Fumizuki Academy is divided into classes ranked based purely on ability; Class A has laptops, reclining seats and ultimate comfort whereas Class F has to settle for a rundown classroom with rotten cushions and rickety coffee tables. Akihisa Yoshii has recently taken the placement exam and finds himself relegated to the lowly Class F along with many of his friends, and they’re far from impressed with their draughty facilities. Luckily, not all is lost as at Fumizuki, classes can declare war on each other to swap rooms by fighting with summoned characters whose strength is based on the users' test scores. As they dream of escaping their decrepit circumstances, the ‘idiotic’ students of Class F will try whatever they can to reach the dizzy heights of Class A’s luxury, even if it means taking on the entire school in an all-out summoning war!
Story‘Baka’. It’s an instantly recognisable word that has been uttered countless times and spans all genres of anime. From the high pitched squeals of a young girl yelling “Onii-chan no baaaaaakaaaaaa!” to the deadpan statement of an elite teenager that simply drips with disdain, we’ve heard it on a million occasions, and will no doubt hear it a myriad more; but never before has a series taken this phrase under its wing and embraced it quite so much as Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. The series takes place in Fumizaki Academy – a school with the most extreme streaming system ever imagined. After undergoing a placement exam at the beginning of term, students are assigned classes based on their grades; the most intelligent end up in Class A with state of the art equipment and ultimate luxury, while each following rank’s facilities decrease in quality. Finally, the academy’s ‘dregs’ are unceremoniously dumped into Class F’s draughty classroom with its ripped cushions on the floor and collapsing tables. Baka Test follows the misadventures of Class F’s twenty-four carat idiot, Akihisa Yoshii, and his equally dense friends. Despite their ‘limited’ aptitude, Yoshii and his comrades haven’t lost hope and instead aim to improve their dire situation by challenging each class to an ‘Exam Summoning Battle’ (or ESB for short) and prove that grades aren’t everything. I’ll get right to the point: the plot is stupid, the ESB is stupid, in fact the whole damn series is stupid; but somehow it works. The whole concept of students summoning sprites – whose strength is based on the user’s most recent test scores – within a virtual reality cube that then proceed to fight each other in a battle for intellectual supremacy sounds pretty lame. Luckily, what saves this anime from slipping into a pit of mediocre gunk is its humour. Baka Test has an extroverted style, employing all manner of comedy techniques from the odd ecchi giggle complete with gushing nosebleeds and jiggling jugs to random violence filled with a whole menagerie of back-breaking wrestling moves. Sure, there are plenty of recurring jokes, such as the intense fear of supplementary lessons, Shoko’s sadistic possessiveness of Yuji, and Akihisa’s habit of getting physically injured in all of his endeavours, but the show doesn’t overuse these to the point of them becoming stale. Instead, these staples of the Baka Test diet appear at just the right moment to illicit a hearty belly laugh and are much like finding another roast potato hidden underneath a pile of sprouts. Baka Test’s biggest problem is that while the first two installments start out well enough, the central battles soon disappear in favour of eight episodes of what essentially seems like filler. Though the narrative permits this break by claiming that Class F cannot challenge anyone for three months, it still feels like the series is simply ignoring the crux of the plotline so they can parade the various busty babes in swimsuits, or send the cast to amusement parks for an unwilling marriage ceremony. Granted, the anime’s humour still shines throughout and it does allow for more exploration of the characters, but while enjoyable, they still feel kind of pointless. Then, when the summoning battles finally make a return, two hi-octane skirmishes are hastily squeezed into a single episode. While the clashes themselves are highly entertaining, by demonstrating no sense of struggle in their progression through the ranks, the main story feels sadly rushed and little more than tacked on to a comedic slice-of-life anime about a wacky school and a bunch of idiots.AnimationGenerally Baka Test’s animation is fairly standard. The character designs don’t bring anything new to the table, but are pleasant to look at, while backgrounds serve their purpose without seeming dull. Movement is relatively fluid and the whole thing is pretty much the base standard for what one would expect from any anime produced in 2010. The best aspect of this show’s visuals by far is the ESB. The virtual reality arenas and ‘Battle game screens’ – complete with HP and turn-based combat – really do give the impression of being inside a video game. Also worthy of note are the many explosive nosebleeds courtesy of Voyeur and Akihisa. Such dynamic jets of blood projecting across the screen almost seem to dance in mid-air, which infinitely adds to their comedic value.SoundAkihisa’s fast-paced vocals really make some of the humour glow. His delayed reactions and utter idiocy become so much more humorous due to his babbling dialogue seamlessly flowing into sudden angry realisations or howls of pain without any pause or change in inflection. The other seiyuu perform well; Voyeur’s nasal voice adds to his perverted nature; Hideyoshi’s ambiguous timbre heightens the gender confusion that surrounds him; and Yuji’s sincere tone makes his scheming ‘brotherly advice’ all the more devious. The bouncy, poppy opening theme reflects Baka Test’s upbeat, fun nature, whereas the more rock-based ending mirrors Class F’s rebellious nature well. Ultimately, though, neither song leaves much of a lasting impression.CharactersAside from their various idiotic natures, Baka Test tends to stick to stereotypes when it comes to characters. Mizuki is a typical reserved princess; Voyeur takes the role of resident pervert; Minami fulfils the series’ need for a flat-chested and volatile tomboy; Hideyoshi confuses everyone with his indefinite gender; and there’s even the uber-strict teacher in the form of ‘Ironman’ Nishimura-sensei. This relatively cliché-ridden cast becomes immediately pigeonholed and no one really escapes from it, nor do they even try to – and why would they? The show doesn’t suffer from this one iota as, much like the running gags, they fit perfectly with the stupid nature of the comedy.OverallI shouldn’t like this series. I should spend each episode’s twenty-odd minutes counting down the minutes until the next One Piece airs, but I don’t. Instead, I giggle to myself like a madwoman and love every minute of it. Sure, Baka Test has its faults, but as one of the most easy-to-watch and fun series of the season, it’s certainly recommended for those craving some simple, idiotic fluff
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, a show by SILVER LINK, had been on my radar for a while now. A assumingly pure comedy show with some magic and in a school life settings seems to have all the ingredients to become a good show. Furthermore, I watched this blind to the extent that I did not read the synopsis beforehand to make the show as big as a surprise as I could (translating the title notwithstanding). In a way, I feel this show is poking fun at my apprehensiveness to watch shounen-ai and yaoi series, seeing that some jokes definitely rely on homo-erotic gags. *NOTE* Unless otherwise mentioned, JP front- and surname ordering is used Story (8.0/10) The story of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu (from hereon referred to as Baka to Test) is that of a school which separates its students based on the results of their test scores. The available facilities correspond to the grade of the class meaning that A class will live in luxury while the F class is forced to get through their school life in a ramshackle classroom with the bare minimum necessities. The show follows the underdogs in this case, namely none other than the F class. Of course an opportunity is given for the classes to duke it out in Exam Summoning Battles (ESBs) where they can challenge other classes to a war using a chibi avatar with strong resemblances to their owner as their weapon in fighting this out. Their strength is based on the test scores and examinations can be done during the fight to replenish and increase the battle prowess. The story in a mainly the red line going through the whole season, but is definitely not the focus. The focus of the series is mostly on the characters and the story is more a thing intended to give some progression through the season and is more a means than an end to give some substance to the characters and interpersonal interactions. Furthermore, the whole premise is a bit absurd, which adds to the comedic nature of the show. In short, it does not take itself too seriously. On the other hand, there are some romantic minor subplots in this anime of which one is a love triangle. Once again, this subplot is never the real focus of the show and is a means to further the comedic aspect of the series. Additionally, the romantic subplot seems to be more intended to parody the romance genre. This is not the only thing parodied, seeing that I have spotted other shows being parodied, even if it’s done in a very subtle and hard to tell manner (I’m looking at you, Neon Genesis Evangelion) Art and Animation (7.0/10) Art and Animation is mostly quite average, although it does have some unique art styles at times. In some occasions the color palate is switched around when portraying characters for mostly aesthetic reasons. This does, however, mean that one watching might not immediately understand who the character is in these few frames. Furthermore, there are some scenes where the animation is completely overemphasized (nb. during the amusement park episode), which feels unnatural and does not particularly suit the regular animation style There is a lot of chibi characters in this movie and they are mostly well done. These chibis fit the character they are related to quite well. The character design overall is quite proficient as well and characters differ well enough to distinguish who is who, while at the same time not feeling too similar to other shows sharing the genre. Additionally there very rarely are some still images with moving parts (like for example: hair waving and some minor boob physics while the rest of the image is static). Personally I think this is a nice touch and complements the overall art and animation. Sound (8.5/10) The sound and SFX in the show is very good and there is very little to give in terms of criticism here. Some characters have a memorable musical theme associated with their on-screen appearance. Out of these themes, the Shimizu Miharu one was the most memorable and noticeable despite being only a side character with some yuri interests in one of the female leads. However, the main reason for the rating being as high as it is, is the very strong opening theme and the decent two ending themes. These fit the series particularly well. Characters (9.5/10) The part where the series shines are the characters. The main character Yoshii Akihisa is an absolute idiot and tries to play a straight character while absolutely missing the wit and intellect to represent one. This paradoxical fundamental character trait strongly assists in setting up a lot of the jokes and humor of the show. Furthermore, all the characters in the show are relatively unique in comparison to each other and other shows. They have fun character traits and while perhaps somewhat one-dimensional at times, the predictability of some of the characters assist the humorous aspect of the show well. My favorite characters include Yoshii Akihisa’s perverted and incentuous sister Akira, the sadistic and genius Kirishima Shouko, and the high octane yuri Shimizu Miharu. Even if I just emphasize these three characters, the rest of the cast is by no means weak and I would be hard pressed to find any character in this show I actively dislike. Overall (8.6/10) Despite having some shounen-ai (and minor shoujo-ai) jokes and content, the immense variety in characters in this show, the hilarious premise of the story and the great delivery of comedy will certainly make one bellow of laughter. The show tries its best not to be serious and definitely receives an A in being a feel-good comedy series. Secret Santa 2015 Review
Many people always ask me why I seem to have a slight - if you call it slight - interest in Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu! I am normally one of those people criticizing the "humor" of fanservice and how fanservice can drag a series down, even if it wasn't meant to be story or drama focused in the first place. But what is it that makes Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu! an exception for me, and why did I overall think this is actually extremely funny, and I didn't mind the fanservice at all? Before you can understand that, you need to know what the promise is of the story. Story: Fumizuki Academy has a very different school system then the other schools, it's the basic premise of "the highest get the greatest, the lowest get's terror", and based on school exams you take in the beginning of school, you're placed in one of the classes. A is the best class and has the most expensive stuff to work with, meanwhile Class F is basically the worst, having horrible furniture and everything breaks with just a single touch. Akihisa Yoshii can be considered one of the biggest idiots in school and in his class, he fails in literary everything and well.. it isn't a surprise he ends up in class F, but this is mainly because during the exams he helps a girl names Mizuki Himeji, who passed out which caused them both to end up in Class F. They can get better stuff if they fight each other against battles, where they summon a chibi of themselves, the story is pretty weird on it's own, but at the same time you can't really blame the anime for it, it's an parody anime and comedy so having weird and totally-not-making-sense storylines isn't out of the world. Yet, I can't think of a better story and elements for the series, it makes the series funny and does involve around the characters, nonetheless is their school system pretty rare and cool, and fighting their way to the top is also a fun idea that just works. A little issue I had though was the fact that I expected a little more out of the chibi fights, they sure are cute but it wasn't anything really "spectacular" which I hoped with all my heart. As far as the tag comedy goes, Baka to Test does an excellent job on it. It can be the unpredictable comedy sometimes, or the endless references and mocking on stereotypes, what Baka to Test does only as invisible as possible. Because Baka and Test does not take itself seriously, you know they don't try to make anything deep out of it, and that's why it's enjoyable and doesn't bother you that some of the characters are extremely all over the place and dumb as hell, the show knows what it wants to be and that's exactly what it is. We don't feel emotionally sorry for Hideyoshi and how his friends see him as a girl, or rather "genderless", because it's just there for the joke and nothing emotional or saddening is attached to it, just like the running tsundere references where Minami beats the shit out of Akihisa. Do we feel emotionally sorry for the boy? Not in particularly, probably the most because sometimes the reasons why she does it is pretty understandable and yet we can't blame Akihisa for his stupid nature, he is an idiot overall. We can't forget that even though the anime's comedy looks more for boys, I - as a female myself - can say that a lot of comedy is actually also hilarious for girls, and even though there is fanservice we don't take it seriously and I am also not a feminist if Kouta is trying to get some of his erotic pictures again. If you're able to look past it, it's not bothersome. But where Baka to Test leaks a little bit is in it's romance. I am a big romance fan and what I've noticed is that many series have the cliché of seeding a certain character - basically if you only watch the opening you can already guess who's gonna be the main interest in the love triangle or harem - and yet they decide to actually give secondary characters better development and understanding, but in the end still going for the character that's just there to be pretty and to be likable. Since Baka and Test has never "ended" the romances, there is still this seeding that I can foreshadow and that the romance got pretty much nowhere. I am not expecting a lot out of a comedy, but as much as the promoted the romance I am still unsure about how they're going to end things, as much for the whole Akihisa/Mizuki/Minami love triangle as for Yuji/Shouko, although I have to say that those two are indeed just more set up to be a comedic duo, and do get development in season 2. Animation: As far as animation goes, Baka to Test has a really tasteful and lively animation and art style. The use of pretty bright colors, but mixed with the toned pastel makes the anime really flavorful and also just fits its own nature. Baka to Test does have an own art style, especially when it comes to their backgrounds and just the drawn-alike effects they put on some frames. It's actually like it's straight out of a manga and does give a lighthearted feeling, just like the anime does itself. It really compliments the tone well, especially in its comedic moments. Animation is fluency and looks great, but I am normally a blind eye when it comes to animation. I like it, or I don't like it. And for this anime, I certainly am surprised that it looks pretty even though it's already six years ago and you'd expect it would be a bit lacky in some parts. Sound: The sound is actually something I really wanted to talk about, because I've listened to the original soundtrack and both the opening and endings and the music is a serious point where this anime stands out. Not only is the music reverse yet reliable for every scene, the opening is extremely catchy and compliments the feeling and atmosphere of the anime so well. It's upbeat, catchy, happy and overall just has a funny nature. The tracks are all really on it's own too, from the tracks that are named after its characters to what not? Sound has a big yes for me, because it makes the anime prettier than ever. Characters: You can't make a good comedy without a good cast of characters. Baka to test has a lót of characters, yet it works really well and - almost - every character is interesting and has something comedic, what causes comedy. But what Baka to Test does so well is that most of the comedy doesn't come from who-knows-what-planet, but comes from the characters itself. Their interactions and conversations with each other make the comedy, it's not just falling down, grabbing a boob and then you can hear the laughter tune playing, it has more than just that. Akihisa is one of the biggest examples why the cast is great. Akihisa Yoshii is one of the best main protagonists in anime history - and we all know, there are a lot of shitty ones out there so the game isn't hard core - due to the fact that he is just downright stupid. Other main characters have absolutely no personality and purpose, but Akihisa is an idiot and everybody knows he is an idiot, and during the whole show nobody can change the fact that he is one hell of an idiot. He's reliable, says thinks he probably shouldn't say, draws the worst conclusions that make you question "how on earth did he come to that?", and just how obviously oblivious he is to basically everything, but knowing that it's just the purpose of his character. You can say whatever you want, but Akihisa makes up most of the comedy, whatever it is with his shounen-ai relationship with Yuuji, his weird crush on Mizuki, his even weirder, not clear crush on Mizuki, and just his actual real developed love crush for Hideyoshi, although that's only because he doesn't seem to notice Hideyoshi is a boy. Next to Akihisa, Minami Shimada and Mizuki Himeji also play a role in the anime. Minami is your typical tsunderish tomboy who likes to beat the shit out of Akihisa if he's saying something totally ignorant, and Mizuki is just sweet and has boobs, basically one of her biggest inserts in the show, even though she is also a horrible cook and is slightly yandere. Even though both are stereotypes, which I can't complain about since it's the purpose of the show, I have to say that I like Minami more than Mizuki, not because of the fact that I like tsunderes more, but because Mizuki is overall the least interesting and funny character of them all. Mizuki's comedy comes mainly out of her huge breasts and her bad cooking, but the bad cooking joke does get a bit old so now and then. Other than that, she doesn't bring up much in both the story and the comedy, she's only there to be in love with Akihisa and for fanservice and I don't see anything other in her character, what is such a shame because she has some interesting traits that just got wasted. Minami on the other hand is actually funny and has more to her than boobs - oh wait, she doesn't have one in the first place - and she's also actually likable, if you see through her tsunderish personality and through the violence. Also worth mentioning are Yuuji, Hideyoshi, Shouko and Kouta. Yuuji is NOT your typical "perverted best friend of the main character", he's not really perverted at all, he is actually really manly and even a good leader. Above this all, the cliché of all the girls falling for the main character is a bit broken down since there is an actual girl who ís interested in Yuuji, which is his psycho childhood friend Shouko, who is - unlike the others - in Class A. She is sadistic and makes up a lot of hilarious moments, especially because they continue keeping her sadistic and basically abusing Yuuji both mental and physical. Kouta ís the actual pervert though, but for some reason in the anime they take him to the next level as he takes pictures of every situation that is slightly sexual or even just in normal situations he tries to sneak a panty shot, most of the time failing because he gets extreme nose bleeds. Kouta is though an example of a used stereotype but he still continues to being hilarious, especially since he's actually just a freak who's quiet and doesn't say that much at all, only takes pictures like a creep and the girls most of the time don't even seem to notice or be bothered at all. Last but not least we have Hideyoshi, who probably makes most of the comedy in the series because he is well.. Nobody really knows what he is. Hideyoshi may be a boy, but he looks like a girl, and with having a twin sister this causes a lot of problems and misunderstandings. From boys falling in love with him, to him needing to wear a bikini because people think he's actually being naked. It doesn't matter how much Hideyoshi adresses he is a boy, people always say he is a girl.. or later in the show that he's just his own gender and needs his own dressing room to stop the confusion. With all such colorful characters the cast just shines brightly and that means the show is able to shove comedy into character interactions. If every character is bald and boring - I don't wink at you, ninety percent of the harems nowadays - you need to put your comedy in things such as fanservice, but if not you can do character driven comedy or both. So what's it that I like so much about Baka to Test? I can't give a good and proper reason, even if I review it in more than a billion words you can't get a good confession out of me. Baka to Test is just taste, if it's your cup of tea you most likely enjoy it and you can't stop talking about it, but if it isn't that's understandable since it can be seen as "silly and over the top" and there is nothing weird with not being so fond of that. Still, Baka and Test continues being hilarious to me and just a blast to watch. Even though it has issues here and there, I still enjoy it every time I decide to re-watch it when I had a stressful week and just want to sit back and relax. Find out if it's your cup of tea, and if not that's totally fine by me.
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