Last year, I discovered a fun, albeit dumb, little series called Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. While not a grand masterpiece, it was highly entertaining and easy to watch, so when series two was released I was looking forward to more of the same idiotic fun, battles and nosebleeds. Sadly, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni became little more than another example of when sequels suck.
In no uncertain terms, the plotline’s quality has dropped since series one – and considering its predecessor wasn’t exactly epic, that’s saying something. The “Exam Summoning Battle” system forms the core and central hook of Baka Test’s first season, yet instead of serving as the anime’s linchpin, it can barely be found here. Much to its detriment, Ni has demoted the ESB to little more than a background gimmick to facilitate cheap laughs. By removing any competitive aspect the show’s various “battles” lose all purpose, and with no particular overarching plot, this season feels like thirteen episodes of filler. Where the first season creates a solid narrative around the system – having the idiotic underdogs of Class 2-F attempting to best the genius students of 2-A – Ni decides to see how many ridiculous and perverted situations it can get its hapless protagonists into and relegates the battles to mere facilitators in the boys’ many dubious antics.
Unfortunately, Ni also plummets into the trap which ruins many other series: it relies on the same tired gags to get laughs. This season depends more on its characters than any attempt at plotline, but when the cast remains static the small scope of jokes fails to make up for missing narrative. Elements such as Hideyoshi’s effeminate nature, Mizuki’s toxic cooking and Shouko’s sinister stalker-like obsession with Yuuji were previously amusing, but have restricted mileage, and they rapidly wear themselves out in this time around. So while the boys’ idiotic capers can still raise a smile (particularly when coupled with a smack down from Tetsujin), certain jokes get far too repetitive. For example, episodes five to seven make up a short arc where Akihisa et al attempt to unmask a blackmailer, which they must do by tying to peek into the girls’ bath. Though it still has odd amusing moments, after three episodes of the exact same joke, the novelty wears a bit thin, something that unfortunately spills over into the other ten installments.
Baka Test’s visuals are by far its strongest element. The dynamic nosebleeds and various battle stages remain as impressive as ever, as do the odd changes in colour palette and style for comedic effect. The pencil sketch-like shots of the various protagonists giving “serious advice” look gorgeous (even if they’ve been overused and now don’t quite have the same impact as before). Meanwhile psychedelic edge effects to denote a frenzied scream prove just as humorous as the standard blue wibbly lines of GLOOOOM!
With the same seiyuu reprising their roles for series two, Ni’s vocal cast performs just as admirably as they did during the first season. Muttsurini’s nasal inflections remain as creepy as ever, while Akihisa’s cheerfully dumb voice continues to make him endearing rather than just plain irritating or moronic. For me, however, the star of the vocal show is Kenjiro Tsuda’s deadpan narration. Certainly, the straight-laced delivery (which almost borders on the disinterested) of his lines adds a decent serving of humour to proceedings, or at the very least will make you grin.
If you’re going to build a series around characters then you need to do something worthwhile with them, not let them stagnate in a fetid pool of their own overused quirks and hope that a bit of nostalgia will save the day. This season relies on its cast to drive the show, and as such Ni needed to bring something impressive to the table; sadly, it didn’t. The characters personalities are the same as they were in the prequel, and they don’t develop in any way during the course of this series. Every individual has their designated oddities and they stick to them like a barnacle on a fifty-year-old fishing boat. That being said, the series does place more focus on depicting the characters’ pasts and the “love triangle” between Akihisa, Mizuki and Minami. Sadly, this has little impact on their behaviour, doesn’t move the story forward and in the case of Yuuji and Shouko’s flashback episode, blatantly refuses to even attempt to make you laugh.
The original Baka and Test was a funny, entertaining ride that I happily gave a 7.5 due to that fact. With the second season I didn’t expect the original formula to really change, but what I did expect was some form of plot or progression or something of the like. Not that Summon the Beasts had a fantastic story or anything, it was kind of weak in that regard. But the second season just doesn’t go anywhere or do much of anything. Now, I’m not saying things don’t happen, because things do happen. But the problem I have is that it mostly feels like filler. And when you have a whole thirteen episode season of a show and eighty percent of it feels like filler, you know you’re doing something wrong.
The beginning of this season feels like an episode of the Powerpuff Girls or something along those lines with the show divided into two halves, telling two different stories. So I figured we were dealing with just a silly straight up comedy, the show understanding where its strengths lie and exploiting them. The problem was, it wasn’t that funny. Especially compared to the first season, we were getting pretty much the same jokes from before. After that we get a story arc about a summer camp and peeping and some generic trivial business to that extent. This arc did provide a bit of a story, but once again I found that the comedy wasn’t really there. What I did like from this part was the romance (though accidental) that began to develop. The series was missing any form of romantic development in the first season, and it seemed to be moving along quite nicely at this point. After that we get two episodes of backstory. The first is about how Minami transferred to Japan from Germany and met Yoshii. This was a really good, heartfelt episode. It is a good first person narrative on a stranger in a strange place. It helps Minami come across as a good, three dimensional character as opposed to her counterpart (we’ll get to that later). After that we see how Yuji and Shoko wound up together (or more precisely, how Yuji got stuck with Shoko). This episode seemed a lot more like filler. It went on, and on, and on. I could feel the heart, I could understand its purpose, but the internal dialogue Yuji goes through when watching Shoko get bullied is pretty unbearable and he comes across as a complete ass. I get the feeling I’m supposed to like this guy and have sort-of feelings for Shoko. But that episode makes me feel like Shoko is really the more likeable character, despite her violence and craziness.
Then there are about three episodes and *SPOILER ALERT* Minami and Yoshii appear to finally be getting somewhere! But nope, the writer doesn’t want to piss off anybody so continues to leave Yoshii’s romantic interest open. The continual cockteases of Yoshii liking either Minami or Mizuki more and wanting to be with her is annoying. And that’s the problem with love triangles like this, most of the time the writer won’t get the main guy together with either character because he/she doesn’t want to enrage fans of the other character. For me, I want to see Yoshii get together with my favorite character, but that’s where the series really finds it has problems. I mentioned that the romance doesn’t go anywhere in my first season review. Well, the romance does get somewhere here, but it’s quickly shot down before it goes anywhere and played off as Yoshii being an idiot.
And this opens up another can of problems. The first season really made me feel like Yoshii and Mizuki were closer to dating than Minami and him. But, this season it makes it feel like Minami is the real romantic interest, focuses on her a lot more, and then turns around and makes Mizuki once again seem like the main love interest.
And I’ve got a variety of problems with Mizuki that I’ll get to in a moment.
The animation is the exact same quality as the first season. It’s got that manga look and sometimes it can be resort to still images for a few seconds. It’s not fantastic quality and none of the character designs really stand out in the crowd.
And with sound you get a really childish opening that I guess fits the show but isn’t that fantastic. The closing is another study in basic. There is a second closing that they use once for whatever reason. I never figured that one out.
Now to the classic characters section where I complain about romances and bad characters. The romances won’t go into my overall score because that’s bias beyond belief but characters are always a good portion of the scoring.
I’m just going to start where I left off a few paragraphs ago. Why does Mizuki seem to be the main romance interest? What am I supposed to see in her that makes me root for her and Yoshii to get together? Is it the study in contrasts, one being an idiot, the other smart? Is it the fact she’s cute and girly and has big boobs? I mean, I don’t understand wherein I’m supposed to find her likeable. She can’t cook, she’s smart, and she’s pretty much the polar opposite of Yoshii. So why does he go after her? Because they’ve known each other since grade school? She seems more like a friend than a lover.
Meanwhile Minami actually gets a lot more time as the focal point of the romance, yet is thrown aside later on. Despite the fact she is violent, she is totally likeable. I thought she was one of the best characters in the show, especially due to the fact we see her past and we see her outside of school talking about her feelings a lot more than Mizuki. She genuinely likes Yoshii, loves him even, and we can tell that really easily, we see that she is mad about the fact he keeps choosing Mizuki over her. Meanwhile Mizuki has no character definition and just gets jealous and bitches about his feelings about her and we never see a clear definition of her feelings or why she feels that way. The series never shows exactly how she met Yoshii and why she really likes him. She’s completely two dimensional and basic and the series never does anything to show any other side of her than the “I like Yoshii” side. Minami on the other hand is shown as having a lot of troubles, as having problems with jealousy, of really trying to get together with him but failing.
I just have a feeling that I’m supposed to root for Yoshii and Mizuki because she’s got big boobs and is cute and girly. But boobs do not a good romance make.
And Yoshii as a character is annoying at points, likeable at points. He swings back and forth. He’s so stupid and oblivious to everything but that’s his character. But he’s usually unbearably stupid. His stupidity is the reason romances go nowhere. Though I must say that a heartfelt moment he shares with another character about Minami does come across as the most heartfelt lines of the whole series. I felt he was so much more likeable and in his element when he admitted his liking Minami, but then it reverts back to the love triangle thing and ends in utter dissatisfaction for the viewer.
I’ve already talked about Shoko and Yuji. Shoko is cute, she’s funny, and while she may come across as crazy I feel like Yuji is a total ass to her. Though the series does throw out some hints that Yuji does like her too, maybe even loves her.
Other characters such as Kouta and Hideyoshi resume their positions as the exact same characters from the first season. Hideyoshi as the boy everyone thinks is a girl is so overplayed by the time the summer camp happens, it gets to be totally unfunny. Kouta as a pervert and nosebleeding everywhere gets old as well.
That’s just another fault with this second season is that there is very little character development aside from Yoshii and Minami. Otherwise, everyone is the same old, same old, and acts the same and has the same character gags we laughed at during the first season.
In summary, Baka to Test’s second season is pretty much filler. It goes somewhere, then steps back to the start to keep fanboys/girls happy. The comedy of the first season is here, but is very rarely funny and the reuse of jokes becomes almost painful. Not that I didn’t like parts of it, some of the characters I genuinely like and enjoy watching. But overall, I feel like the second season is pointless most of the time. Minami’s character may be the only thing that saved this from being anything less than merely “meh”.
Baka to Test 2 is a 4 out of 10.
Minami Shimada, the best character of Baka and Test, as well as it's saviour.
Story: Baka to Test was never big on plot, and the second season is no different. Starting off with a pair of beach episodes and a festival, then moving to an onsen that begins to feature some of the Shoukanjuu, and finally moving back to the school setting for... stuff. Do I care that the plot isn't particularly good or memorable? Hell no! I just care about the comedy and events that lead up to comedy irregardless of actual plot or depth and it delivers the comedy from the first season in spades, mileage may vary.
The same jokes get reused here and I still found them enjoyable. It's easy to see how others can find it repetitive though. If it appeared in the first season, it's liable to appear here.
Also of mention is how romance plays a larger factor. Primarily Yoshii, Minami and Mizuki, (Excluding any others except for the last episode, that was fun) is a step in another direction that replaces comedy for drama. Can't say it's my favorite part but before, if it was a bit of romance, it would be played for laughs. It's more about the comedy than romance in the end but it really shows up when the peeping tom arc is over and takes a bigger presence overall.
Animation: Looks great, everything from Hideyoshi to those penciled scenes between Yoshii and Yuji, it's more of the same and while it didn't get much better, it didn't get any worse. Props for it keeping the same pleasant style.
Sound: I wasn't floored by the music but there was one ending about eating rice in the bathroom and curry in another stall, all in the lyrics. Absurd but oddly enjoyable. The voices make up for it and the deadpan narrator always gets me smiling.
Characters: You aren't watching this for deep characters and they're pretty much the same as before, except for some backstory episodes that sometimes takes away comedy for drama seriousness. Once again, I could care less if they're deep, dramatic, tragic heroes and heroines; they're there for comedy and laughter, even if some may be one-trick ponies, I love them all the same.
Overall: I had lofty expectations of it being funny (Just funny), and it met that. It's hardly deep and one shouldn't expect much from it but more of the same comedy, despite the more heavy romance aspect from it. It being so much like the first season is both good and bad but for those who don't mind some old jokes, it'll be a blast.
Story: A less funny verision of the first season. It had it's good points but not enough of them.
Animation: Same as season 1.
Sound: Same as season 2. The opening and endings actually grew on me.
Characters: Become more annoying as the series progressed.
Overall: Alright but season 1 was better.
Most scattered plot that I've EVER seen. The characters are all still beautiful and the comedy is still funny as ever, but there was a lot less romance and some things just did not make sense. You would finish an episode and expect to see what happened next, and then it would go to a totally different story.