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[…] two fashion-themed releases from CloverWorks in one day! And just in time too, considering I finished binging Next in Fashion and Making the Cut […]
Oh wow, I’m entirely sold!!! Thank you!
Want to hear a funny “coincidence?” You mentioned Non Non Biyori. I read this less than five minutes after I had to dry my eyes from the sheer joy and grace that is the OP for “Repeat.” That banjo and electric guitar, the simple joys, and those amazing flower backgrounds. Hit me so hard. And I had thought “chef’s kiss.”
It’s been a weekend for that. I finally started Aria after picking up the Blu Rays during Right Stuf’s holiday sale. I know I’m late to the party. And I was going to wait for the manga reprint I preordered but that’s not out until May. I’m utterly enthralled. That show, also, is pure grace.
I’m so grateful to God for these nurturing shows. People can like whatever they want, haters gon’ hate, but my soul knows the right kind of food. Whatever these shows are, they are good for me.
Yes! There is something so very healing in both Non Non Biyori and Aria! Maybe it’s time for a rewatch… *wipes corner of eye for no reason at all*
I enjoyed this one also! I thought there was so much sweetness in the Mother/Daughter dynamic. Afterwards I saw some other reviews online that were less kind (they read more into the “foot” stuff than I did. I’m willing to be wrong but it didn’t seem to be going for fetishization so much to me.). I’m so glad I listened to you first.
Oh good! Yes, like you, I didn’t read it as a fetish, and also that’s not the kind of direction the mangaka goes in their work. Instead, they’re just really sensitive to small details and sensory experience. The Super Cub manga, for instance, is a kind of symphony of the sounds of silence (!) which is an incredible achievement for a purely visual medium, and also makes reading it in Japanese (it hadn’t been translated yet when the anime aired and I was obsessed!) less impossible. It’s also something that was captured so well in the anime. High hopes for this one too!
Doh! Three episodes in and I’m going to have to eat my words! This series is definitely becoming more eroticized, which is a shame. Sigh. I guess the other reviewers called this one better than I did!
Oh no!!! Are you kidding? I haven’t watched episode 3 yet. 2022 season you are breaking my heart. 💔. And no worries, Claire. Oh how many times have I recommended things that took a turn and I ended up feeling embarrassed.
Ok, it could have been worse but was super awkward and all of the deeper themes I was counting on have evaporated.
This season I’m literally down to just that crazy mushroom show! Actually a little thankful because my backlog is nuts.
Yes! Awkward is the word for it. Made for uncomfortable viewing! What definitely clinches it as a ‘drop’ for me is the disappearance of Akebi’s homelife and with it, as you said, all the relational depth that so impressed me in the first episode.
It’s good to have a catch-up season now and then though at least!