Saturday, November 10, 2012

Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts Anime Review

Baka & Test: Summon the Beasts
Baka to Tesuto to Shokanju
Complete Collection
325 mins. - 13 episodes
5 discs - 3 DVD + 2 Blu-Ray
$54.98 (2011)
$69.98 (2011) Limited Edition
ISBN 704400013119
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Shin Onuma
Studio - Silver Link

Synopsis: Fumizuki Academy is a prestigious high school which segregates its classes based on test scores.  The  highest scoring students are placed in Class A and the lowest scoring students in Class F.  Class A receives the finest educational equipment and each successive class receives lower quality equipment until the lowest Class F gets crude wooden tables.  Fumizuki is even more unique as each class is able to potentially trade their school equipment with that of another class by beating that class in a 'summoning war' based on academic strength.  The school utilizes an advanced virtual system which allows students to summon avatars (digital representations of themselves) to battle for them in summoning wars.  The power and durability of the students' avatars are based on recent test scores in specific subjects.  The school subjects for summoning wars are determined by the teachers sponsoring (triggering) the virtual system (i.e. if the math teacher sponsors the war then avatar strength is determined by math test scores). Therefore a lower class can challenge a higher class and claim better equipment for themselves if victorious.
The Class F head group and their avatars - bottom row from left: Kota,
Hideyoshi, Akihisa, Mizuki, Minami, and Yuji.  Top row (avatars) from
 left: Hideyoshi, Yuji, Akihisa, Mizuki, Kota, and Minami
The second year Class F is filled with an interesting head group:
  • Akihisa Yoshii - a true baka (translated = idiot) because of his low test scores which have earned him the status of probationary student.  He truly means well and often will put the feelings of others before his own, but doesn't take his academics seriously enough.  Due to his probationary student status his avatar is uniquely able to touch corporeal objects which is a punishment as the teachers make Akihisa use his avatar to do menial chores around the school.  He feels pain feedback from his avatar when it is damaged during battles or doing chores.  He squanders his money and thus is forced to subsist on a diet of ramen, sugar, salt and water.  His sister Akira comes to live with him and is incredibly hot.  She constantly comes onto him in order to get him to do stuff (like study).  
  • Yuji Sakamoto - class representative and highly strategic despite his low test scores.  He wants to prove the school's class system is flawed by having Class F defeat Class A in a summoning war.  He is best friends with Akihisa and the love obsession of Class A representative Shoko Kirishima (who wants to marry him due to a childhood crush).
  • Mizuki Himeji - actually the 2nd ranked student in the second year class, but suffered from a fever during the placement test and ended up in Class F.  Akihisa tried to help her that day and she has hidden feelings for him.  Shy and timid with an impressive bust size.  Her cooking is lethal.
  • Minami Shimada - raised in Germany which led to her poor test scores and landed her in Class F.  She often lashes out violently at Akihisa, but has hidden feelings for him.  Has a small chest and is very jealous of Mizuki's bust size. 
  • Hideyoshi Kinoshita - looks like a girl, but is really a guy and no one believes him.  He looks incredibly good in women's clothing and often wears them for his acting classes.  He's terrible at academics, but great at acting and drama.  Fraternal twin to Class A's Yuko Kinoshita and the two look practically identical which allows him to impersonate her at times.  
  • Kota Tsuchiya - a true pervert and a lecherous photographer.  Sells the pictures to fellow students and his Hideyoshi shots are very popular.  After seeing something particularly sexy his nose will gush blood causing him to pass out.  He has compiled a tome recording the bust sizes of every girl in Fumizuki Academy.
Hideyoshi and Minami come to Kota's rescue during a
summoning war with Class E
Yuji has made it his personal mission to prove the school's class system is flawed and embarks Class F on a quest to defeat Class A!  First the group must defeat the other classes (B to E) on their journey to facing the top class.  Along the way the group from Class F encounter many obstacles and other students like: Miharu Shimizu from Class D who is in love with Minami despite them both being girls, Kyoji Nemoto the Class B representative who is an unrepentant cheater and uses dirty tactics, and Toshimitsu Kubo from Class A who has a crush on Akihisa despite them both being boys.  
Shoko squeezes Yuji's avatar while Akihisa's avatar
watches Minami and Mizuki get along
Can Class F really succeed in defeating Class A?  Will Yuji be forced to marry Class A representative Shoko?  Can anyone survive Mizuki's cooking?  Is Hideyoshi really a guy?  Will Akihisa's wallet be crushed under the weight of the attention from Minami and Mizuki?  All of these questions will be answered by the final battle!
Shoko prepares to administer the taser to keep Yuji from escaping her love
Pros: Great animation - highly stylized, but easily recognizable (the comic pop art circles on everything), catchy opening and ending theme songs, characters were funny and likable, running gags were pretty good, main theme was worthwhile as students labeled as 'losers' buck the system to prove they can succeed against the 'winners', lots of amusing fan-service, pretty good dub
Akihisa's sister Akira is hot!
Cons: Humor can be a bit repetitive, Akihisa's sister comes onto him repeatedly (i.e. incest), silly and juvenile storylines, overuses the 'guys see something sexy and gush blood from their noses' bit, too darn cute - especially the little avatars doing battle, English dub script is toned down from original Japanese
Kota suffers a hemorrhaging nosebleed after seeing something sexy
Mike Tells It Straight: Baka and Test is a wonderful example of mindless entertainment.  Part school life comedy drama and role-playing game (RPG) simulation, it's all fun and only mildly offensive.  The animation is very well done with a consistent visual style and seamless CGI (computer generated images) elements.  I found the characters to be charming and the comedy to be genuinely funny (although somewhat repetitive).  It's purposely over-the-top and had a nice message (although not for young children).  Lots of fan-service and sexual innuendo.
Mizuki has a bathing suit wardrobe malfunction at the beach
The official Japanese title is Baka to Test to Shokanju (translated Idiots, Tests, and Summoned Beasts) makes a little more sense than the official U.S. title.  The sexual innuendo (particularly from Akihisa's sister), gender bending, and same-sex love interests may be potentially offensive to some viewers, but overall a harmless bit of fun.  The comedy is intense and I couldn't watch more than one or two episodes at a time without getting overloaded.  Definitely not a deep series and recommended if you're looking for a bit of fluff. I'm planning to check out the second season to see where the story goes after the penultimate battle between Class F and Class A.  Root for the underdogs!

TO BUY and Recommendations: