Adachi and Shimamura Review: Cute Romance with Average Depth

Adachi and Shimamura review

Season aired: Fall 2020

Number of episodes: 12

Genres: Romance, Drama

Thoughts: It’s been two years since Bloom Into You, the acclaimed yuri anime starring Yuu Koito, a high schooler who had never felt any romantic feelings, and Touko Nanami, the flawed senior she meets, streamed, and many people awaited who would follow in its footsteps. Adachi and Shimamura, an adaptation of the light novel series by Hitoma Iruma, decided to step up to the challenge this season with a simple story of two girls, Sakura Adachi and Hougetsu Shimamura, who meet each other while skipping classes. As they spend more time around each other, feelings beyond that of friendship slowly grow between the two girls.

Is Adachi and Shimamura as good as Bloom Into You? The simple answer is no, but I certainly won’t fault the anime for trying. It’s a cute love story that fits into many shoujo-esque formulas of relationship developments and pacing. While these sorts of stories can become boring because of how often anime and manga have overused the formulas, it’s still important to note that love stories featuring lesbian couples in this simple romantic format are rare in anime. As a result, its representation of the LGBTQ community is something to applaud on its own.

My biggest issue with the story was how unbalanced the writing felt between the two girls. Adachi’s point of view follows a very realistic journey of a girl discovering her lesbian sexuality. Her gradual growing desire from wanting to hold Shimamura’s hands to wanting more sexual activities such as making out and physically touching is realistic and follows good pacing. However, Shimamura lacks any such progression on her end. The story tries instead to make her complex by hinting at her past. In one such flashback, Shimamura remembers how in her childhood, she acted friendly and happy and social. Now, she finds herself annoyed at the surface-level friendships she makes with her classmates and skips classes with no interest in her future. Yet, despite numerous reminders of how the current Shimamura vastly differs from her younger self, the anime never attempts to sincerely explore how she changed from optimistic and social to withdrawn and pessimistic.

A better journey for Adachi

Most frustrating of all, the anime leads the audience into believing that it would explore the journey that Shimamura made. Notably, it introduces her childhood friend, Tarumi, near the end of the series as someone who wanted to reconnect and reestablish the friendship they used to have as children, hinting at a forthcoming explanation for Shimamura’s personality change. But even as the series neared its end, the anime continues to only hint at the potential unresolved feelings between Shimamura and Tarumi without ever pushing any further on it. We end up knowing Shimamura exactly how we’ve known her since the beginning — a girl who lost her optimism in high school with a supposed reason for it that’s just going to remain a mystery. The anime builds all this character exploration up and then never dives into it.

Additionally, the anime also has this strange alien creature introduced early on that ultimately… doesn’t really do anything except bond with Shimamura’s little sister. Considering how much screen time the story gave the alien creature, I really am baffled at why the character exists. Since the anime takes place in modern times with absolutely no hints of supernatural elements or a fantasy world existing, this character sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise completely realistic world. None of the other characters seem confused at her existence either despite the fact that she has an otherworldly glow, and she isn’t some figment of imagination — every character whoever runs into her sees her. She just adds nothing to the story and takes up screen time that otherwise could’ve gone to better character development.

Alien girl on the left

Despite having twelve episodes, Adachi and Shimamura ultimately ends in a similar spot that the two girls were in the very beginning. The anime is self-aware of that fact; after having their seating positions changed in the last episode, Shimamura observes that while Adachi still isn’t closer to her, she isn’t farther either. Similarly, while the two girls have grown closer, the degree to which they’ve done so isn’t all that clear.

While Shimamura’s observation is written beautifully, it left me feeling impatient at the pace and the series as a whole. With Bloom Into You, there was still so much to explore between Yuu and Touko, but I at least felt like their relationship had progressed notably, with the characters’ motivations explained and their backstories examined. By the end of Adachi and Shimamura, however, it just feels like the two had only taken a single step closer to each other after twelve full episodes.

This is admittedly a problem for many romance anime as a whole — especially those that follow a shoujo-esque atmosphere and storyline. Relationships can essentially take hundreds of chapters, which in turn translates to full seasons, which then translates to real-life years, to move forward. As I had pointed out above, this anime seems to follow that pattern on purpose — just with a lesbian couple instead of a heterosexual one. It still doesn’t make the story any less frustrating and, at times, boring for me to watch through.

Though they grew closer…that is all that happens

I must reiterate, though, that the script stood out to me. The characters monologue a lot, but the dialogue, or at least the English subtitles, were genuinely beautiful. If this anime did not have such lush dialogue to accompany its pace, I might’ve thought it to be below average. Aside from that, the music that accompanies the dialogue sounds pitch-perfect. There’s a perfect crescendo music used whenever atmospheres get tense, and a lighthearted bubbly accompaniment when the two girls just hang out. The production of the anime itself certainly makes a mark.

To me, Adachi and Shimamura had various ingredients that would’ve allowed it to make its mark despite it being a cute but fairly ordinary lesbian love story. All the pieces were there, whether it was the script, the music, the performances, or the characters. Unfortunately, the plot held everything back, and from what I’ve heard from light novel readers, the fault lies with the source material. If the anime had spent a little more time actually exploring Shimamura rather than the love triangle teasing, I think I would’ve found the anime more investing.

 

Rating

Plot: 7 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 7.5 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 7.5

Art/Animation: 7

Soundtrack: 8

FINAL SCORE: 73.25

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