Yuri Anime: Aim for the Ace! / Ace wo Nerae!

January 20th, 2004

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Part 1

This week, I’ll be running over a few yuri titles which are, as I say above, old, new, borrowed and blue. Call it a “theme week.”

First up, today, something old. And now I’m torn, which of the many, many old series that I’ve grown to love, do I review?

Let’s start with this one:
Ace wo Nerae!, (Aim for the Ace!) This is probably one of the oldest truly *shoujo* anime out there. Originally fansubbed by the competent, if somewhat stuffy (they vehemently deny any possibility of any of the affection in their fansubs as being shoujoai,) fansubbing group Technogirls, it’s being currently fansubbed digitally by ILA Fansubs and assumably available on their irc channel. Check the websites for details – *please* don’t email me and ask how to get it, I can’t really help you with that.

Ace wo Nerae, adapted from the popular manga of the same name (another Margaret magazine shoujoai classic!) is the story of Oka Hiromi, a first year student at Nishi High School. Hiromi, like many other girls in the school, deeply admires Ryuzaki Reika, known as “Ochoufujin,” the shining star of the girl’s tennis team. Ochoufujin, along wth the other upperclassmen, make up an unbeatable women’s tennis team which has attracted over 100 first-year newbies – including Hiromi and her friend Maki. Hiromi is happy as a clam to be near to her idol, Ochoufujin, and even get the occasional kind word from her, but everything changes the day the new coach shows up.

For some reason the new coach sees potential in Hiromi that no one, not even Hiromi herself, can fathom. He singles Hiromi out and begins working her mercilessly, even replacing one of the ace upperclassmen with a terrified and, subsequently, harrassed, Hiromi.

Ace wo Nerae will immediately remind viewers of another Margaret manga classic Oniisama E (Brother, Dear Brother) since the character designs and direction for the anime were done by the same people; and the plot is the usual shoujo fare of the seemingly average girl being catapulted into the rarified world of the great ones in her school. The biggest difference is that in Ace, Hiromi finds herself not only capable of handling the stress, but grows to be a very strong person and a very strong tennis player, as opposed to just growing up a little as a result of her experiences. We actually get to see her game improve over time and, as she matures and becomes the player the coach knew she could be, she steps into a position as one of the team aces.

In terms of yuri, Ace definitely straddles the line between akogare (adoration) and shoujoai. Because this manga and anime are from 1973, the shoujoai is encoded in small, subtle things. You won’t see tearful confessions of love, much less a kiss or anything, but watch Hiromi carefully, as she dresses to bring flowers to Ochoufujin…or if you can find it, there’s a wonderful screencap from the Ace wo Nerae movie, as Hiromi and Ochoufujin head off to America together (a code in itself, really, as America is always seen in lesbian fiction as the place to escape to to be together.) Hiromi is wearing a three-piece white suit and tie, her hair has gone completely masculine. She looks about as butchy as someone could possibly have drawn a girl in the early 70’s.

As a representative of early shoujoai, Ace wo Nerae is a spectacular example, but expect a fair dollop of cheesy-ness, as the character designs, music, art, etc are all over 30 years old. The op art graphics and laugahble opening theme are delightfully retro now.The most important thing is that the characters are genuinely likeable and their motivations fathomable. I give this one a strong recommendation, if you want to see where many of the conventions of shoujoai come from.

Ratings: Art – tough to call, because it’s so dated. For its time, 7 out of 10. Music – Makes me giggle everytime I hear it, 6 out of 10. Character Design – 8 out of 10. Characters – 9 out of 10. Story – 9 out of 10. Overall – 8 out of 10.

As always, for updates on Ace wo Nerae and other classic anime and manga, join us at the Yuricon Mailing List.

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