Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

27 July 2013: Uchouten Kazoku and Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C³-bu are about the worlds you don't see

Nice boat.

Those of you who know where to find my current rankings may notice that I'm discussing these shows out of order. However, I have a reason for grouping these two dissimilar shows: They invoke mysticism and apply fantasy to otherwise normal settings. Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family) is about a family of tanuki and their dealings with tengu and other mythical creatures in an otherwise human-dominated world. C3-bu (pronounced "See Cubed" in favor of a thickly accented pun rather than the military acronym "See Three") is about an airsoft club at an upscale girls' school. The socially uncomfortable Yura falls in with a group of weirdos who teach her the Way of Airsoft.

Uchouten Kazoku also features a pretty MAMIKORE character.

Although I dislike the term "magical realism," I have to grudgingly admit it is a useful bit of shorthand for describing Uchouten Kazoku. The relationships among tanuki, tengu, and humans have been pretty interesting through the first three episodes and the show maintains its serious tone despite a few absurd elements (a cross-dressing raccoon dog being the least of these). Despite being about characters with magic powers (shape-shifting and flight), all of their problems seem profoundly human: Aging, piety, responsibility, disappointment, duty, love, family, respect, et cetera. Okay, I guess the problem the Shimogamo patriarch faced is not common among most humans.

Karila and Rento
I like how Karila lifts one foot like she's
kissing her boyfriend at a train station.

Early on, Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C³-bu was touted as an example of Gainax's decline from greatness. True, the studio has lost some considerably talented individuals, but those remaining seem willing to continue pursuing Gainax's particular strain of Crazy Shit Happening. The implication that the delusions Yura periodically experiences in C3-bu are more than simple hallucinations was surprising and gives me hope the show will be more than "Cute Girls Playing With Cute Guns." After a slow start (although episode two still had good moments), C3-bu has been quite engaging and appears ready to take the show in unconventional directions.

War is all Hell.

Comparisons with the wildly successful GIRLS und PANZER are natural, but perhaps not necessarily appropriate. For one thing, GIRLS und PANZER had "real" tanks, whereas C3-bu only has "toy" guns. Additionally, GIRLS und PANZER really conveyed the sense that sensha-do was a sport. On the other hand, airsoft as depicted in C3-bu still comes across as a game. Moreover, GIRLS und PANZER was about an experienced tank commander teaching a group of rookies the art of sensha-do, whereas C3-bu is about an experienced group raising a single rookie to become Queen of the Battle. This is particularly the case with the senior, Sonora. Based on superficial similarities between the schools of C3-bu and Maria-sama ga Miteru, you could kinda say Sono-chan-senpai-gunsou is the Sei of C3-bu, although Sei fucked with Yumi a lot more than Sono fucks with Yura.

Sonora and Yura
You're going to get spiders up your dress, sweetie.

There was also something about this Sawashiro Miyuki character that I couldn't quite put my finger on until I re-watched episode two: She brings life to the senpai character not just through her role but also through the familiarity of her voice. The other girls are new voices, at least to my ears (although I do recognize Kayano Ai from Oreshura), but Sawashiro Miyuki is very familiar. So not only is she playing the role of the senior who mentors the timid new freshman, her familiarity makes her stand out as the veteran voice at the head of all these new noises. It is particularly apparent in the ED when Sawashiro Miyuki's familiar full voice comes in to provide a richer sound to the closing song.

Shit just got unreal.

After three episodes, Uchouten Kazoku is as good as you should expect from its pedigree. With the notable exception of True Tears, I am generally pretty favorable of shows by P.A. Works. Uchouten Kazoku is artistic without being artsy and grounded despite being about flying creatures. After four episodes, Stella Women's Academy High School Division Class C3 is better than it has any right to be. Hopefully it is a testament that Gainax can still produce interesting fare regardless of the subject matter. And even if the show falls off a cliff, I at least got to use my Girls With Guns tag again.

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