TRIGGER WARNING: Kageki Shoujo addresses and depicts topics that may be disturbing for some audiences. These topics include eating disorders, sexual assault, and bullying. Anime Hajime strongly advises viewer discretion when watching this series.
Original Run: July 4, 2021 - September 26, 2021 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Drama, Slice of Life Based on the Series Created By: Kumiko Saiki
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Kageki Shoujo!!. Reader discretion is advised.***
The all-female Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts has a long and rich history of producing some of Japan’s most talented and dazzling actresses. Admission to this prestigious academy is limited, and only the very best of the best have a chance e of making it in. This year is particularly special since Kouka is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Among this Centennial Class is Ai Narata (voiced by Yumiri Hanamori), a former idol star. However, due to a horrific experience as a child, Ai has a great fear of men, which forced her to quit her idol career. Still, the thought of the girls-only environment at Kouka gives Ai hope she has finally found a place to relax.
That was until she met her roommate, Sarasa Watanabe (voiced by Sayaka Senbongi).
Sarasa is a hyperenergetic girl whose ambition knows no bounds. Despite her tall stature and sometimes overbearing confidence, Sarasa wants to shoot for the stars, and Kouka is the place to make that happen. Unfortunately, this school’s reputation for excellence doesn’t make for the easiest environment.
Kageki Shoujo carried a big stick, and this show was not afraid to swing it.
Let me warn you; don’t go judging this series based on episode one. I’m not saying it was bad; the episode sufficiently hooks you into the story. No, what I’m getting at is, Kageki Shoujo isn’t in any rush to reveal how heavy it’s going to get.
Then, once the full picture begins to form, if you’re anything like me, you’ll wonder, “Okay, will this series be more suggestive or explicit?” To that, let me put it this way:
Kageki Shoujo doesn’t leave much up to the imagination.
Although this series was rough to watch at times, we should not consider that as a negative. On the contrary, Kageki Shoujo was quite outstanding, and I hope this is an anime that will receive a continuation. As of this review going live (December 2021), I have heard no news concerning a season two, which is concerning.
But for the record, Ai Narata’s backstory would have been horrifying had this series left it at a simple voice-over. To actually show what happened – assuming we saw everything, which I doubt – that was an image that won’t be leaving my mind anytime soon. While some characters are standoff-ish and blunt because that is their personality quirk, that was not the case with Ai. It made complete sense why she was the way she was.
And that was the thing this series did incredibly well. Kageki Shoujo’s characters, setting, and premise felt real.
Many school-based anime have an idyllic quality that is sometimes unmistakably fantastical. That isn’t a flaw, and many shows that are far better than Kageki Shoujo have made such an atmosphere work. That said, if I didn’t know better, I would be hard-pressed to refute the existence of Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts and its Centennial Class. This story rarely strayed from a sense of reality.
That said, the school’s sports day did just that.
Regardless, this series did an excellent job of crafting its characters. And nowhere was this more prevalent than with Sarasa Watanabe.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t impressed when Kageki Shoujo introduced Sarasa. From the outset, she seemed like just another bubbly protagonist who happened to be a naturally gifted actress. She didn’t come off as anyone special.
In that same vein, I will also happily admit how wrong I was. Sarasa had much more to her than high energy.
Unlike her classmates – all of whom had their own struggles – Sarasa’s stage background was limited. Actually, no, that’s not right. Sarasa grew up surrounded by kabuki, a classic form of Japanese theater. But unlike the rest of the Centennial Class, Sarasa had had very few chances to practice the art she loved since traditional and professional kabuki is males only.
Despite Sarasa being a gifted performer, the idea of a girl standing on a kabuki stage would not have flown. Therefore, long before coming to Kouka, Sarasa had heard the words “it is impossible for you” all her life. First, it was due to her being female; next, it was her height. Her “limitations” were factors she had no control over.
While this negativity affected Sarasa, she wouldn’t accept “no” without a fight. She knew what she wanted and would go for it come hell or high water.
Kageki Shoujo ended way too quickly. Heck, when episode thirteen’s conclusion came, I would argue this series had reached its most interesting. It would be a massive shame if a continuation never came to be.
This was a story where all the characters were desperately trying to be the best they could be. While there may have been many triumphs, there were also plenty of heartaches and disappointments. By the time this series had reached its final moment, its characters had become people worth remembering.
To bring it home, the play the Centennial Class put on was Romeo and Juliet. If you want to know what I consider a height of unoriginality, its class putting on that performance – it has been done to death. However, Kageki Shoujo knew where to put its focus, and this series pumped in new life to a cliché repeatedly seen time and time again.
I am basing this section on the assumption Kageki Shoujo, the anime, was a faithful adaptation of its source material.
If you are familiar with the manga and if there are major discrepancies between the two, please let me know in the comments. But, should that be the case, then that would mean somewhere in this show’s production, someone made a creative decision that only served to hold this series back.
Although it goes without saying, anime and manga are two different mediums. What might work in one can become problematic in the other. One of the most significant differences between the two is time.
In print, storytellers can go into much more detail about many more aspects. In visual media – i.e., anime – there is a finite number of minutes to work with, and only the absolute essentials can make it into the final product.
The issue then becomes: What is “essential.”
Based on what I saw in the anime, Kageki Shoujo’s core centered around Ai and Sarasa. These two were the catalyst for this story. Everyone else served as supporting characters who did deserve rich backstories. The problem was, this series would dedicate much of its limited time to shaping who everyone was and what motivated them.
All this served to do was slow down Kageki Shoujo’s pacing.
Since there is no information about a second season, I have to treat this show as a stand-alone product. Therefore, though admirable, this series’s dedication to its supporting cast was, ultimately, irrelevant.
Am I saying that no anime should ever have a rich and detailed cast of characters? Not at all. If a show has the time to explore who everyone is, it would be irresponsible not to do so. Sadly, thirteen episodes can get limiting very quickly.
Kageki Shoujo has the makings to be a much longer series, and I hope that will be the case someday. And should this show receive the continuation it deserves, this criticism of mine will have a high chance of becoming moot.
Thus, the question becomes, “If a story’s biggest drawback gets you to want more story, how big of a drawback is it really?
Although I think you should check out this series, be sure to do so at your discretion. There were plenty of things I didn’t mention. For instance, if you are a person who has struggled or knows someone struggling with eating disorders, particularly bulimia, that is something both discussed and depicted in this show.
Still, this series is excellent if you know what you’re getting into. It has a story that is hard to put down, characters worth following, and an ending that leaves you wanting more. In my book, I would call that a winner.
Kageki Shoujo has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Kageki Shoujo? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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