What’s it about? In the show’s own words: “The O’bli: inter-dimensional distortions in time-space that are invading us. To repel the O’bli, we have the Strikers. In other words, girls with the ability to detect the fifth dimension and take out the O’bli are called the Fifth Force. And the unknown objective of Goryoukan Academy is to find individuals for the Fifth Force and train them.”
In other words, some girls who go to a private school are secretly selected by their teacher to battle monsters in another dimension. Not mentioned: why they need to do this while wearing some combination of thigh-high stockings, swimwear and straps.
There are two stories going on here. One is the story of a team of five girls in thoroughly impractical battle outfits following a colour scheme devised by Crayola, collaborating with other teams of five high school girls in similarly impractical and slightly more sexualised uniforms. Their leader, Tsubame, is feeling the responsibility of repeated failure in their missions, knowing her recently formed team has a lot to achieve.
The other story is about a group of five girls the same age, most of whom go to the same school, who know each other through classes and their part time job. Io is a star volleyball player facing the decision of whether to go down the professional athletics route. Tsubame is intrigued by their school, but resisting becoming a student just yet so spends her days studying independently instead. Yuumi wants to inject some tradition and history into their very new school, drawing from European legends, ghost stories and true life mysteries.
The show is most accomplished in plain schoolgirl mode. In terms of introducing plausible, well-rounded female characters quickly, it’s probably one of the best of the season (admittedly a low bar, but credit where it’s due). Some of the main team are still pretty flat, but when the whole Fifth Force meets up we get glimpses of internal conflict and strong personalities in the other teams, even from their brief time on screen. The most fun I had was just watching these girls interact with each other. By the time Yuumi takes everyone on a short ghost hunt around the school I was starting to enjoy it a bit.
Then I reached the battle sequence which demonstrates what the show is really about, and the fun was officially over.
I briefly considered a review that was just the three battle uniform screenshots, but I want to be fair to the show. The section led by Yuumi’s quest to create seven mysteries for their school is genuinely endearing, and I found Yuumi a very likeable character. Yes, she’s a bit quirky, but in a way that I think many teenagers are – “I have a certain image of how I think reality should be, and I’m going to take bold but misguided actions to make that image real!” She’s a little dramatic, overly fixated on certain things but is also friendly, ambitious and committed to her job. I genuinely enjoyed spending time with her.
And she’s not even the main character for half the episode! If they give all their major characters similar treatment this show could be on solid ground, character-wise… assuming you can get past the battle bikinis, Fanservice-sensei and a cutesy mascot with a cutesy speech affectation-moshu.
Over the past few days of terrible premieres I’ve warmed up a bit to Akiba’s Trip. It’s a show that knows what it is, who it’s for and presents this front and centre from minute one. Schoolgirl Strikers seems to be trying to have its cake and eat it: wholesome schoolgirl comedy for one audience, combat teenager fanservice for another. However, I’m not sure many will think the former is worth putting up with the latter, especially when the two stories are so poorly integrated.