In Short:

Released in 2022 by CloverWorks, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a twelve episode anime based on a manga of the same name. It follows twelve year old Komichi Akebi as she starts her first year of junior high at the same all girls private academy that her mother attended several years before. All throughout elementary school, Komichi was the only student in her class, so she is beyond thrilled to finally be able to make friends with girls her own age.

Due to an odd mix up, neither Komichi nor her mother realized that the school recently changed its dress code from the bright white sailor-style uniforms Komichi’s mother wore to more modern dress shirts and dark navy blazers. This leaves Komichi as the one girl at her new school who is dressed differently from everyone else. Fortunately, Komichi’s athleticism, endlessly cheerful attitude, and occasional quirkiness help her quickly become the most popular girl in school as she befriends the fifteen other girls in her homeroom class.

Suggested Minimum Watch: 2 Episodes. The first episode largely covers the lead up to getting Komichi to her new school. The second episode, where Komichi first begins to really interact with her classmates, more closely resembles the flow of the rest of the series.

Full Review:

I was initially a little confused when I heard that the opening song to Akebi’s Sailor Uniform featured the voice actresses of all sixteen members of Komichi’s homeroom class. Having now finished the show, it strikes me as a perfect choice, and one that immediately reflects what the show is all about.

The song fits so well because Akebi’s Sailor Uniform strives to give life to every member of Komichi’s class. Each one of these girls is more than just a few facts on a fan wiki. They each have their own lifelike personalities that are slowly revealed during the course of the anime. By the end of the series I had come to know more about each of these sixteen girls and can now tell you at least one noteworthy scene each of them features in.

For instance, take Toko Usagihara who sits at the desk behind Komichi and is practically the visual and emotional reincarnation of Ritsu Tainaka from K-On! She is someone who is goofy and who loves to mildly tease others, but also someone who enjoys delighting her friends with good-natured surprises. We find that she is actually a bit jealous of Komichi, but she quickly puts that aside to become perhaps the best supporting character in the series.

Or, take Riri Minakami, the blond-haired girl that sits on the opposite side of the room from Komichi. She’s an award-winning athlete and someone who is fiercely competitive in most everything she does. She’s also perfectly happy to annoy her fellow classmates if it gets them to interact with her. At one point, she makes a bet with Komichi that leads to one of the most tension filled episodes in this notably low tension series.

And then there’s Komichi herself. She is this incredible bundle of non-stop energy who tries her absolute best at everything she does. Yes, she’s a little quirky, and a little naive. In some ways, because she lives in a rural area without anyone to interact with other than her mother, father, and adorable little sister, she is just a bit of a country bumpkin. But, to her credit, Komichi is so friendly with and so accepting of her peers that they can’t help but admire her. Her athleticism and generally good grades don’t hurt her any, either. Komichi’s homemade sailor uniform may be the easiest way to pick her out of a crowd at school, but it’s her personality that wins her an entire class of friends.

One of the things this anime excels at is creating memorable moments of interaction between its characters. Their dialogue. Their actions. Everything just sorta works together to make these characters feel authentic. Frequently, episodes will feature Komichi befriending or hanging out with one or two of her classmates which often leads to unexpected, heartwarming scenes.

Sometimes, these scenes are defined by their quietness. At one point, Komichi and a friend are trapped at a bus stop by a sudden downpour and choose to read a book together until the rain lets up. Other times, these scenes can be quite energetic. Like when one of Komichi’s friends attempts to teach her how to cook with somewhat disastrous results.

What’s remarkable is how natural each of these moments feel. Although Akebi’s Sailor Uniform has a bit of tension here and there, and a fair amount of humor sprinkled throughout, the show doesn’t really exist to push melodrama or jokes with punchlines. This isn’t really a K-On!, a A Place Further Than The Universe, or a Sound! Euphonium. It’s more like the show is just here to give us a peak into the girls’ lives. Even their occasional goofy or embarrassing moments are used to reveal these girls’ inner thoughts or dig up some small nuggets of backstory. Many of these moments often have subtle but lasting impacts, too. Like how being temporarily trapped at the bus stop leads Komichi to finally figure out which school club she wanted to join. And how, by joining that club, she inadvertently ends up helping another one of her classmates find the confidence to learn a new skill later on.

Sure, sometimes the girls in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform do notably silly or odd things. The show makes it a minor point to not shy away from embarrassing moments which led to some on The Internet to mistake it for being far more weird or far less wholesome than it actually is. I’ll talk more specifics down in the Dig Deeper section below, but basically, if you see someone accusing the show of being anything but pure and good-natured, there’s a good chance they’re vastly overblowing one scene or another.

Art and Animation:

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform owes a lot to its manga. Perhaps more than most anime. It, of course, gets its strong characters and heartwarming plots from its print version, but it also gets a lot of its art and even its animation almost directly from its manga!

Some of the most detailed scenes of animation in the anime, like Komichi tying her hair back into a ponytail, or the fun episode four ending credits where Komichi does some impressive jump rope tricks, come from moments where the manga would drop everything away and just string together three, or four, or a dozen impressive close ups of Komichi in motion. The anime does a terrific job of taking the detailed art style of the manga and giving it a place where its static drawings could come to life with real motion.

There are certainly anime out there that feature more animation. More frames. More effects. And more details than this show. But I see Akebi’s Sailor Uniform as an animator’s anime. This is a show that Tsubame Mizusaki, a character from the anime Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, would want to work on. She was representative of any number of hard working animators determined to go the extra mile to depict movement and emotion despite all too common time crunches and budget pressures. And that’s just what Akebi’s Sailor Uniform does. It features a fair amount of stunning backgrounds and takes a ton of delight in conveying emotive movements without the benefits of the seemingly unlimited budgets that some anime shows or movies seem to be gifted with.

Sometimes the show has to drop to beautiful still panning shots to get its point across, but when it really wants to animate something, it does so brilliantly. This is a show that, in brief moments of effort, can rival Sound! Euphonium in its depictions of a musical instrument or challenge volleyball anime Haikyuu!! for the best depiction of a game winning spike.

As I already mentioned, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform does something fun and unique with its opening song by allowing all sixteen of the main voice actresses to participate. The ending theme is nice and warm in a way that fits the show well. There’s also a nice song or two within the anime sung or played by characters. Interestingly enough, the production also recorded a short album by Komichi’s favorite idol, Miki Fukumoto. You can hear those tracks in a couple places throughout the anime.

All In All:

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform is a fun, good-natured show that allows its energetic lead to become the glue that binds her entire junior high class together. It’s got some great music, some great animation, and does a particularly good job of creating impactful moments while it spreads its story around its fairly large cast of characters. And it does all this without resorting to any sort of tragedy or drama. It was a true delight to watch, and I think it will be well regarded as one of the better pure slice of life anime yet produced.

With a title like Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, you naturally wonder “why does this girl care so much about her school clothes?!” I loved the way it set up and layered Komichi’s reasons for loving her uniform. Komichi first fell in love with sailor uniforms the way kids get enamored by lots of this: by seeing it on tv. Specifically, Komichi saw her favorite teen idol, Miki Fukumoto, star in a random commercial for a brand of bottled water and Komichi couldn’t help but fall in love with Miki’s sailor uniform.

But then the show goes further, and has Komichi find a picture of her mom wearing a similar uniform back when she was Komichi’s age. Really though, knowning Komichi’s mom, I bet she dug that picture out for her daughter. Komichi’s mom was so active and supportive, I can just imagine her getting a lot of enjoyment seeing her daughter freak out over that old photo.

Then there’s the way they go together to the fabric store and Komichi’s mom lets her pick out the colors. And the way that Komichi takes up every household chore so as to allow her mom more time to work on her uniform. And it all comes together in that highly detailed almost dreamy shot of Komichi posing for her mother and sister downstairs after pulling on her new school clothes with that small, pure smile on her face. Simply amazing.

To me, the whole first half of the first episode did a terrific job of selling why Komichi’s sailor uniform was so important to her. It also really kinda gets all of that out of the way so the show can focus on character moments later on with the uniform just being a common thread (yes… pun away…) linking Komichi to her friends.

Oh. And I didn’t mention her too much in the main review, but Komichi’s little sister Kao is this show’s secret weapon. My favorite moment with her has to be the time she greeted volleyball star Hitomi Wasio with “You’re big!” only to get picked way up in the air by Hitomi, who is the tallest girl in Komichi’s class. “What is this little thing?” Hitomi deadpans while Kao giggles and cheers. 🙂

Another thing I liked a lot about the show was the way it occasionally added these extra layers of depth to its characters. Sometimes in unexpected ways. Two big examples here:

– The way Toko Usagihara’s smile briefly fades after she lends Komichi her blue dress. Toko says something like “If I were you I might have gone to school in Tokyo…” Later, after Komichi enthusiastically fails at cooking, Toko says: “I feel kinda relieved, though. I thought you were this perfect girl that could do anything.” In a show that is almost entirely devoid of conflict… Toko’s tinge of jealousy at Komichi’s looks and skills is really neat to catch on to.

– The anime does a really good job of adapting Erika’s storyline. Specifically in relation to her willingness to play the piano. At the beginning of the school year, Erika had not played her piano for some time. She had one in her dorm room, but it was covered in dust. Later, she wipes off that dust, and later still, we get to see her play a few notes on the piano in the music room while Komichi and Oshizu Hebimori hide from her. As the series draws to an end, Erika shakes off her rust while practicing for Komichi’s big afterparty dance. When Erika gets up on stage and plays her heart out for Komichi she oddly thinks: “The only reason I was able to enjoy playing like this again… was because of Komichi-san.”

There’s a second half to Erika’s story. Later in the manga we get to see the capital ‘R’ Reasons of why Erika stopped playing her piano earlier in life. There’s a bunch of little details dropped in the anime about this. Even one of the school clubs Erika joins is relevant, but the key piece of the puzzle is left out on purpose. As the story progresses past the ending of the anime, you begin to realize that there’s even more to Erika’s character than you thought there was. I love that the anime did the ground work for that future story even though it probably knew it’d never get to tell the second half.

Finally… the thing that disappointed me the most about Akebi’s Sailor Uniform was the way a few on The Internet reacted to it. There were some who strongly implied or outright accused it of being lewd. Of objectifying and sexualizing young girls. For the most part, I think these accusations are complete nonsense. That they say far more about the commentator than they do the show. Maybe that’s a bit of a mean way of putting it, but I read way too many people comment that they were hesitant about watching this show because of what others said about it. Which is a shame when the show is almost entirely pure and good-natured.

There were people who got worked up over Erika sniffing her nail clippers. To me, this was a scene that basically served to break the ice between Erika and Komichi, and was something Erika would not normally do. She straight up said she did not normally take her nail clippers with her. I think this was an embarrassing moment that the anime decided not to shy away from. And why should it have? Yes, it was embarrassing… but it was also something done on a whim. The point here was that Erika was nervous about her first day of school, and that Komichi’s act first, think later nature help start them down a path towards friendship.

There were plenty of others who accused the show of having a foot fetish. To me, this is just complete nonsense. Yes, we got quite a few detailed frames of feet in this show. But not a single one of them was lewd in any way. Komichi fidgeting while she talked with her father on the phone, or the show detailing a close up of her feet while she stood poised to jump into the pool… is not anything! Of all the accusations, the ones saying the show has a “foot fetish” are the ones that made me the most angry because the accusation is entirely made up.

The other moment I think people got worked up over unnecessarily over was the scene where Komichi pulls on her skirt and sailor uniform for the first time. The anime showed it in a lot of detail. So did the manga. But not because it was objectifying her. It did so because this was a special moment in this girl’s life. Her mother had made these clothes for her. She was trying them on for the first time. This outfit is one she knew would largely define her to her classmates at her new school for the next few years. And it’s not like Komichi was dressed provocatively in any way prior to pulling on her clothes. Her undergarments were actually surprisingly modest. Again, I think people who tried to turn this moment of awe in this girl’s life into something crude deserve some serious push back.

There was one scene in the show I do think deserves some scrutiny. In episode 3, Kei Tanigawa arrives home to find that her mom has gone out shopping. Alone in her room, she takes some partially undressed selfies. Komichi had spent the day pestering her to show off her legs. Telling her how pretty she thought her skin was. That part, I see as innocent. Komichi is the same girl who will smell her own feet or try to trade her sailor uniform top for a classmate’s blazer in the middle of class without thinking things through.

What Kei did, though… we only have to listen to her own inner thoughts as she snapped the photos on her phone.

“I actually took one! That’s so risque!”
“But it’s not lewd or anything… right?”
“I’m just taking a picture of myself.”
“And yet my heart is pounding.”
“I might be… a pervert.”
“I can’t send any of these.”

Yeah, this is a girl who knows what she is doing… has decided that what she is doing… is wrong. Or at least that she is uncomfortable with it. So… why does the anime show it? I think it has to do with one of her final thoughts:

“It’s like I’m seeing a version of myself I don’t know.”

Kei is seen by her classmates as the proper, strict, rules following student who cozies up to the teachers. And that annoys her a good bit.

“I can hear you.” She thinks to herself about the criticism others voice about her when she isn’t in the room. “I’m not trying to be particularly serious or anything. I just… don’t think anything is worth getting in trouble with the teachers over.”

These are the thoughts and the actions of a girl who is a little depressed by how others see her. By following the rules at school, she is not doing anything wrong at all. And yet, socially… she is. Kei looks over to Komichi, a girl who dances freely in the courtyard or who abruptly approaches people to ask them how they are doing, and wishes she herself could be a little less uptight.

“She so easily does the things I’ve always wanted to, but couldn’t.” Kei thinks about Komichi.

And that’s what she does with her selfies. They are minor acts of rule breaking. A minor rebellion. If the girl herself sees her own actions as a little risque or lewd, we can’t really argue with that, can we?

It’s our jobs as viewers to weight the anime’s willingness to show us these actions and scenes with the value they bring to the story or character. To me, there’s real value here. Of seeing the shy, depressed Kei alleviating some of her negative feelings.

We should also consider what Kei did afterwards and how this changed her. Did she fall into the clutches of a predator? Did she make this an ongoing habit? No. Aside from one accidentally sent photo, this is the only time we know of her doing this. And, on the positive side, her actions seem to have unlocked her love of photography. She went on to join the photography club. She pretty much became the class photographer and even made a wholesome photobook about her friends. If the show had shown us a fully nude shot of this girl then the equation would certainly change.

On balance, I think this was a positive thing the show did. It peered into a girl’s insecurities and we saw her address and overcome them. She is much happier at the end of the series than she is at the beginning and with no apparent ill effects otherwise. What sort of judgement should we put on the writers or animators for this sort of outcome?

Would the story be better without a couple of those lewd shots appearing on screen? Are we to just outright ban girls and women from ever doing anything we consider badSome of these questions you can only answer for yourself. But, you also need to properly convey context to others if you’re going to bring up these issues with them.

My answers? I think this was a good character moment. Yes, one that pushed some boundaries in some minor ways, but, on the whole of things, was nowhere close to what some people were presenting it as. I think it fit in with this show that is willing to mix in a few embarrassing moments with the far larger number of sweet, wholesome ones to tell a story of realistic characters and their actions.