Among the many shows I’m following this season, one other show has stood out as one of the better shows this season: the lengthily-named Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3, which has the equally lengthy Japanese name of Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jo-Gakuin Koto-ka C3-bu. For both your sanity and mine (as well as not having to use the superscript button all the time), the show will henceforth simply be referred to as C3-bu.
The premise seems awfully simple. A shy girl named Yura enters Stella Women’s Academy and encounters the school’s rather off-beat airsoft club, the titular C3-bu. Wanting to break free of her past of always being in the shadows and having no friends, she decides to join the club, thinking that it will allow her to become more outgoing and give her proper friends.
In other words, it’s the classic story of a person deciding to participate in some tough activity in order to change and become a better person, right?
Well, the “change” part is right. The “become a better person” part… not so much.
Warning: Major spoilers after the jump!
|This is a shy girl after airsoft. (Art by |
The Fall of Yura
Yura first finds out that airsoft is not all fun and games when she encounters Rin, a cold-blooded, “winning is everything” girl who prefers wiping out an entire team even when there are other ways to win. As a newbie to the game, Yura’s reaction to having to face up to her after the rest of her team is defeated is to surrender. This doesn’t go over well with Rin, though, who gives her a piece of her mind out after the game, but what really surprises Yura is when her teammate, captain, and roommate Sonora also scolds her for not playing the game seriously. Afterwards, Yura realizes that just joining the club won’t actually change her, so she instead decides to take airsoft more seriously and cuts her hair to show her newfound determination.
However, after further encounters with Rin and an incident that puts Sonora in the hospital, Yura’s determination turns into a desire to win against Rin at all costs in a 24-hour tournament. This leads her to develop detailed strategies and an intense training regimen, but it also causes her to start to be estranged from her teammates as she orders them around like a relentless drill sergeant. This only gets worse during the tournament itself in episode 8, where she and her team make it to the final showdown between her team and Rin’s team, but along the way her teammates complain that they are not having fun.
And then, as the culmination of just how much her newfound “win at all costs” attitude has poisoned Yura, she makes the shot that takes out Rin after getting hit by a stray pellet. Rin does not contest the hit and Stella is officially victorious, but while the rest of her team celebrates, Yura knows that she cheated, and is consumed with guilt.
One would normally think this is where she finally wises up and changes for the better, but unfortunately, her fall only continues from here. Unable to forgive herself for cheating, she ends up quitting the C3-bu and starts playing instead with Rin’s team. This is already a puzzling move, but she gets consumed by the desire to become as much of a one-woman army as possible, ignoring team plans and going out on her own to get in as many hits as possible. When this reckless behavior causes a teammate to get hurt (and this is while the rest of the team is already fed up with her selfish behavior), even Rin decides she’s had enough and kicks Yura off the team.
This is as far as the show has gotten for now, and the picture it paints is awfully bleak for a show that started out as a lighthearted cute-girls-shooting-pellet-guns show. Yura, who started out as a nice, shy, and relatively innocent girl, eventually becomes a worse person than the seeming villain of the show. Playing airsoft certainly did change her, but definitely not for the better.
Cleaning the Outside of Cups
Why did Yura’s well-intentioned attempts to change go so wrong? In part, it is because she changed by doing the complete opposite of what she did before, which frequently tends to not go well. It is also in part because her main mentor, Sonora, prefers a “hands-off” approach that supposedly gives her space to discover how to grow on her own—not necessarily a bad thing, but it does not help the very lost Yura. In the end, though, Yura’s fall came about because all the changes she made were surface changes related to airsoft, without realizing that the problem lies much deeper in her heart.
Yura mentions that all she wanted was the approval and praise of others. She joined airsoft because she noticed that the airsoft club members seemed to provide this approval and praise for each other, and after her defeat, she started to desire victory above all else to get that praise from Sonora. This desire also drove her actions during her stint on Rin’s team.
However, true friendship is not based on being able to perform so as to get another person’s approval or praise. The members of C3-bu aren’t friends because they like each other’s airsoft skills, but because they just like each other and enjoy playing airsoft together. Yura, unable to realize that her very desire for approval and praise is misplaced, simply changes how she gets that approval and praise, which leads to her downfall.
Yura only changes her outward appearance and behavior, without changing on the inside. Jesus has some harsh words for those who only make outward changes:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” – Matthew 23:25-26, ESV
You can imagine how preposterous it would be to take a used cup, soap and wash down the outside without touching the inside, and then present the cup as clean to drink from. (And if said cup is transparent, the problem is even more obvious!) Unfortunately, many people try to just do different things or make different choices, cleaning the outsides of their cups, without seeing that it is the dirty inside of their cup that is poisoning their lives.
It is hard to blame them when, oftentimes, what is inside the cup is so filthy that it is hard to even look at it, much less clean it up. Yura’s desire for approval and praise seems innocent enough, but a closer look at it would reveal what is ultimately a very self-indulgent personality, and one that is willing to cheat to get what she wants. However, if the dirtiness inside the cup is left alone, it will only continue to make things worse; only by facing the truth and cleaning things up can truly good change come about. So, as hard as it may be, we need to pray the prayer of Psalms 139:23-24:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!” (ESV)
There is nothing wrong with doing good deeds or pursuing activities to develop new skills. Introspection is all well and good, but if it does not lead to action, something is wrong. Doing good things and searching our hearts should go hand in hand, as they work together to bring growth.
As of the latest episode (Episode 11), Yura might have finally realized that her desire to be acknowledged by others is a misplaced desire (though how she comes to realize that is… a bit weird). As such, she now faces Sonora in a duel that will ultimately show (next episode) if she has learned anything from this whole experience.
This show is definitely an interesting one. I would say that it deconstructs the whole plot idea of joining an activity in search of personal improvement, in showing how doing so is more likely to lead to personal destruction if only outside changes are made. The question remains just how this will all play out, and if the conclusion is ultimately fitting or a disappointment, but for now, I can definitely appreciate the fact that this show is willing to bring its main character down this dark path that these types of shows so rarely explore.