Shoujo Ai (Girl’s Love) has become a more popular genre in America in recent years. The anime series Citrus from 2018 has been localized by Crunchyroll; while it and other Shoujo Ai manga have been handled by Seven Seas Entertainment and other publishers.
Adachi and Shimamura is the latest Shoujo Ai title to make it to western audiences, premiering on October 9th for the Fall 2020 season; and tries its hardest to stand apart from other romance series.
Adachi and Shimamura
Studios: Tezuka Productions
Director: Satoshi Kuwahara
Premiere: October 9, 2020
Adachi and Shimamura is an ongoing light novel series that began in 2012 by writer-artist duo Hitoma Iruma and Nozomi Ousaka. A short lived manga series followed it in 2016 and ended in 2017, before being restarted in a still ongoing series in 2019.
The series follows the blossoming relationship of two first-year high school students Sakura Adachi and Hougetsu Shimamura. The pair are in the same class but meet serendipitously when they both skip classes by hiding on the gym’s loft.
The pair start a casual friendship, playing ping-pong with the gym supplies, having lunch, and talking about whether they should go to class or continue their delinquency. But as the two grow closer they begin to question what they want from one another.
It’s a tried and true formula and stands well enough on its own as the premise for a story. However to try and separate itself from its competition there’s a strange side character that shakes things up between the two.
The beginning of the series introduces a strange young girl in a space suit who. She claims to be an alien from the future and while her claim is doubted she’s portrayed with almost glowing blue-white hair outside of her suit.
This isn’t totally unusual, almost every romance manga has some strange gimmick to it. It might seem immersion breaking, but these things are usual just side plots and meant to be a metaphor for the main plot.
By episode three viewers are left with more questions than answers concerning the subplot. However this isn’t a huge issue as the series handles the pacing of the romance surprisingly well.
The anime makes no illusions about what it presents itself as, anyone coming into the series will know going in its about these two girls falling in love. Everything from the marketing, to the key visuals, to the opening theme makes this abundantly clear.
With that in mind, no time is wasted establishing this fact. The series largely carries itself through tense romantic scenes interluded by the introspection of the two main characters.
The fact that there’s two main characters isn’t forgotten despite it being a romance. Viewers are given personal insights into the thoughts of both characters at varying points.
Normally, only one side is shown in a romance and the viewer is left to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety of how the other person feels. Refreshingly, the focus of Adachi and Shimamura is more about how their feelings evolve over time.
Adachi is a very passive girl and doesn’t show her emotions easily, but as she spends more time with Shimamura she’s the first to realize how she feels about the other. Adachi’s introspection, shyness, and ironically her initiative contrasts with Shimamura’s personality.
Shimamura is more outgoing than Adachi and while she has her own introspections, she comes off as the more clueless of the pair. It takes her time to understand how Adachi feels and how she should act.
Both characters have different foibles that compound the issues in their fledgling relationship. Adachi is shy and with Shimamura being her first friend she’s slowly growing more possessive and realizing this part of her personality.
Shimamura meanwhile is nice to everyone and has trouble prioritizing others. If she ever figures out her feelings for Adachi, she’ll need to know what it means to have someone else come first and not just everyone else.
What’s interesting here is that the series focuses on the awkwardness of the pair’s relationship and their thought processes rather than an external force. There’s no love triangle, there’s no mutual love but they can’t be together because “reasons”, it’s the unfiltered awkwardness of teenagers navigating their first romance.
Akari Kitou who has leading roles in both Kimetsu no Yaiba as Nezuko Kamado and In/Spectre as Kotoko Iwanaga does a fantastic job as Adachi; which is good as her voice is heard a lot throughout the series. While Shimamura is equally important, Adachi gets more screen-time within the first three episodes and her voice is heard more often.
Shimamura is voiced by Miku Itou who’s known for her roles as Kokoro Tsurumaki in BanG Dreams and An Akagi in Action Heroine Cheer Fruits among others. Her cheerful voice contrasts with Adachi’s introspection and gives character to her voice that informs viewers of her personality.
Technically, Adachi and Shimamura leaves something to be desired in some scenes. Bowling balls, fish, and some other props are represented in 3D (in the case of fish in somewhat low-res form).
Also the self-proclaimed alien girl’s sparkling blue hair is too much. The look is otherworldly but no one acknowledges it in the show and makes it feel like what the viewer is being shown is different than what the characters are reacting to.
The opening theme Kimi ni Aeta Hi (君に会えた日) is performed by the lead actresses Akari Kitou and Miku Itou. The vocals sound great but the tune is simplistic and the two singers harmonizing can get a little grating.
In contrast the ending theme Kimi no Tonari de (キミのとなりで) is sung solely by Akari Kitou and is a much better song. Instead of bland and slightly upbeat like the opening, the ending theme has dramatic shifts in tone and Kitou’s vocal range is utilized fully and to great effect.
Ultimately, Adachi and Shimamura is a fun and emotional romance story that fans of the genre will appreciate. Those sick of typical love-triangle setups will be refreshed by the candid introspection of the protagonists as they navigate their feelings.
The show is held back largely by the side-plot and some visual oversights like the 3D animated portions. However as long as Adachi and Shimamura can keep the pacing good through the rest of the season, it will no doubt be a must watch for romance fans.