Adachi to Shimamura Episode 1 Review

Title: Adachi to Shimamura / Shimamura and Adachi
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Romance
Year of release: 2020

I’ve said it before, but the standard for romance in the yuri genre is a very high bar – and Adachi to Shimamura is the latest elegant, nuanced yuri romance to smash it.

That said, part of why this episode is so good is a frustration from other romance (looking at a certain other romance anime that I slammed just a few days ago, ahem). Adachi and Shimamura feels revolutionary for something that it really shouldn’t, and that’s making its leads friends and committing to a substantial relationship outside of attraction. We’re building their relationship firmly, not forcing them into a relationship to work it out afterwards, or creating a transaction with romantic ‘moments’ as payment.

Shimamura hangs out on the second floor in the gym while truanting class, and Adachi – who so infrequently turns up to class that her classmates thought she moved school – finds her way up there one day.

And the thing is, they don’t instantly hit it off. Chronology of the episode starts and ends with them understanding that they are friends and understanding what that means, but we see a flashback to that first meeting and their first few interactions. It’s not starlit. No sun drenches the frame. No heart-stopping music plays. If anything, the characters find each other kinda awkward. Shimamura’s just browsing her phone, sitting up against the wall, and Adachi stops in her tracks before realising Shimamura isn’t an enemy, and ends up plonking down beside her.

“The cicadas are loud,” Shimamura eventually cuts through the silence.

Adachi grunts back an affirmation.

As the two eventually get talking about cicadas, the eccentric script builds in real time. It’s really quite impressive hearing the dialogue so natural between these two girls. Their rapport is instantaneous, as two girls from vastly different social backgrounds just… hanging out, and eventually playing ping pong. ‘Normal’ is the word that Shimamura uses to describe Adachi, and, well, it’s precisely that, but that the implicit suggestion is also true – it’s not bland or imperfect, and as Shimamura realises throughout the episode, she doesn’t want to lose the time with Adachi. It really is precious, and not just to her too; it’s funny, oddly sweet, and exceptionally charming. We can even see the very, very slight romantic attraction burgeoning between them, with longing, but not overbearing, looks, a little bit of jealousy and, the roundabout ways to compliments – such as Shimamura internally monologuing ‘from the back… the hair that normally looked so pretty on Adachi’s head kind of looked like a floofy creature.’

The show’s gorgeous art is drenched in metaphoric direction, too. The ping pong is a key motif, with key moments between the girls being matched by a symbolic ping pong ball bouncing – ‘the ball’s now in your court!’. It’s an odd metaphor, but the show is downright quirky with its astronaut kid hanging out at the fishing hole (and, no, I wasn’t taking hallucinogens again. That’s a thing). This all fits snug with the characters offbeat dialogue choices, and makes this anime a concise slice-of-life show with a strong romantic underpinning.

That said, it all felt a little ‘anime’ when we met Shimamura’s friends, Hino and Nagafuji. These two have been friends for a long time, and it helps showcase the stories ability to depict very different relations – always a good thing for a romance show, and a key pitfall for harems – but Hino’s banter with Nagafuji felt like moe fanservice. The boob talk was also pretty cringy for a show that understood almost-adult chatter, too.

It’s weird, but natural. There is little dissonance here between anime and life, yet unlike more ‘normal’ anime that chase that ideology, Adachi to Shimamura brings to the table an exciting gradual romanticism and even appropriate avant garde direction choices. Minor quibble in the middle aside, I can’t wait to see the next round.

Back to Fall 2020

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