You either found her extremely fascinating or extremely frustrating. Shimamura was someone who divided opinion when Adachi & Shimamura came out. With so many yuri shows that came out with couples being very open about their relationships and romances, Adachi & Shimamura was unique in that it presented a much more realistic scenario; girls that aren’t the popular type at school who have their own views on the people around them. Adachi becomes the one who effectively makes the first move, and so when people saw Shimamura’s apparent lack of response, they got fairly frustrated. A girl is in love with her, and she doesn’t respond? Other yuri shows like Bloom Into You and Sakura Trick saw couples who openly accepted each other, sometimes immediately, with their later episodes going into further detail on how their romance blossomed. So because Adachi & Shimamura was such a slow burn show, that may have been the reason why viewers’ frustration may have been misplaced.
Only a slow burn could work for a show like this, because both of them weren’t completely open with their feelings from the get-go. In fact, it wouldn’t be until around halfway through until we got to see more from Shimamura’s perspective, and how she really felt about her new best friend. The show is, for the most part, told from Adachi’s point-of-view, and so in the moments where we get to see things through Shimamura’s eyes are things that form our opinion of her as a whole. Most of our focus would be watching Adachi and her puppy love, but while all of this was happening, we never got to see much of how torn Shimamura is…
(This post contains spoilers for Adachi & Shimamura)
..and she is torn. Her past experiences in elementary school have turned her into someone withdrawn from the world. She has a regular so-so relationship with her mother and younger sister. She no longer finds connection with new girls at school. She skips classes just so she can be alone in her own bubble. And so it’s by chance that she meets Adachi, who feels just as withdrawn as her, only for different reasons. Food, casual chat and table tennis bring the two together. But even with this building friendship, Shimamura is still conflicted. She hates the fact that she was rejected by her former best friend, Tarumi, and so finding and gaining trust is something she has had to learn all over again. Yes, even while we see Adachi’s dream sequences of the two kissing, Shimamura keeps that barrier up. Perhaps it is this that was making people think twice about her.
I have to admit that, when I reviewed this for Otaku Theater, I got a little concerned about how I overused the term ‘yuribait’ when it didn’t really apply to a full-on yuri show like Adachi & Shimamura. That term had been something I’d just used casually for god knows how long to talk about shows containing yuri, and so I was taken aback when I saw people pretty upset at my overuse of it for this show. The genre is something I don’t often write too deeply into, you see, and so due to that, I understand their frustration.
As the show progresses, we see Shimamura learning how to trust again. She chooses to make time to hang out with Adachi when it comes to things like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. And from what I saw in the show, I could see that Shimamura was not oblivious about Adachi’s feelings in any way, despite her appearing so. She’s able to see that Adachi is pretty much in love with her, but has stopped herself from doing something about it because she doesn’t want to risk losing the relationship. She just doesn’t want to deal with the burden of being thought of as someone special, among other hang-ups. After her past experiences with Tarumi (and other girls) in elementary school, Shimamura has grown to become a very cynical girl, and it has been this cynicism and pessimism that has meant she entered high school with no friends and no one to call a close confidant. Sure, there’s Nagafuji and Hino, but as we see in earlier episodes, she sees them as people to just hang out with, which can be seen as different to people to have a close relationship with. I mention her cynicism and pessimism, and so Shimamura doesn’t just take an issue on her old friends to not being able to keep in touch, but she also blames herself for her lack of desire to make the first move and put in any effort to maintain her friendships. Tarumi plays a key role in this, and I’ll go into her later.
Shimamura’s friendship with Adachi is convenient to her because Adachi is always the one that makes the first move; all Shimamura needs to do is play along with her puppy love. Deep down she likes how Adachi constantly seeks her attention (even though she never stops to reflect on the reasons why this is the case), so she’s always willing to go along with whatever crazy request Adachi comes up with. As the show went along, I could see a good portion of people get frustrated with the slow burn, and directed a lot of their frustration towards Shimamura herself, for not really doing anything when it comes to Adachi’s attempts to develop a close (as in close close) relationship. I think this is the complete opposite. For Shimamura to openly acknowledge that that Adachi is in love with her would mean that she’d have to either reject her or accept her. This puts her in a real Catch-22 situation; rejecting her would mean giving up on a relationship she enjoys on many levels, but accepting her would mean having to put actual effort into it, which is something that she’s not sure she’s willing to do. Her past experiences in elementary school mean she is still unsure about the people around her, so in her eyes, Adachi would have to really show her that she can be someone to rely on. And as we see, Adachi slowly becomes someone to do just that.
The light novels make it clear from the beginning that Shimamura has got herself in a real predicament, but unlike Adachi she’s perfectly able to put up a front to hide it all. That’s the reason why she appears somewhat normal when interacting with others. She can hide her pessimism from the people around her, leaving her to remain in a pool of self-reflection. It would be pretty unreasonable however to expect the anime to adapt dozens of pages of internal monologue. I guess that it does a good job at promoting the light novels, which is really what you should read if you want to understand what’s actually going on. The story beyond the anime develops their relationship even more, brings characters closer together, and has more of that weird astronaut girl too.
Shimamura’s relationship with Adachi is just one part to her though. There’s also the way she feels about the people she ‘hangs around with’, like Nagafuji and Hino. The two of them are great secondary characters and extremely cute to watch. The show definitely gives off the notion that those two are indeed people that Shimamura talks to at school, but goes no further than that…and that for Adachi, it’s something very different. But when it comes to Tarumi, who appears later on in the show, it becomes something similar, which conflicts Shimamura a lot.
Tarumi was Shimamura’s best friend in elementary school. Shimamura’s own attempts to get super close to her back then failed, and so is likely a major reason why she has closed herself off in the way she has. In the winter, they happen to run into each other, and Tarumi makes it her mission to reconcile. This restarted friendship is something that Shimamura can benefit from as well; she did not make any plans to enter high school with a clean slate, and so Tarumi’s arrival can make her think back to how things were when she was much younger and what kind of girl she was back then. Though with what we see onscreen, it can be difficult to judge whether Tarumi herself actually feels something more. On the day of their first ‘hanging out’, it’s clear to see that both of them feel very awkward and uncomfortable. As we see more of Tarumi, it’s rather sweet to watch her rebuild bridges and try to be close again. At this point in Adachi & Shimamura, she doesn’t even know about Adachi, and so we can’t call her a third wheel or someone trying to shoehorn in for Shimamura’s affection. The way Shimamura sees it, Tarumi is someone who wants to relive the fun the two had back in elementary school. Realizing this, Shimamura has been put into another Catch-22 situation; a completely different one. Rejecting Tarumi would mean losing the fun she had back then permanently, while accepting her would mean her feeling rotten when hanging around Adachi, considering how much effort the two of them have invested in building a relationship from scratch.
How I saw this, Tarumi’s arrival ended up being a kind of motivation for Shimamura to evaluate how she really feels about the people around her, both Adachi and Tarumi. She is far more forward with her emotions and feelings than Adachi, and it’s been this that has put Shimamura in that Catch-22. Whenever they hang out, Tarumi often brings up a lot of things that Shimamura feels either uncomfortable or guilty about. However it’s possible that, from Tarumi’s perspective, she wants to have some closure to what happened between the two of them back then, so they can start again…and bringing up nostalgic memories is just a sideshow. And of course, she feels rotten too. Through Shimamura’s eyes in earlier episodes, we see how much of a pain it was for the two of them to drift apart. So the way Tarumi might see it, some closure and then rebuilding is something she is desperate to have, and while Shimamura does play along, Adachi is still someone at the back of her mind.
The last episode is particularly noteworthy though. Shimamura lets Adachi stay at hers for a sleepover, which is a landmark point in the building of their relationship alone. Adachi manages to get herself into Shimamura’s family, earning respect from the mother and rivalry from the younger sister. As I pointed out in Otaku Theater, this particular episode reminded me from a moment in the game Life Is Strange, where the main character Max returns to her old home to study photography and meets her childhood friend Chloe’s mother again. She has known Max for a long time and treats her like a princess, unlike her own daughter who has turned into a trouble-making delinquent. Shimamura’s mother meets Adachi and believes her to be some kind of role model for her truant daughter, oblivious to the fact that Adachi’s own truancy is how she met Shimamura in the first place. It makes one think whether the mother believes that Adachi could be the one who can ‘change’ Shimamura and make her a ‘better person’. But I’m going on a tangent there.
This episode presents a major point in their relationship. We get to see Adachi’s puppy love come to a head, and more importantly, we get to see Shimamura break her barrier down. The invitation to sleepover was a point in itself, but her letting Adachi sleep in her covers shows that Shimamura has cast away her past cynicism of others, and made her realize that creating close relationships with others really is worth the effort. The show ends with a seat change at school, but we notice that their desks have been placed a little closer together, which represents that their relationship has moved forward that much. Shimamura still has some more work to do, balancing her new close relationship with Adachi and her rebuilt friendship with Tarumi, but we know that it is something she can now do. The Shimamura we saw in episode 1 could never do this.
Adachi & Shimamura was such a detailed show that put out a more realistic idea of two girls building romance. We can watch other yuri shows that cut straight to the romance, almost instantly, and while they are fun and entertaining to watch, some of us (myself included) think about how quickly the two girls got together, and how well put together it all was, like some jigsaw puzzle. Romances have their ups and downs, and couples can have all sorts of feelings about how they perceive their relationships. They go into a lot of ‘what if?’s, and wonder if they are even worthy of being together. These are all far more realistic scenarios in a relationship, and with added teenage hormones, we got to see both Adachi’s puppy love and Shimamura’s unease in starting close relationships again after the pain she had before. The show did put Adachi more in the spotlight, but I found Shimamura to be the far more interesting of the two. As of time of writing, a second season has not been announced, and to be honest, I’d be worried if there was one. While the story would be expanded, I worry that we wouldn’t get the kind of impact that this one had – it would instead be shown as an extension. The slow burn in the show worked and was something that was perfect for the kind of relationship that Shimamura had not just with Adachi, but with Tarumi too. Some viewers may have objected to all that, and just wanted them to get on with it, though. But rushing through all of this would not have made Adachi & Shimamura the kind of story it is now.
Adachi & Shimamura is available now on Funimation.