The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon
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Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon ?
Here we go again: another by-the-numbers light novel adaptation about super special high school students animated by people who have no idea how the female body is put together. Yaaay. Oh, but this high school is anti-magic, so surely that will make a difference...right? Yeah, no. Anti-Magic Academy is sadly not the anti-formula anime, and while I can see that it is trying to be appealing – the sheer number of popular tropes and plot contrivances thrown in sort of scream desperation – it's really too rote to be anything very special or spectacular.
In this iteration of the plot we've seen at least twice before this season, the school our protagonists attend is an anti-magic school, where students can take paid positions as Inquisitors, hearkening back to the good old days of witch hunting. In fact, that's precisely what they're doing: divided into student platoons, Inquisitors hunt down witches and illegal magical items, ranging from the fairly lame (like in this episode) to the highly dangerous. The 35th Platoon, made up of Ikaruga, Usagi, and Kusanagi, isn't very good at what they do, so they're generally relegated to the smaller cases, although that might change once fallen Inquisitor Ohtori is forced to join their group as punishment for being way too violent in the course of her duties.
It goes without saying that Kusanagi Takeru (check out Shinto mythology about Susano-o for the significance of that name) is the only boy in the group, so naturally within this first episode he walks in on Usagi in an embarrassing outfit that she's been forced to wear by Ikaruga, falls on top of Ohtori and spends a good few minutes groping her boob like a ninny, and gets beaten up by both of the girls. It is no surprise that Ohtori has a tragic past that makes her want to kill witches rather than just stopping them or that their supervisor (principal?) is a wacky nutcase somehow related to the stoic Ohtori. At this point it isn't even surprising that fluffy little Usagi is absolutely terrible at her sniping job – seriously, she shot into the wrong building. How is this girl still allowed to handle a gun?
Compounding these (mild) outrages is the way that Usagi's breasts sort of ruffle in the breeze and jiggle at an astounding speed when she's punching Kusanagi and the way the buttons on the girls' blouses are somehow heavy enough to weight the center of their shirts down so that each breast can be emphasized. Not that the buttons are needed for that – everyone's uniforms include a belt that fits right under the chest, which on the girls is clearly fanservice and on the boys just looks silly. Also odd is the fact that the skirts are apparently glued to the girls' thighs, as we have not a single panty flash despite the skirts being shorter than many shirts. It's an oddly prudish decision in light of the other fanservice moments, just making the whole thing seem like it's not sure what it's doing. Background music feels equally off-kilter, at times sounding like the music from a Game Boy Color game and at others oddly like the ambient music in a New Age store. The only thing that feels consistent in the production is the animation, and that's not even consistent in a great way – it just always sort of plods along, never being as good as it ought to be.
Anti-Magic Academy is different enough from Asterisk Wars and Chivalry of a Failed Knight that it doesn't feel like a total copy, but it also isn't very innovative with the formula, or very good at all. There's a balance that a first episode should strike between “too much” and “not enough,” and sadly this show hasn't figured out how to do that.
Anti-Magic Academy is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
The light novel anime adaptations this season reach their lowest point with Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon. The expositional dialogue tells you literally everything, allowing no room for characters to breathe and the audience to infer their motivations or personalities. Everything is unnaturally stated with no consideration for dramatic timing, backed by a distracting electronica score, blob-like character designs, and some of the worst CG background art I've seen in a long time. The only award Anti-Magic Academy will win is for ugliest ceiling fan.
The show follows Takeru Kusanagi, a guy who is protective of only two things: his sword and his ailing little sister. It's hard to take the former seriously as more than a dick joke, and the latter is just the episode's first cliché of many. Kusanagi is captain of the misfit 35th test platoon, comprised of Usagi, the obnoxious and incompetent sniper, and the tech geek Ikaruga. The Anti-Magic Academy houses platoons like the 35th to capture witches and recover stolen magical goods. Successful recoveries earn them “points,” even though dying seems like a very likely outcome.
The platoon gets a new recruit named Ouka Ohtori who will loudly exclaim her motivations for everything over the course of the episode. When the school's principal introduces her as his daughter, she adds “I'm actually adopted!”, followed by Usagi's equally nuanced, “I hate privileged people!” Ouka will later tell Kusanagi that witches murdered her whole family, and the reason she's so disagreeable is because making friends will ruin her chances at revenge. I laughed through this whole scene because of how absurdly paced it was. I might have cared about Ouka's contrived lone wolf back story if this were episode three or four. This premiere episode was on some kind of crash course to get the entire character narrative out of the way, and I don't know why. The episode opened with a time jump where the main character appears to be bleeding to death at the hands of a robo-loli. Maybe the anime is just in a huge hurry to get us to that scenario, character development be damned?
The pacing is complete nonsense even without characters narrating their every secret. It's like the show couldn't decide between wacky club activities or an action show and instead fails at both. There's Mikuru bunny-girl knock-off antics, a botched attempt to recover a magic book from yakuza, a sad welcoming party, and then dead bodies-something-something-Valhalla-something. None of these things tie together in a coherent way.
This show doesn't know what it wants to be and every attempt it made was either trite, ugly, or stupid. This is a pass on every account.
Review: The first episode of Anti-Magic Academy is practically A Tale of Two Series, and one of them is not good at all. The other, which mostly kicks in late and takes the grimmer and more serious bent, is another story. Unfortunately it does not predominate, and thus save this content from mediocrity, but it at least provides an inkling of promise for the series.
The setting is only detailed in bits and pieces but seems to involve a modern world in which magic and witches are a reality and a threat, enough so that Inquisitors out to capture/put down witches and an academy dedicated to training Inquisitors to combat them are a reality. In that environment Takeru Kusanagi is the reluctant captain of the 35th Test Platoon, nicknamed the Small Fry Platoon, presumably because they are bottom-ranked. He's the captain pretty much because both of the other two members – a busty, incompetent sniper and a laid-back female techie who likes to put said sniper in compromising positions – are even less suited to the role. He's also very sensitive about getting teased over still using a sword in a day and age when magic and guns predominate. The platoon's fortunes may be changing when Juka Ohtori, a former classmate of Takeru's who was such a prodigy that she earned her Inquistor license young, is demoted and forced to join them. She has her own agenda, though, and thus no time for incompetents. On the second of their two missions together, Takeru finds out both why she is so driven and why she is so prone to lethal force even though that's against regulations: she has previously lost her entire family to witches and their depravities.
On the surface this looks like a fairly standard “unit of misfits” tale, and a lame one at that. The antics are not funny, the fan service isn't sexy (yes, it even manages to work in the “fall on the girl and the guy's hands land on her boobs” gimmick), and the action scenes do not provide strong enough or flashy enough thrills to compensate. And let's not even get into how utterly pathetic the Chairman of the Academy is. Female platoon members are all given prominent busts and either outfits or actions (or both) which emphasize them, so incidental fan service seems destined to be a regular feature, but other series this season have done a more attractive job and varied job in that regard. The artistry and animation are nothing special, either.
But then there's the scene at the end, where Takeru has to try to talk down Juka from executing a couple of suspects over the bloody remnants of some kind of experiment. This part is a dramatic tonal shift from the rest of the episode, one drastic enough that all of the previous frivolity is blown to the side as heavier drama kicks in, and it is actually effective, even good. The in media res prologue suggests some darker content to come, too. Sadly, it looks like the good stuff here is going to be stuck being weighed down by the crap, but at least there is some potential here.
Anti-Magic Academy is an utterly, irredeemably garbage show. In being that, it's actually a kind of bracingly pure thing. It is the ur-light novel, an adaptation that ticks basically every hackneyed, tedious checkbox the “secretly awesome boy goes to magic school and ladies collapse into him” genre contains.
This episode starts ticking those boxes fast, opening with a dramatic flash-forward featuring characters we don't yet have any reason to care about in a scene that ends with a mysterious girl making a strange proclamation. That's two bingo boxes already, but the show doesn't let up there! In the next scene, a tour de force of cliche light novel adaptation choices, we open at the Anti-Magic Academy, where some sneering jerks offer exposition about a magical war while simultaneously mocking our protagonist Kusanagi for using a sword. Apparently, everyone here uses guns, but because Kusanagi is extra special, he can only use a sword - and so of course he's mocked for that. So we're currently at a combination of Sword Art Online's “swords are awesomer than guns” and Mahouka's “I'm the worst in the class, but secretly actually the best.” A strong combination!
That two-for-one is quickly followed up with another, as Kusanagi reveals that he attends this school because his parents are dead, but he has to take care of his beloved little sister. That's two cliches in one sentence! Following that impressive feat, the show transitions directly into “walking in on girl changing,” only this time it ups the ante with a bunny suit and a perverted older woman filming the situation. After some slapstick and the requisite “pervert!!!” (a trope so embedded I almost feel bad assigning it a bingo point), we finally get introduced to our main love interest - Ohtori Ouka, a standoffish redhead who's actually the top of her class (check, check, check), but has been demoted for being a loose cannon with nothing to lose and everything to prove.
From there, the episode moves quickly to the team's first assignment, where we learn that as inquisitors in training, Kusanagi and his team hunt down witches and magical artifacts. This sequence demonstrated the only good things about this episode - the cute hook of the premise, the decent visual execution, and the actual sense of momentum. It also featured a scene where Kusanagi went into berserker mode because people insulted his sword, only to be soothed by the calming sound of his sister's voice - a sequence that I don't even want to begin to unpack psychologically. Oh, and this is also where the episode slotted in its second boob-grab, this time with Kusanagi saying he “actually prefers flat chests.”
Apparently realizing it had been nothing but insufferable for eighteen minutes, the last few minutes of Anti-Magic Academy attempt to squash in some ham-handed drama. The show moves from hosting a welcome party for Ohtori to having the characters discover a bunch of dead children to Ohtori loudly screaming “witches killed my family, now you know my character motivation” within roughly three minutes, with each of these sequences possessing the dramatic and emotional gravity of a ham sandwich. Then we see the mysterious girl from the intro again and the episode's over.
This first episode was garbage. And not just regular garbage - condensed garbage. I was actually impressed by how many bad things they managed to compress into just twenty minutes - normally it takes shows like this about that much time just to introduce their characters. It's impressive, but only in the way a sinking cruise ship might be impressive. Please do not watch this show.
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