Kageki Shojo!! episode 13 is beautiful way to say goodbye, though it definitely leaves room to say hello once again. It’s got all the elements that make a solid episode: drama, character growth, and female friendship, and it all SLAPS, right up to the credits. Hats off to all the people who worked on this: the localization is gold, and leaves me hungry for the dub, whenever that drops.
In the end, both of these episodes are strong reminders of why Kageki Shojo!! continues to be a fantastic series. It not only successfully portrays the intense, heightened drama that already latently exists in high school, but centers that between young women (by this, I mean anyone who is socialized female, and definitely mean maginalized genders), most of whom experience some level of queer, non-romantic sapphicism in their friendships.
And yet Sarasa has to be Sarasa, and ultimately, that’s the message this week: be yourself. More precisely: who you are is why you’re the only one who can do what you do, which is… cheesy, admittedly, but it’s true! It’s so true, and it’s a reminder that Sarasa needed, especially since she’s been off her game since three weeks prior. I initially thought the central theme of this episode is bullying, but Hijiri’s bad attitude really isn’t the heart of what’s happening. Her bad attitude factors into Sarasa’s slump, surely, but this is ultimately about Sarasa realizing that she’s okay as she is, and that it’s what makes her worthy of being at Kouka.
There’s this tension between the twins, which is something I kind of picked up on in episode 6, waaaaaay back before summer vacation. It only gets worse when Chika is mistaken for Chiaki, and when we get the backstory on the tension between Chika and Chiaki concerning their previous attempts to both get into Kouka. This tension is, of course, broken by Sarasa stepping in, but it isn’t resolved, which is really what stayed at the forefront of my mind this episode.
As the Dog Days of Summer give way to the last cries of the cicadas and hopefully a cooler September, “Kaoru’s Summer,” delivered exactly what I wanted: a return to Kouka post-summer vacation, and another glorious character study.
If episodes 1-5 were the prequel manga, then episode 6, “A Glimpse of Stardom,” solidly moves us from that thick boi While not necessarily driving the plot forward, episode 7’s character study serves as a good bridge to Sarasa finding her own way of acting and performing as a kouka trainee. It’s also a bridge to Ai becoming more comfortable with her friendship with Sarasa, and maybe realizing that she’s doing the right things right now, which is ultimately what matters in the end.
If episodes 1-5 were the prequel manga, then episode 6, “A Glimpse of Stardom,” solidly moves us from that thick boi of an omnibus and into the main story of Kageki Shoujo!!, featuring material that’s completely new to me, and honestly, that’s exciting! It means that the series is ready to move towards a more complex story, now that Sarasa and her classmates’ beginnings at Kouka are fully explored.
Episode 5 is… hard to watch, largely because Ayako’s story feels drawn out of real-world struggles with disordered eating and diet culture that are afflicting teenagers both in Japan and across the world, which are often born from institutions that seek to regulate and discipline female bodies. I cried when I read this arc in the prequel manga that Kageki Shojo!! draws from, and I teared up here as Ayako tried to do her best, but the floodgates well and truly opened when Mr. Onodera knocked on Ayako’s door and reminded her of her worth because… who hasn’t needed to be told that they matter, that they have something to be proud of, in spite of their body?
It’s not often that you see such a candid exploration of abuse in anime: it’s even less often that you see someone actually have to pay penance of sorts for being a problem. And like I said, it’s definitely not perfect: Ai is still living with her trauma, Mr. Stalker Otaku still retriggered her and ultimately can’t undo stalking her even if it was for an apology, and there’s a ways to go before Ai is able to reconcile with her own past and ongoing trauma.
I have high hopes for Kageki Shoujo!!, and feel confident that my gut feeling that this will be Summer 2021’s strongest show will play out like a grand ballet: fluidly, thrillingly, and beautifully week to week. That’s thanks to PINE JAM‘s animation, as well as the stellar voice acting from Sayaka Senbongi (Sarasa) and Yumiri Hanamori (Ai), both of whom convey just who these two girls are at their core. Those elements, combined with the other voice actresses, the music, animation, and sound design, really elevated Kageki Shoujo!! in my eyes, and make it an easy, “Why aren’t you watching this?!” kind of recommendation.