A socially awkward girl transfers in to the magical setting of the Stella Girls Academy only to be quickly picked up by a group of strange girls interested in survival games and action movies in this first episode. Yura’s awkwardness seems to get her nowhere on her first day on campus and she’s further horrified when her new roommate has caches of weapons, military uniforms and action movies organized around the room. Meanwhile, the club itself begins recruiting efforts by trying to be the first to talk to new students who are undecided on clubs. When Rento discovers Yura playing along with the film First Blood in her new room, she gets dragged into the club and her first survival game.
Gainax’s recent efforts since Panty & Stocking have been pretty poor. Once again, not surprising considering the massive talent drain after that series wrapped up. So in their first series that doesn’t involve leveraging the Shonen Jump fanbase or taking mountains of money from Subaru, the expections were pretty low for this. It also further helped lower expectations by having this air after the wildly successful Girls und Panzer. Needless to say, all it had to do to succeed these expectations was to be mediocre.
I mention all that because shockingly, this actually was a pleasant surprise on first viewing. For the most part this actually turned out to be more like K-On than Garupan in my mind. There’s the new girl joining a club that uses their main club activity as an excuse to mostly spend the time eating sweets around a table between club activities. Even in Karila, Rento and Yura you have characters who are similar to Ritsu, Tsumugi and Yui respectively. There’s no Mio though because she literally impossible to replicate; trust me on that.
Something that Gainax has typically turned to in the way past is throwing in references to Western popular culture. There’s Star Trek references in KareKano for example and even though I liked it as it bombed with nearly everyone else, He is my Master had an entire episode that was a riff on Die Hard. There’s no hidden references here since the movie of Sonora’s that Yura watches in their room as well as the survival game the club plays at the end of the episode are both based on First Blood, the first of the Rambo films. What I think made this stand out was the visual at the end when Yura imagined Karila as John Rambo. She was living the movie in her mind now and therefore emotionally connected both to the film and to the scenario she found her self in. Yura may be no good at firing airsoft guns and survival games, but she now lives them.
As for production quality on this one, it’s typically Gainax in that it looks fairly low budget most of the time even though they clearly have the money to spend. I’d describe it more a low-key and only getting creative when it counts in the visual department. As for the sound aspect, I think more effort went into making the airsoft guns sound right than anything else, but overall nothing to really note as being good or bad.
Reasons to Continue Watching
- It’s K-On with guns
- The characters feel like they actually live for survival games
- The club is a collection of lovable weirdos
Reasons to Drop
- Blatant attempt to cash in on matters Garupan related
- Perhaps too in love with 80s action films
- Will probably fall apart when Yura learns how to compete in survival games
My Verdict: A really pleasant first episode to watch. It looked like everyone involved had fun with it. Methinks a training montage scene in the style of Rocky IV may be necessary to get Yura up to speed.