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Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

C3bu Blu-rayA survival game club of girls makes up a surprisingly tender series.

What They Say:
When Yura Yamato’s roommate Sonora asks her to join her club, it quickly becomes clear that the girls of Stella Women’s Academy are VERY different. It turns out that she belongs to a club known as C3 (which stands for Command, Control and Communications) whose main afterschool activity is playing survival games! It’s not a typical teenage girl pastime, but Sonora and her trigger-happy friends are seriously into it. The question that puts her in the crosshairs of a dilemma is if she has what it takes to join up, stand up, and deliver in the face of friendly fire.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release gives us the series the original Japanese language track only in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is primarily dialogue driven for a lot of it, but it gets to do some additional fun when it moves into the survival game mode with the BB pellets flying around everywhere and the impact sounds as well. It’s not a big, dynamic mix with it, but it does add some life to it and keeps it moving and grooving throughout. The track is encoded in a solid way with no problems to be had with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The opening and closing sequences probably have the most life to them overall, and the most warmth as well, as it uses the forward soundstage in full with the pieces to very good effect.

Video:
Originally airing in the summer of 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episode run is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Gainax, the show has a pretty good look about it, though it does keep things more on the simpler side without a lot of heavy detail or overdone dramatic sequences with flashy animation. It’s essentially a normal school setting series that just has the kids running around from time to time playing real world style survival games. The color palette is a soft one and it’s appropriate for the show to give it a little warmer of a feeling as we see the girls bonding. The detail within it is handled well with some of the backgrounds having a bit more on average and the weaponry given its proper due. Colors are strong and solid throughout the presentation and we didn’t have any issues with line noise or cross coloration, though some of the softer backgrounds occasionally have a light touch of noise that’s likely part of the source material.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is pretty solid overall s we get a standard Blu-ray case that holds both of the discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us the six main characters spread across it with their weapons raised and big smiles on their faces while in the woods. This works well as it’s not a big fanservice image, there’s a bit more weight to the background with the trees and they also give it a lightness with the piece behind the trees being white sunlight. The logo along the bottom is cutely done with a row of shells along the top of it and traditional military style text for the name itself. The back cover plays an awful pun, of course, and provides some good shots from the show. We also get a cute array of the girls in chibi form around it that adds a bit of lightness to things. THe premise covers the events of the show well and the breakdown of episodes and discs along with extras is all clearly listed. The rest is made up of the usual pieces with the production credits and a technical grid that lays everything out clearly and accurately.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is another plus in its favor as it’s well laid out with some good artwork. Using character pieces not used on the cover, the first disc for example has the girls outside with the trees and blue sky as they’re all sitting or standing in different positions with smiles and weapons and gear. It’s a nice natural looking scene rather than everyone just together against a bland background. The logo runs through the middle, which is also the separation point as the right side has the torn paper piece and the breakdown of the episodes by number and title that doubles as the pop-up menu. It uses an interesting mix of colors with greens, earthy yellow and some browns and pinks to play up the semi-military aspect while also having some more traditional girlish colors in the mix. It’s an eye-catching menu design that manages to not be too busy but also sets the mood nicely.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the short run manga series by Ikoma, which in turn had a couple of spinoff books, Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 is a thirteen episode TV series animated by Gainax. The show is one that fits into a mini trend that’s been going on with more military oriented anime shows where the girls are involved in it to varying degrees. This isn’t exactly the same in a sense as some of those though as it’s focused more on survival games and largely inserts itself into a normal school setting. Well, normal in a sense since the academy here is one of those better off wealthy ones. While the show does spend a good bit of its time on the whole survival game aspect, the real core of it is character growth.

The series operates around a central character of Yura, a first year student at the academy that has just arrived and is definitely not sure how to handle herself. She wants friends, but it’s hard to start those conversations to make them. Even worse is that when she sees her dorm, her roommate is not even there as she’s still out of the country. Yura enjoys the luxury of the large room herself, but there’s some uncertainty about the place as she finds a gun under one of the pillows and then a huge cache of weapons in the drawers and closets. Suffice to say, the more she learns about her third year roommate Sono, the weirder she starts to think she is. Sono’s being off in America recently just adds to that mystery as well as it gives her a bit of a worldly feeling, something that a simple first year like Yura has a hard time comprehending.

While we see Yura adjust to being in the school, we also see the mild struggle of the other main characters, which make up the survival game club known as C3. The group of five here, including Sono, know they have to start expanding the club some because Sono will graduate at the end of this year and they have to think long term. Plus, new club members mean more fun and more members also mean new formations that they can run in the games themselves. So naturally, they have to come up with some sort of recruitment drive. Thankfully, this doesn’t really go big or take up much time as things move quickly to get Yura into the place to try it all out. This is where we’re reminded of just how shy and cautious she is as it’s a lot of activity going on as the girls in the club are all good friends. That has her interested because that’s what she wants out of her high school experience, but the uncertainty of this kind of club makes me wary of the whole thing.

And we do see that she’s not exactly good at it with the first real experiences she has while dealing with the group. there is some fun and everyone treats her well, but she ends up doing things in a way that gives her an out, especially after her roommate is back and she discovers Sono is actually the club president. But Yura sees all of this as her path to having friends and being involved in something and that has her signing onto the club. What this naturally opens us up to is seeing the experience of what it’s like to be a member, operating out of the old school building and using that as part of their survival grounds as well as some of the boarded off area around it so they can run through the woods and other locales to practice. Yura’s nervous nature doesn’t have her doing things badly, but she’s just not a natural at it.

Or so we think. What works nicely is that while we do see that Yura has a natural talent, it doesn’t display itself right away. It comes after some experience, both in practice and at some of the simpler games they play competitively against others. This slower growth allows it to feel less forced, though there is that moment where everything changes early on. Enough so that after a particular incident, she ends up cutting her hair and going all in to learn, practice and excel at survival games and the particular weapon she has, which of course she’s named. There are some cute moments early on during practices that she envisions something fantastical, imagining an environment that makes it all something more, but most of it is fairly well grounded. And the more that she practices and works, the better she gets. So much so that we see her becoming one of those really intense people, which definitely stands out in comparison to the other players within the club – and most other clubs.

This, for me, is where the show became a lot more interesting. Yura’s desire to win starts to trump other things and we see her seeking praise and wanting to be the best at each of the competitions – and within their own practice games. It makes her the kind of undesirable person to play with and she kind of knows it herself in a way as she begins to participate less in the fun things the club does and instead becomes more isolated in her practices and time away from the club. Things go even worse when she abandons the club completely and participates with a club from another school that Rin is the president of. With Rin being a long time friend/rival of Sono’s, that has a lot more complications. Seeing Yura go down this path is really nicely done overall as it lasts almost half the season, showing just how someone can change when it becomes all about winning and all about their own personal glory. The way she burns bridges and friendships and gets pushback from others over it is surprising as most of the time when shows do this, it’s all handled in an episode or maybe two. Here, it’s the defining arc of the series.

There are other things that the show works on from time to time, such as exploring Sono and Rin’s past and why they turned out so differently. We get some fun time in the club itself at first and there are some really fun matches that get shown. It doesn’t go into heavy detail or bogged down in tactics, which is a big plus, as it just wants to show the dynamic and how each of the girls participate and work together while favoring their own strengths. You won’t find yourself mesmerized by the matches, but you’ll enjoy them as they don’t dominate the series in a way that slows everything down or becomes too analytical. We also get an epilogue episode that ramps up the fanservice – the only episode that really pays attention to it in fact – as the girls compete in a Field Queen competition to win free ammo for a year. It’s silly and definitely works the sexuality side of things, but it’s at that episode that you realize just how tame and controlled the rest of the series was.

In Summary:
I wasn’t sure what to expect from his series after some of the stronger military type shows we’ve had recently, but I came away feeling pretty pleased by the show. The arc over the course of the series that Yura goes through is rather fun as we see her going from a nervous first year to an intense young woman before really finding out what matters and finding that proper middle ground. There’s some good growth to be had there for the character and the way it impacts so many others. The supporting cast is the weak link of the series, as some like Honoka or Hinata you never really know, but it works well enough as an ensemble. With its long and awkward name, the show is one that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue and a show about girls playing survival games may not be what most people would think of trying. But it surprised me in watching it in marathon form as the larger narrative and story arc worked well and made for a good time.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 11th, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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