While it didn’t do particularly well, Stella C3-bu really resonated with me. As an airsofter, its presentation of the sport and of Yuna’s character was particularly strong to me, and while it went largely unappreciated, it had a good story to tell and a good message to send.
This article will contain spoilers for Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division, Class C3. Hit the jump and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For those who are unfamiliar, airsoft is a combat sport, similar to paintball, that’s played using replica firearms that fire small plastic BBs. The style of the game is inspired heavily by first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, and covers a wide range of game types and rulesets.
The major difference between airsoft and paintball is the fact that, while paintballs leave a visible mark upon being hit, airsoft BBs do not. This is one of the major elements keeping airsoft from gaining the level of recognition paintball has in becoming a professional sport. Because airsoft BBs don’t mark, there’s no way to prove a hit. As a result, airsoft works on the honor system. Referees can help, but for the most part, airsofters must trust each other to call their own hits.
Misunderstandings can occur, and are generally forgiven. Thick gear or clothing might cushion a BB’s impact to the point where it’s hard to tell if one took a hit or not, and depending on the rules of the playing field, ricocheting BBs may or may not count. Make no mistake, however: For the most part, airsoft BBs travel fast enough to make their impact noticeable, even through most thick clothing, and even if the impact isn’t felt, the sound of an airsoft BB bouncing off of protective gear like a helmet or body armor is distinct.
True “victory” or “defeat” can never be 100% ascertained. A team may still be declared victor at an event, but the fact that one unsportsmanlike player who can manage to stay out of a referee’s line-of-sight often enough and long enough can turn the tide of battle if they’re never caught, simply by refusing to call their hits muddies the waters. People can play outside the rules very easily, making “winning” and “losing” almost a moot point.
As a result, airsoft, as an activity, is much more focused on the experience, rather than trying to be a sport. In so many words, it’s about having fun. The kind of mentality that values “victory,” however arbitrary, over having a good time, has no place in airsoft, in my opinion. Sports like paintball and laser tag are much better for that kind of competition. Airsoft’s appeal, to me, is that it’s a community thing.
I drive up to the field, grab the guitar bag out of my trunk (I don’t have a gun bag, so I carry my airsoft guns in a guitar bag to for the time being), walk up into the staging area, and am welcomed by a bunch of guys and girls, all chatting, laughing, comparing gear and loadouts, borrowing magazines and batteries from each other, and having a great time. And this is all before the game starts! The entire experience that encompasses “airsoft” is much more than just the game. It’s the gear, and the people you play with, as well.
Let’s take the gear. Much of airsoft is a fashion show, and this is apparent when looking at any airsoft pick-up game. I’ve seen guys in full multicam with helmets and night optics, brandishing Bushmaster ACRs, looking like they just stepped out of the latest CoD game. I’ve seen the girl in the hoodie, rolling with a hot pink M4. The Geeky Panda wears a (real) Russian mountain suit and carries a G36. A friend of mine carried a Captain America shield into battle. Me, I wear polyurethane cat ears on my helmet and wear a plate carrier stuffed with books to give it weight and rigidity.
The people really make the experience, however. Because the mutual trust in each other to play fairly is there, there’s rarely an issue, especially among friends and other close-knit groups. A camaraderie exists within the teams, regardless of who’s put on which team. People comfortably share trenches and cover, stack up in close quarters, and watch each other’s backs. A similar camaraderie exists between the teams as well. It’s friends shooting at friends, and people aren’t afraid to compliment their “enemy” on a well-executed shot before pulling their “dead” marker and walking back to respawn. They’re not blinded by the pursuit of “victory.” In no uncertain terms, it’s just a game.
This is why C3-bu resonated with me so much. It captured the spirit of airsoft so well that seeing Yura become so focused on winning, and further, become so focused on personal glory, was kind of painful to watch, and other airsofters I’ve watched the show with agreed with me. The C3 club is the quintessential group of airsoft friends: A rag-tag bunch of fun-loving misfits who fill different roles, have different specialties, and use all sorts of different equipment, all brought together by the love of airsoft. They go out into the woods with their goggles on and their guns out, shoot each other for a couple hours, then come back, eat, talk, and laugh. That’s exactly how airsoft games go, and throughout the course of the show, Yura became exactly the kind of person who ruins that dynamic (And, to be fair, Rin is too, but only to an extent. She and her team focus on victory, but they’re still sportsmen about it. They don’t cheat to win.).
Yura’s thirst for “victory” at all costs alienated her friends, and created a tense atmosphere around her. The show, which began as a slice-of-life, “cute girls doing cute things” show took a quite darker turn as we saw Yura go from enjoying the experience of airsoft to focusing solely on the tenuous competitive aspects of it.
Notice how Yura stopped having her little delusions once she got more into winning airsoft games than experiencing them. To me, and I’d wager this applies to many other airsofters as well, airsoft is played in the pursuit of what I call “moments.” In the context of airsoft, these “moments” are situations in which something awesome happens. Yura’s delusions are a perfect illustration of what one of these “moments” feels like. When Yura stops having fun experiencing airsoft, the “moments” also stop, but when it all comes back around, and Yura comes back to the C3-bu and enjoys airsoft again, her delusions also come back.
I love airsoft. When the sun’s setting and I’m tired, and my M&P40’s magazine has gone through a few more CO2 canisters, and my M4 magazines are empty, and the memory card in my GoPro is full, and I’ve got a few new stories to tell, and I wake up the next day to sore legs, I had a great time. C3-bu captured that experience, the good and the potential bad, and put it in anime form, right down to the smooth jazz playing in my head as I dash from cover to cover on the airsoft field.