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Anime Reviews: Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts
Fumizuki Academy has a very unique educational structure. Every new student is given an exam upon enrolling which places them in one of six classes. Those who get the best scores are put in Class A among the school’s best and brightest, and pursue their education in absolute luxury—laptops, fancy desks, air conditioning, a snack bar, the whole ball of wax. Those who get the worst scores are relegated to Class F with other students with the lowest of the lowest grades, and sit in a drafty, moldy old classroom on torn cushions with cardboard boxes for desks.
Fortunately, classes are given the chance to improve their learning environment through Summoner Test Wars, in which students summon chibi avatars of themselves to fight students in other classes for the prize of claiming that class’ facilities. The strength of their avatars is based on their last test score in the supervising teacher’s exams, and players who die with a score of zero are forced to attend remedial classes. Naturally, Class A’s avatars are said to be the strongest, while Class F’s are the weakest.
Akihisa Yoshii is the “thinking man’s idiot”, if said thinking man was also an idiot. Naturally, he is assigned to Class F along with his friends Yuuji the class rep (a whiz kid who doesn’t think grades are all that important), Kouta a.k.a. “Muttsulini” the pervert (who excels at health and phys ed—women’s in particular—and nothing else) and Hideyoshi the bishonen whom everyone mistakes for a girl to the point where they give up trying to assign him a gender and give him his own restroom.
There’s also some unrequited love scattered throughout, and it’s safe to say most everyone is the EXTREMELY jealous type. Akihisa is obliviously in a Betty-and-Veronica love triangle with the only two girls in Class F: Minami Shimada the tsundere (raised in Germany and isn’t used to Japanese kanji, hence math is her only good subject) and Mizuki Himeji, the big-breasted moe girl with Class A-level intellect (couldn’t finish the placement exam due to sudden illness and got an automatic zero), while Yuuji must put up with childhood friend and Class A representative Shouko Kirishima, who is obsessed with him to the point where she carries a taser to stop him from running out on dates and pokes his eyes out so he won’t look at other girls. Also, Minami has a lesbian stalker in Class D and Akihisa has a gay admirer AND an incestuous older sister. And just for the hell of it, let’s also have a Klan-style inquisition group who lynches every male student with a girlfriend.
Thus is Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts*, a recent high school anime that’s one part slice-of-life comedy, one part love dodecahedron, and one part Yu-Gi-Oh!.
This show is obviously a satire on the exam systems inherent in Japanese public education, and the idea of holding RPG-style battles based on test scores is a unique idea. It’s divvied into two seasons of thirteen episodes. If I had to choose which of the two was my favorite, it’d have to be season one—it’s told as one big story from the entrance exam to the major ST War between classes A and F, and not only does its linear format work well, but the ST Wars are much more exciting, especially the climactic battle in episode 12. Season two, on the other hand, has more of a mini-arc format that includes a study camp, a misunderstanding between Akihisa and his two admirers, some background on some of the characters, and a challenge from the second-year students. It has its moments, but it didn’t exactly have as good a flow. Plus there were some bits where I had to watch the OVA episodes, which I hadn’t, so I can’t judge it on that.
A lot of the humor on this show is in a similar vein to high school comedies like Paniponi Dash, a bit random and frequently over the top. There is a running gag where the remedial teacher pops up at random to carry students whose test scores have hit zero off to the remedial classroom. Much of the abuse that Akihisa suffers would bring it to the level of Kekkaishi‘s brand of schadenfreude if not for the fact that Akihisa brings most of it upon himself. Plus there are also some tender moments which show that he’s really a nice, friendly idiot instead of a hopelessly insensitive idiot, so at least the writers don’t totally hate him. And there is quite a bit of fanservice, though much of it is cross-gender humor at Hideyoshi’s expense. Plus, I enjoy a good love chase, so a romantic dodecahedron where half of the cast is majorly psychotic never gets dull, even one that goes to such extremes as this.
There is so much to enjoy about Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts if you’re into zany high school comedies--unrequited romance, raging hormones, the pressures of an educational system that raises expectations sky-high and leaves little room for error—that the only thing it comes up short on is the plot, but only in the second half. The first half, at least, should be engaging, intriguing and fun.
*The title literally translates to Idiots, Tests and Summoned Beings . Not sure why FUNimation went with the translation they did, so don’t ask me.
Interesting story concept; love dodecahedron goes on some hilarious tangents
Season one more fluid than season two (and doesn't require watching the OVAs)