Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor
Episodes 1-3

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor ?

Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor is not the first anime series to openly declare in its title that its protagonist is a complete ass. That honor goes to the 1992 OVA series aptly-named Bastard!!, which also featured a spellcaster – in that case a sorcerer - who could back up his supreme arrogance with power. That series got away with it partly because of the humor involved and partly because titular character Dark Schneider cared deeply enough about people close to him that he would go to insane extremes for them. Although Akashic Records also bases itself on a mix of humor and deadly-serious graphic violence as its protagonist struggles to protect the women in his life, it's taking a very different approach to redeeming its title character.

Unfortunately, it also gets off to a much weaker start. The story makes the mistake of giving us nothing redeeming about Glenn Radars in its first episode. He's lazy, unmotivated, a total jerk, and not particularly competent at shortening the casting of spells – something that even students at the prestigious Alzano Imperial Magic Academy can do. He doesn't really teach either, which is what he was hired to do as a substitute. That causes him to frequently butt heads with Sistine Fibel, one of the academy's most promising students, who Glenn comes to nickname White Cat due to her silver hair and a ribbon that looks distinctly like cat ears the way she ties it. Sistine and her best friend Lumia, who she's housing after Lumia fell into some bad circumstances, are more interesting characters during the first episode, but that's not saying much.

This isn't to say that the series becomes great within two more episodes, but it at least ascends to the level of a competent fantasy series. Of course, the second and third episodes show that Glenn is more than he appears. Once he finally gets forced to teach, he shows surprising skill; he may not be a fast caster, but he is remarkably skilled at manipulating the fundamentals of magic, which quickly makes an impression. His true strength shows when mage-terrorists from the Researchers of Divine Wisdom infiltrate the campus in search of Lumia. Glenn is actually a veteran mage-killer who uses the custom spell Fool's World to negate magic in his vicinity and then destroys his opponent with military-grade martial arts skills. And because the show thinks that it's got a sense of humor, he leaves his defeated opponents trussed up in embarrassing fashion.

Some twist like that was expected, especially after opening scenes that suggest that Glenn once aspired to be a Mage of Justice. Naturally, that led him to the magical equivalent of Black Ops work. The former killer who's trying to turn over a new leaf is such an age-old staple trope for not only anime but media of all kinds, and by the end of episode 3, Akashic Records shows that it's going full-bore on playing that card. Practically a prequisite for such stories is that the former killer makes a connection with more innocent characters, and Glenn has that in Sistine and Lumia. In fact, the bonds he forms with them over the course of these next two episodes has redeemed the series so far. Glenn isn't tackling the challenges facing them solo; he may do the actual damage, but he relies on Sistine to play key parts, and she's clear-headed enough to support him without hesitation in the midst of crisis. Lumia, who was the most likable character prior to this point, isn't to be outdone, revealing the reason why she was targeted in the process. She's actually a princess whose death due to illness was faked, because she has a rare special ability that other magic users are prejudiced against, so she's supposed to be attending the school incognito.

That final angle brings greater potential for intrigue into the story, but the way Glenn seems to be connecting with the two girls is the series' main selling point right now. There's no hint of romance at this point, and I hope there never will be, because I think the story can work just fine without it; avoiding the uncomfortable situation of crossing the teacher/student relationship line would be an added bonus. Episode 2 does get uncomfortable in a different way, with an attempted rape scene that isn't handled delicately. It's also awkward that the school uniforms are more reminiscent of stripper's outfits. Technical merits are middle-of-the-road: nothing that's likely to attract viewers on their merits but nothing that's likely to drive them away either. Some interesting commentary on how magic works is a plus, as is introducing the magical equivalent of a human bomb, but the world-building is also brought down by forced exposition about setting details in a couple of places.

Overall, an underwhelming first episode sets a bad impression, but the series improves enough over the next two episodes that I recommend checking out this introductory arc before passing a verdict on the series. Right now, I think the series has the potential to either maintain decency or regress.

Rating: B-

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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