Shinokita Reiko and Yajima Junko are second-year high school students who travel from school to school fighting bad guys, ninjas, yakuza and corruption. At this high school they encounter a secret ninja order and a corrupt administrator, as well as a tragic death in the distant past. With the help of Kotetsu, a skilled ninja, they set the school to rights, but not before leaving several broken hearts behind.
Similar to the Japanese flag's rising sun, a sanguine star is setting upon a darkened forest of spruce. Suddenly troubling this quiet sight worthy of a naturalist etching, a shinobi bolts from within the tree line. Far from being on a mission, his endeavor is dashing to escape another ninja party, fiercely resolute to make an attempt on his life... It seems that the fugitive is facing overwhelming odds, but could it be that the prey turn into the predator, thanks to a well calculated gambit?
This immediately sets the tone of Yajikita Gakuen. One notices at once that the shadow warriors appear in their
traditional imagery. Indeed, they have more in common with the historical Kotaro Fuma than Naruto Uzumaki. That is how it goes. Apart from the dramatically emphasized scuffles here and there, the vision Yajikita Gakuen Douchuuki shows through of martial artists is classicist rather than fantasist...
But what exactly is Yajikita Gakuen Douchuuki? Unknown in the West, the OAV series is adapted from a long running serial from 1984 to 1992, published in the Bonita comic magazine. The manga version appears as more Shoujo connoted, as the covers and the image album's illustrated pictures suggest. In itself, the manga was not completely created ex-nihilo, as it drew inspiration from Shank's Mare, a popular novel from the Edo period. However, it is noteworthy that the YGD anime significantly distances itself from the tone of this literary classic. Indeed, the revised Yaji and Kita of Ryouko Shitou do not match with the original Picaresque disposition of the duo. Here, they are more or less martial artists for hire, who never turn a blind eye to shocking misconducts, that being said. What is flagrant, is how they act as a neutral party interceding in conflicts, as they go about on a late Showa era Japan still torn between conservation of traditions and modernity. Rather than setting off to punish, their agenda is to bring common sense where there is mortal grudge. While determined to restore calm and justice, they never do so without compassion, in spite of their adversaries' sins. As such, we cannot stray as far from the typical Nekketsu vision as it gets: there is no climactic slaying of a one dimensional evil fiend nor anybody standing out as a clear victor. On the contrary, the antagonists whose honor is badly smeared, walk off, recovering from their inner turmoil. Their path is of the evasion of mortification and our two heroines simply give the push towards their catharsis. At the light of this interpretation, their concern is then to replace martial art as a tool of pacification instead of self serving worth. Which is also why we do not see them wield any weapon (Kita only hurls a kunai once at her target to test his dodging expertise), even though they face opponents set to exterminate any outsider standing in their way. Overwhelmed as they are by sheer number, this makes for more tense storytelling when things get nervous. At the same time, Yaji and Kita are not made the narrative's primary focus. The summary way they are fleshed out would usually be considered negatively, but as they're more or less cast in the background, it works in the benefit of the cases they investigate about. They feature tortured souls, misguided they are by their outdated codes of honor or passion. While the main characters are somewhat attaching, the underpinnings of this two parter OAV remain the lead villains. Personal favorite is the leader of the Shadow Military clan, who associates her fondness for gardening to a warlike disposition. The game of contrast between this gentle hobby and her brutal "no holds barrel to meet the result" mindset is simply awesome, in its staged subtlety. Likewise, the script is admirable, with inspirational dialogues that never sound too grandiloquent or preachy. Even the final catharsis of the second episode takes said game of contrast into account. It is this kind of gravitas that makes the conclusions bittersweet and yet rewarding.
This anime is not without its flaws though; the kind of writing it uses delivers best under the movie format. It is a little too short for OAV's. What makes for a dynamic pace is somewhat lost in scenario intelligibility. What is the connection between the fate legend and the leader of the Shadow Military Clan? How Kotetsu, Yaji and Kita's aide, find some of his crucial information? By the way, that Kouga ninja is problematic... Unfortunately, not as much employed as he should be, he is made into a plot mouthpiece rather than an organically woven character. Besides, what is with his whirlwind teleport? What seems to be the only super power in this anime is employed for rule of the cool appearances but is never shown or talked upon during other instances. Also, in the first episode, a ghost girl, directing Yaji's tracks, is seen at key points. These lone supernatural elements, on an otherwise grounded production design, are jarring. Going against certain of Knox's commandments, they undermine the crime mystery aspect in the process. Even then, YGD still makes up for it with its fine dramatization.
The art is fairly competent. Chara-design translates emotions well, overall, such as the majestic contempt in Yaji's face as an innocent student is about to get punched in the face or when the fearful chairman of the Martial Arts school, trapped on his car with sabotaged brakes, tries to mean he needs help even though nobody can hear his plea. Sometimes there are misses, such as this student nosing into the militaristic club's affairs, who seems more like he is beaten to a pulp than being on the verge of death. Animation is fluid as a whole. Action scenes being the most tricky part, the key animation does an alright job at staging dynamic fight choreography through the use of gyrating camera shots, parallax and other shortcut effects. As dated as they may appear, JC Staff and T-Up did a good enough job to not let it break spectator's immersion.
Soundtrack is an engaging blend of Japanese folk instrumentation, kinetic keyboard, and supporting electric guitar and violins for certain middle eights. It goes along smoothly with the unity of time and place of the OAV series. Sound design in the actual anime is not ill chosen as well: in the first episode, the opening is the tonally fitted Kaze ni Koishite and as a relief to a rather heavy conclusion an upbeat Ban Hana ra, which channels the more light-hearted roots of the Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige novel.
To cap it off, Yajikita Gakuen Douchuuki is a sensible tale articulated around the topoi of forgiveness, acceptance of fatality and allegiance to overly rigid codes of conduct. Its dregs make it a title only standing a Gi away from being psychological drama classic. Its relative obscurity is undeserved. If you are ready to overlook its slightly outdated production values, it is largely worth of the one hour and a half you give it. One can hardly go wrong with this old-styled item, if searching for something more cerebral than a run of the mill actionner. KingMenu gently fansubbed it in February 2017, check the forum discussion below to watch it in its entirety...
Praise be unto Sacred Geometry~
..| Colophon |..
This section is dedicated to content indication in order to inform audience in a practical way. On the next paragraph, the buzzwords offer hints about the title's strong suits and drawbacks.
Ketchup meter: Nothing too objectionable, there is bloodshed but no gore. YGD is an anime scarce when it comes to write on-screen death, which accentuates its seriousness.
xXx meter: With JC Staff behind the tiller, you would expect at least some Ecchi but surprisingly enough the staff showed discipline and modesty. Not even a voyeuristic intent behind the main protagonists outfits, as demonstrated with the presence of the long skirts, senior schoolgirls normally sport in Japan. The only titillation for the perverted spectator is a couple of panty shots lost in the screenplay, and even so they are barely discernible as the heroine counter an assault. Thus, they are not completely gratuitous. There is also a little yaoi bait tied to the boss of United Kanto Group but it does not go too far (in fact, it is played out for comic value), thankfully.
Fishing scene(s): None.
+ A solid concept, balancing feminine cast's sensitivity with masculine cast's roughness
+ No tonal whiplash caused by disruptive comedy or romance
+ The brilliant dramatization, escalating towards the final catharsis
+ The brainy characterization of the antagonists
- Better fitted for a movie format with higher production values and more length
- Not as deft in handling crime mystery genre as psychological drama
- Too short of a series in regards of the promising production design