Impressions: Stella Women's Academy Class C3


Girls und Airsoft

Melding cute girls and an unusual activity of some kind is hardly a new thing. Hundreds of full anime, manga, and book series have been mined from the rich vein of "Girls x [Weird Pastime]", and Gainax's Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3 is just the latest in the trend.

Given the show's early episodes, you might think that the above subtitle is indeed correct, that Class C3 is pretty much "Girls und Airsoft", or "K-ON! with fake guns" (if Upotte! was "K-ON! as guns"). 

At the same time, as of episode four, this airsoft show may be harder than it lets on at first.

For those unfamiliar with the terms, airsoft is best described as paintball's nerdier brother. Played with meticulously-modeled replica guns shooting plastic pellets, the emphasis is more on simulation rather than sport. Themed matches featuring teams doing what practically amounts to military cosplay are common. Airsoft is especially popular for doing "MilSim", basically mock scenarios using real military tactics.

What does that have to do with young Yura Yamato, a high school freshman seeking her social debut at an all-girls academy? Not much, really. The first two episodes fit almost smack-dab onto early K-ON! as Yura gets badgered into joining the C3 Club - an airsoft club. The "C3" comes from the less-SEO-friendly military abbreviation "C3" for "Command, Control & and Communications", but really, it's named that way because you can pronounce it as "C-Cubed" in Japanese.

You can even figure out which K-ON! archetypes map onto which characters. Yura is Yui and Azusa with a dash of social anxiety and a tendency to daydream (more on that later), while the rest of the club are mixes of Mugi and Ritsu tempered by varying quantities of Mio-ness. Club head Sonora, voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, is the consummate badass who does real shooting and can't be bothered to wear her uniform properly.

Mind you, I say these things not to be reductive, but rather give an impression of how mundane the first couple of episodes feel. It's one thing to start out slow and build up to more excitement with time, but in the saturated field of cute girls doing cute things things need to distinguish themselves right off the bat. It's a necessary thing to avoid being dropped, or say, being forgotten about until a busy blogger remembers that it exists and that he had committed to watching it weeks ago. Which is totally not a thing that happened to this busy blogger. No, sir!

These episodes just barely drop hints that there's more to Class C3 than girls in a girls' club not actually doing the thing their club is for. In fact, the C3 Club does plenty of airsoft, so much so that Yura gets carried away into various action-movie references, including Rambo, The Bodyguard, and more. Yura's overactive daydreaming is something of a plot device, even, and it's implied later on that it's practically her superpower.

Speaking of superpowers, perhaps the oddest aspect of Class C3 - at least, it'll be odd for the viewer that watches for the airsoft - is how readily the show steps into superpower territory...sort of. 

In Class C3, airsoft, that nerdier brother of paintball and likely origin of the term "Tacticool", is treated with a level of reverence that is, well, ludicrous, even for the most hardcore hobbyists. Sonora has an airsoft "master" that taught her the ropes like it was a martial art, and has a personal airsoft policy that frankly makes no sense (though the show acknowledges that part at least). Karira has an inexplicably insane level of agility, performing spinzaku-like feats of wall-running and backflips up the wazoo. A rival airsoft team chews Yura out for forfeiting, lambasting her lack of resolve, which leads Yura to cut her hair in a show of determination.

The result is something of an identity crisis, one that might be linked to the fact that it's about airsoft. One of the things that feels "off" about airsoft (and MilSim-level paintball), is that it falls into a simulation "Uncanney Valley". When you play airsoft, you're effectively simulating an otherwise deadly firefight...except you're not. Your average airsoft gun can hold far more plastic pellets than any real firearm. At regulation strength, an airsoft pellet strike at combat range impacts with less force than a rubber band, and there's no substantial recoil to speak of. Actual physicality aside you'd get a more accurate firearms simulation playing Call of Duty.

Of course, physicality counts for quite a lot, and Class C3 pulls out some fun stuff. Seemingly accurate hand signals permeate the early encounters, and as far as I know, the different "Survival Game" game modes mentioned seem to be real things. 

Character development is also more of a priority in this show than it ever was in the likes of Girls und Panzer or Upotte!. Though the rest of the crew is decidedly one-note so far, Yura and Sonora have their own motivations, history, and personalities, even if they are still two-dimensional (which is more than one, at least).  

But the identity issues persist. Is Class C3 about airsoft? Is it a straight sports-team show? A slice-of-life-er about a girls' club? An absurdist parody? Or about a girl finding herself? It's all of these things, but doesn't quite do enough on any one front to fully satisfy. There's certainly time left to both raise the stakes and get more balls rolling, so I'll be sure not to forget it moving forward.

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures



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