Reviewby Luke Carroll, Mar 24th 2012
Baka and Test - Series 1 Collection
Summon the Beasts!
When a fight breaks out at Fumizuki Academy, nobody throws a single punch. Instead, the students utilize the school's technology to summon Avatars, pint-sized stand-ins with battle powers based on academic ability. That "academic ability" part is bad news for Yoshii: he's an idiot, stuck in lowly Class F with the slackers. If these misfits want to escape their dump of a classroom and earn some respect, they'll have to fight their way up the ranks and take on Class A, the Academy's brightest students. It's going to be tough, that's for sure, but once the underachievers of Class F get motivated, they don't give up - and Yoshii can't even spell surrender!
In this day and age of big business and technology, the notion that success in life requires a good education has become somewhat of a staple in our lives. Universities and degrees are what we are told to strive for if we want the best there is. From our first day of school until our last, we are forever encouraged to learn and achieve as much as we can, always with a thought that we'll use our knowledge to move onto a higher education. But what if our grades aren't everything? Can a class of complete dummies really compete with the top bookworms? This is what Baka and Test sets out to answer.
In Fumizuki Academy, things are done slightly out of the norm. Upon completing your entrance exams, students are split into classes from A to F – class A being for the brightest students, and class F for those who regularly are off visiting the faeries. Each class is also given an appropriate room and equipment based on their rank – class A receiving top of the line computers and comfort and class F surviving on worn out cushions and glued together tables (which are soon replaced with cardboard boxes). What makes Fumizuki Academy special though, is that classes are allowed to challenge one another to a fight, the winner of which can command anything they desire, including class rooms. Fights however aren't conducted with fists. They are instead fought out using Avatars, miniature stand-ins that incorporate the student's academic ability into their power.
And this is where we meet our main lead, Akihisa Yoshii. Yoshii brings an all new meaning to the word idiot. Forgetting to put his name on a test, answering a whole quiz out of order, and constantly falling for the same tricks is all in a days work for Yoshii. He's also clueless in romance, unable to take a hint despite having two girls constantly clinging to him at all times. Needless to say, Yoshii isn't in the only stereotypical member of class F. Yuji Sakamoto is the class rep and a bit of a strategist, Kouta Tsuchiya is a large pervert who never goes anywhere without a camera and Hideyoshi Kinoshita is a rather feminine looking male that the show spares no expense to make a joke out of at every opportunity. There's also two females in the way of Minami Shimada and Mizuki Himeji, both of which have completely opposite tempers and bust sizes amongst other things.
With the series heavily touting its Avatar summoning wars, it isn't very long before we get to experience one of these battles first hand and we begin to learn just how deep the system actually is. When a teacher gives permission for a fight, a field is created by which Avatars can be summoned. This field is given a requested school subject, and the strength of any Avatar summoned here depends solely on the academic scores of the student in that subject. Multiple fields can also be set up during a battle in other rooms allowing for different areas to fight over other subjects. When a student's Avatar is killed in battle, they are immediately taken for 'remedial lessons', however those who are low on health have the ability to heal themselves or even become stronger by taking a 'recovery test'. A fight is concluded when either class representative has has his Avatar defeated.
It's an intriguing battle system that promotes both a range of strategies and underhanded tactics in order to win. Rather annoyingly however, the series decides to cease the battling two episodes in, citing a three month 'no fighting' rule for any class that loses. What this leaves you with for the next eight episodes is nothing more than your usual high school comedy hijinks – including customary bikini episode. Thankfully many of these self contained episodes are quite funny, however it is rather disappointing that the series couldn't find a reason to keep the Avatar system on for another purpose other than jokes, most of which is aimed at Yoshii and his special Avatar which can interact with real objects in exchange for any damage equally hurting Yoshii physically.
Visually, Baka and Test doesn't really break any barriers. Studio
On the audio side of things, things are kept to a rather simple and lacklustre affair. The background music chimes in for comedic moments, but is used sparingly elsewhere. The opening and ending themes are also a bit of a mixed affair, with the first ending "Baka Go Home" by milktub providing a very fitting rock melody that is not only catchy, but lyrically appropriate too. Included on this Blu-Ray release is a Dolby True HD 5.1 English track and a 2.0 Japanese track. It's certainly of no surprise for this type of series that the dub features numerous changes and a rather less than strict translation at times. Despite this, it still does rather well to make jokes work. The cast Funimation has put together is certainly solid, although Anthony Bowling's nostril driven take as the narrator from episode three onwards gets old fast.
As with a few of Madman's titles, Baka and Test is a repackaging of the U.S release. Not that it is a bad thing at all though as this release is brimming in extras content. Included is a slew of trailers, clean opening and closing songs, original commercials and DVD spots, promo videos, and half a dozen omake clips that include a beauty contest, Mizuki's cooking, a and a fun Mission Impossible rip featuring Kouta. Unfortunately all of these are subtitled only, however they are presented in HD like the series.
Overall, Baka and Test is a rather solid series. Although it manages sideline its most interesting aspect for quite a hefty period, the show still manages to keep things going in a steady fashion, surprisingly developing its cast beyond an empty shell of jokes. For simple fun and a good comedy, Baka and Test is certainly hard to pass up. The series wont win any awards but it will consistently put a smile on your face.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Rather good humour, Summoner Test War system
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