What’s it about? One day when they were both skipping class, Adachi and Shimamura ran into each another on the second level of the school gym. The two girls developed a routine, and an easy-going friendship: they meet there to play ping-pong, eat snacks, goof around, and try not to get caught by staff or students when a P.E. class is on. But is it possible that this laid-back relationship between two delinquents could turn into something more?
Adachi and Shimamura is the stylish adaptation of a series of yuri light novels (the English-language versions of which have just started coming out from good ol’ Seven Seas). My first impression of the show is a feeling of almost dreamy floating: the tone is soft, the art is gorgeous, and it’s never afraid to dive a step to the side of realism in the name of visual metaphor or setting up atmosphere. And yet, at the same time, this premiere is oddly and satisfyingly down-to-Earth. The dreamlike visuals go hand in hand with the subtle characterization, even if they—like the characters themselves—might seem at first like an odd couple.
There’s a fun dynamic at play here: we begin in the middle of one of the pair’s ping-pong matches, and, after narration informs us of how they met, we get to sit back and watch Shimamura and Adachi banter with each other as they play.
They have a natural sort of understated chemistry, and a blasé current of dark humor that they clearly share. When a sports class arrives and nearly spots them, they joke that Adachi had better drink lots of milk so her legs won’t break if they ever have to escape out the second-story window (classic Gen Z stuff, honestly).
Even if I, a former teacher’s pet, was clutching at my collar initially, there’s something fun about the protagonists of this school romance being “delinquents,” and the inciting incident being playing hooky. Neither Shimamura nor Adachi have any of the stereotypical visual codes or characterization quirks that you sometimes see in rough-and-tumble class-skippers in anime; they just seem like well-rounded and honestly quite nice people. It’s a twist on the usual formula, and it gives the show a different and interesting premise and setup for the relationship.
So, that relationship. It’s a casual sort of thing, right? A shrugged-off friendship between two devil-may-care students. Yet across this first episode, the veneer begins to shift. Shimamura researches ping-pong so she can get better at winning against Adachi, who admits that Shimamura is basically her only friend. The two step out of the gymnasium, and their comfort zone, by walking home from school together.
They’re balanced on the edge between insisting this is all no big deal, and clearly yearning to know more about each other. Shimamura collapses into a pool of metaphorical water when she thinks about relationships, and is clearly reluctant to get too close to people. She has two classmates that she hangs out with, but their friendship seems surface-level in a way that her weird forged-in-ping-pong bond with Adachi isn’t. We don’t really get into Adachi’s head in this episode, but we do get to watch her retreat into a shell when she’s outside her one-on-one interactions with Shimamura.
This premiere lays the groundwork for what could become a very compelling and sweet romance, as the two gradually allow themselves to get closer to each other and to be serious about their feelings. There are hidden depths, and a sense of hidden sadness, in both these characters. It’s clear that they make each other happy, but what will they do about it? What lies ahead down this twisting and lovingly-animated road?
While there are definitely funny moments (the banter about needing to strengthen your bones in case of window-escape, for example) this doesn’t feel like it’s in the same vein as a wacky comedy series, and thus far seems to be balancing entertaining moments with more heartfelt character drama. There’s also a healthy dose of surreal whimsy in the form of a little dude in a spacesuit, who I assumed was visual symbolism for something before they showed up and interacted with the characters at the very end…
There is one scene that spins more in the direction of slapstick—with boob jokes to boot—when Shimamura is talking to her classmates, but it seems like that’s not the central facet of the show’s sense of humor. Aside from some lingering shots of skirt hems and thighs, and the above-mentioned boob jokes between friends, there isn’t any overt fan service either, though we shall see how things progress.
For now, I have faith that the camera is mostly focused on framing Adachi and Shimamura’s relationship through as authentic and pretty a lens as possible. If the premiere is anything to go by, we have a whimsical (and at times very cute) little character drama ahead of us, to add to the ever-growing variety of yuri anime.