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.
While not a ground-breaking anime, season one of Baka Test managed to strike the right balance between its central themes and entertaining humour. Sadly, while it does still have its moments, Ni decides that pervier = funnier and instead of a well-rounded comedy series, it’s all idiots, no tests and only a handful of summoned beings.
It’s summer time, and even when they’re not at school, the students of Class 2-F are as idiotic as ever. With Akihisa and Yuji attempting to pick up girls at the beach and a simple trip to the festival turning into a cross-dressing beauty pageant, the holidays are proving to be just as stressful for the boys. But even back at school, life doesn't settle down. With Hideyoshi and his sister swapping places for the day, games of "strip doubt" after class, and academic training camps, it seems this semester will be just as hectic as the last.
While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.