Season aired: Winter 2022
Number of episodes: 12
Thoughts: Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is one of the three anime CloverWorks released this season. Its popularity pales in comparison to My Dress-Up Darling, but its production, story, and characters shine just as bright. Unfortunately, due to the first few episodes’ focusing on Akebi’s feet in certain scenes, people largely wrote it off as a foot fetish fanservice anime. I am here to put a stop to that rumor. Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a gorgeously rendered anime that depicts girls’ friendships in a way that I haven’t yet experienced in an anime.
Akebi wants only two things as she enters middle school — to wear a sailor uniform like the one her mom wore and to make a lot of friends. She accomplishes the first one after her mom sews a sailor school uniform for her. Now, she tries her best to accomplish her second goal.
Akebi’s Sailor Uniform appears like another “cute girl doing cute things” anime but it stands out with its lack of focus on a particular passion. Laid-Back Camp revolves around girls bonding over camping. K-On! follows the friendship of members in a light music club. On the other hand, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is literally about Akebi as she meanders around the school, meets different classmates, and bonds over different things, all the while enjoying her own hobbies — sometimes with her friends and other times alone. This snapshot of realistic life instantly deepens the intimacy the audience feels toward the characters. In many ways, this anime’s portrayal of friendship feels the most real of all the CGDCT anime I’ve seen.
The screenwriter, director, and animators placed so much delicacy and thought into the details of the conversations and actions of each girl. In the first episode, Akebi runs to school in excitement with her hair down. Halfway through, her long hair whips across her face and gets caught in her mouth. She pauses to remove the strand from her mouth and decides to pull up her hair in a ponytail to run the remainder of the way. The second she enters her school, she loosens her hair back down once more. It’s a simple action that likely means little to many, but it means the world to me. Many girls grow their hair out for its beauty and versatility, but long hair will always turn into a nuisance with any physical activities. Up until now, I have never seen such a tiny yet incredibly relatable detail actually portrayed on screen.
Conversations between girls feel authentic and true. Gone is the cattiness about another girl wearing a prettier dress, putting on makeup, or crushing on the same guy. Instead, the girls admire each other’s nails, compliment each other’s clothes, and play with each other’s hair. They complain about homework, ask about each other’s hobbies, and talk about their own bodies.
The anime adopts an episodic format to introduce each classmate and how Akebi bonds with them, and utilizes that format to its best. While each episode comes off as a separate story, it subtly builds towards the core theme of the anime: friendship. In the last two episodes, her entire class practices volleyball with her in a gym that she once played by herself as the school’s sports festival turns the corner. She knew then that she accomplished her dream of making friends and steps into practice with the other girls, no longer alone.
On a personal note, I appreciated how the anime dedicated not one but two episodes to exploring the light and dark of puberty. On one side, Tanigawa loves her forming figure; her thighs thickening, her chest growing. She takes pictures of herself, admiring the new body she’s transitioning into. On the other side, Shijou is a tennis player who loathes her wider hips, larger chest, and broader frame. She wishes to revert back to her slender, undeveloped body where jumping high and swinging a racket took little effort. Both episodes end with meaningful resolutions that bolsters friendship: Akebi reassures an embarrassed Tanigawa by praising her body and her photography skills, then inspires Shijou to embrace her post-puberty form by finding new ways to adjust her tennis playing. These episodes also teach the important message that girls should not feel ashamed for their curiosity towards puberty, but they are also not alone if they do feel unhappy with how they change.
The story’s framing of the developing girls’ bodies jumpstarted assumptions that the anime’s true core is to provide fanservice rather than a heartfelt slice of life story. However, to state those assumptions as fact would be a great disservice to the anime. Akebi’s Sailor Uniform does frame many scenes with Akebi’s feet, and while some will view this as foot fetish fanservice, there is a narrative purpose. Akebi starts the anime by running, she ends the anime by dancing, and she’s constantly moving throughout the episodes. Her feet guide her every day activities and symbolize her as a character directly. In every scene that zooms in on her feet, she blooms more as a person and creates new bonds with her classmates.
Akebi’s Sailor Uniform thrives in its visual storytelling. Its sceneries are beautiful enough as they are, but the animation takes it one step further in depicting the small details of real life. When Akebi brushes her hair, strands shine as they reflect against sunlight. When she performs her life’s story on stage through a dance, the anime juxtaposes the movements of her performance with the movements she made competing with her friends and cheering on her classmates. When Akebi catches up to a friend to bid her good morning, other classmates either glance at her or remain wholly invested in their own conversation with blinking eyes, moving heads, and changing expressions. The anime captures life itself on screen, and it’s a beauty to behold.
The anime’s raw portrayal of life is extended through its soundtrack and the integration of real life sounds. A famous in-universe idol named Miki pops up on people’s phones and blasts through their earphones. A wooden door opening coincides with a flute tune resembling birds. Girls’ laughter in a corner of a room overtakes the soundtrack in a moment of sudden hilarity that the audience is not privy to. Additionally, the cast employs all manners of girls’ voices — deep, light, loud, soft, sharp, and lazy. It’s a cast where no single voice actress outshines the rest, but rather the voices blend together in harmony. However, I must still give a shout-out to Manatsu Murakami for voicing Akebi in her first major role in an anime. If this is how she starts, I can’t wait to see where she ends.
I’ve sung nothing but praise for the anime, but I have to be honest — this is an anime curated for girls. There is no plot, nor any real or meaningful character development. It’s life, plain and simple, through the eyes of adolescent girls, and for that reason, I know that it will bore some people. However, for me, as a girl who remembers her best school days spent with her friends, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a gift. It captures the love in friendships, and it reminds us just how beautiful that love is.
Plot: 8 (Multiplier 3.5)
Characters: 8 (Multiplier 3.5)
Voice acting: 8
FINAL SCORE: 82