If I were to affix a one-word description to Softenni, as a series, then I’d use ‘relaxing’. Softenni really embodies that word when you think about it. There’s absolutely zero tension in everything that goes on, so you don’t have to worry about adverse events, character drama, or potential hardships down the road. The worst that happens is that the girls lose a tennis match and even that was turned into one of the happiest moments of the series with everyone laughing, smiling, and just enjoying life.
The seventh episode of Sofuteni (I love alternating the title) is the perfect example of the new ‘relaxing’ tag this anime deserves. This episode was clearly divided between two segments, one which followed Yura, the spy from Kurodama Middle School, and the other which featured the expedition to the training camp. While those stories hardly sound calming, these episodes featured the girls turning their tennis court into a pool party (somehow) and relaxing at a mountain hot springs.
Let’s focus on the pool half first. The story revolved around Yura secretly scouting the bizarre soft tennis club of Hakuou Middle School in order to obtain an unfair advantage for her school’s club. However, after being discovered, she pretends to be interested in joining the club and subsequently begins practicing with them (note: they didn’t have any more inadequately-sized tennis uniforms so she wore a school swimsuit instead, which should not be surprising for this anime by now) hoping to learn more secrets. However, the girls all change into their swimsuits and, instead of practicing, just mess around and have fun. The complete absence of consequence during these scenes would be irritating in other animes where they fragment story elements and drag out fanservice but here we see the opposite effect. Watching the girls play together and having fun was the climax here. It was the whole point of this story. Never building tension or drama allowed the viewer to simply enjoy the scene just for the sake of it. Normally, I’d be try to hold this anime to higher standards and bash it critically, but I decided to soften my stance and just enjoy watching an anime do what it wants to do.
The hot springs half, as I’m calling it, felt the same way in terms of tranquility, although the second half introduced some pseudo-tension that was completely outweighed by scenes of the girls relaxing in a warm, mountain stream. Despite being lost in the mountains trying to find their training camp, for what I can only imagine is find new excuses not to play tennis, the girls stumble upon a mountain hot spring. The water is just perfect and the lack of horny stalkers makes it the perfect setting for the girls to relax and let their troubles soften away. The ‘tension’ that was built up in this segment were completely ignored so that you could see the soft tennis club don towels and unwind after trekking up a seemingly novice mountainside. Then other stuff happened with a bear and a tennis court crowning a Mayan-styled temple which immediately triggered flashbacks of that pyramid-styled pro shop from that one Simpsons episode (if you watch the Simpsons as much as I have, then you should automatically know which one I’m talking about). But yeah, the point of that segment was more relaxation.
What also helps with the relaxation are how the show lives entirely in the present. With Softenni, you’re allowed to shut your brain off and enjoy whatever is going on at the current moment, whether it is a tennis, comedy, slice-of-life, or ecchi scene. You are able to just focus on the present scenes rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future. How many times do you see a character in another anime in a fight where you feel concern over their outcome or worry about future consequences an action might have? You don’t really ever develop those feelings in Softenni because there is no substantial character or story development. Instead, Softenni wants to be something fun and enjoyable. Without these stimulating factors, your brain is able to settle down and loosen up. Well, that’s provided you can stop being so decisive and unforgiving over just a simple anime.
The presence of animals in Softenni is odd if you think about it. Most animes usually do not have a strong prevalence of animals, aside from being traditional pets or wild animals to show signs of decay and disorder. Softenni, however, has animals featured everywhere. We’ve seen countless cows, giant salamanders, boar, bunnies, dear, flying squirrels, and even a colossal bear. And not only that, but the animals are used for censorship as well, blocking out all that wickedness and whatever they think is bad for us. I am having difficult time thinking about another anime where animals have not been one of the major focuses or themes yet were displayed on the screen as much as they have been in Softenni. It’s actually kind of interesting to think about the lack of wild or domestic animals in anime. Most settings do take place in urban landscapes, though, so you can’t have cows, boar, or bunnies roaming the streets without there being some alarm and bewilderment. I hope we keep seeing a strong presence of animals in Softenni (except the censorship kind!) even if they have no real purpose.