Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 01 (First Impressions) – Clothes Maketh Girl

From the opening moments that linger on rice paddies shimmering in the sunlight, Akebi-chan no Sailor-fuku makes it clear it is not fuckin’ around in the animation department. It also establishes right from the get-go that our heroine, Akebi Komichi, has got the moves, running across the countryside and pulling off near-perfect gymnastic moves that reminded me of the famously spry Kinomoto Sakura.

That’s not the only thing that reminded me of the Cardcaptor. Like Sakura’s show, Akebi places family, and familial love, at the forefront. Amazingly, both of Komichi’s parents are living and while her father is away for work, he makes sure to congratulate his daughter’s acceptance to the private middle school of choice, the illustrious Roubai Academy.

Komichi’s dream was to attend school in a lovely sailor fuku, and so her mom, who also attended Roubai, takes it upon herself to maker her one, from scratch. I appreciated the episode taking its time and sweating the details when it came to the making of the uniform, from choosing the cloth to preparing the tacking.

The episode also takes care to show that while Komichi’s little sister Kaois proud of her for getting into such a fancy school, she’s also sad that they won’t get to attend the same little country school anymore.

In a touching bath scene that’s brimming with sisterly love, Komichi tells Kao that she’s nervous too, especially about getting alone with the rich Tokyo girls at the school. Kao then turns around and assures her big sis she won’t have any trouble making friends, because she’s really cool.

The day the sailor fuku is completed, it feels like a combination of  Christmas morning, a wedding day, and the dawn before a battle. Komichi carefully puts on the brand new uni like she’s donning armor, and when she shows the completed look off to her mom and sister, they’re struck by the sheer beauty of it.

Alas…it’s the wrong uniform!

Komichi doesn’t learn until she arrives at Roubai for the opening ceremony and find all the other girls in charcoal blazers. Turns out that while her mom and her classmates wore sailor fukus in her day, the academy has since revamped their uniforms.

That said, the headmistress remembers Komichi telling them at her interview that it was her dream to wear the fuku, and since it is still technically Roubai issue, and Komichi’s mom put so much love into it, she decides to allow Komichi to wear it…if she so chooses.

Choosing to do so means standing out far more than she thought, and combined with her “simple country girl” background, could potentially make things that more difficult for her socially. Komichi is crestfallen upon coming home, but Kao has zero tolerance for her pity party, and gives her big sis a big ol’ spank on her bum, as if to say Snap out of your funk this instant…you’re cooler than this!

The next morning, Komichi leaves for her first day super-early, but not too early that Kao isn’t awake to see her big sis chose to keep wearing the uniform their mom made for her. She’s going to rely on “confidence and a smile” to make friends, whether her clothes match theirs or not.

When she arrives at school (after running through several gorgeous painterly scenes of her idyllic, almost Kincaid-ian setting), she finds she’s almost the first person there. The first person there is Kizaku Erika, who is introduced very carefully clipping her toenails at her desk…and then smelling the clippers. What does Komichi do to break the ice? Why, smell her own feet, of course!

That gesture, earnest and not at all mocking, helps save what could have been a disastrous first meeting. Komichi learns that Erika was so nervous about her first day she couldn’t sleep and arrived way too early, and is comforted to know she wasn’t alone in her nervousness.

The two take their assigned seats right next to each other, having calmed each other down. And at seat number one, Komichi is positioned to greet everyone else who enters. I suspect she’ll have no trouble making more friends.

As I said in the first ‘graph, CloverWorks really outdid themselves; this is a surpassingly beautiful episode of anime, so much so that my main concern is whether they can keep up this level of quality for an entire cour. Murakami Manatsu is another great new voice as Komichi, while vets Kuno Misaki and Hana-Kana anchor the fam as her sister and mom. In all, a very impressive opening salvo to a gentle, heartwarming slice-of-life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 12 (Fin) – …But Not Because She Doesn’t Want To

The Maid Café (and Komi) are such a smashing success for Class 1-1 that Najimi can’t suppress their enterprising spirit. They start divining new and ever-more-pricey (and niche) services for the maids to perform for the customers…until the faculty advisors shut them down. Sufficiently chastened for the time being, Najimi instead markets the café by simply having Komi walk around the school.

With Maid!Tadano by her side, Komi navigates all of the different things to see and do at the festival, from a haunted house to rooftop confessions. She rejects Ren’s confession with silence, but her own confession she’s only able to get a tiny “meow” out, which most of the crowd indicates Komi is a cat maid. As usual, most of her peers don’t really “get” her, because in a communication vacuum they divine their own interpretations.

Fortunately, there are at least four peers who more-or-less “get” Komi: her first two friends Tadano and Najimi, along with newcomers Onemine and Kaede. As Komi dons a French bun and glasses for a more sophisticated maid look, she’s both a roving advertisement for the café and soaking up the festival. Having Onemine and Kaede but no Najimi in this walkabout gives it a much more casual vibe, which I think both Komi and Tadano appreciate.

Thanks to Najimi’s racketeering, Class 1-1 is disqualified from a slam-dunk Grand Prize win in the overall class contest. Najimi’s attempts to gloss over their role in the DSQ don’t go over well, but when Komi indicates via notebook that she had fun, everyone’s on board. At the after-festival dance, the torturously-dense Tadano goes out on what he thinks is a tenuous limb in asking if Komi wants to dance, even though dancing with him is the one thing Komi wants to do most.

Tadano’s translator still has its blind spots, but at the after-dance karaoke, even he can recognize his only fan—Komi with maracas—in a crowd of otherwise distracted friends and classmates. I like how we only get the first beat of the songs everyone sings, and that Komi doesn’t suddenly show off a beautiful singing voice…sometimes it’s not about the having, but the yearning, ya know? ;)

Speaking of yearning: throughout these whole twelve episodes Komi has struggled to form connections, but not because she didn’t want them. With help from Tadano, Najimi, and the others, she’s become ever more comfortable with social interactions and communicating her thoughts. As she prepares for a much-deserved post-festival rest, she writes the names of all of the friends she’s made, then cradles the notebook with great reverence.

Not surprisingly, we’ll be getting a second season. We’ll see if Komi starts speaking more (and giving Koga Aoi more to do), if Tadano ever realizes that Komi sees him as more than a friend, and which as-of-yet not formally introduced colorful characters she’ll befriend.

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