Classroom of the Elite
Episode 5

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Classroom of the Elite ?

Classroom of the Elite took some welcome steps in the right direction this week, rising to once again be a show that I can actually enjoy watching. This partly came down to a needed recalibration of my expectations - Elite is never going to be a meaningful commentary on society or a revealing character study in the vein of something like SNAFU. Elite is a sort of campy and archetype-happy riff on something like Mean Girls, and as far as that goes, this episode was perfectly successful.

Getting back to the show itself, a mixture of snappier pacing and focus on stronger characters made this episode much more enjoyable than last week. Kushida's utterly twist-focused personality means she's not really a person you can care about, and Ayanokoji is similarly framed as a setup for a big twist (when he's not being perfect at everything). Neither of them feel like people at all, but this episode's focus character Sakura actually had understandable anxieties and multiple dimensions, immediately making her one of the show's strongest cast members yet.

Sakura's anxieties were first illustrated in one of this episode's silliest scenes, as she brought Ayanokoji and Kushida along on a trip to the camera store. The dramatic character acting of the camera store clerk was presumably supposed to act as a visual representation of Sakura's intense social anxiety, but the framing of his actions was so over-the-top that he came across more like an extra who refuses to stop overacting. I don't think the close-up zooms of his teeth and his tendency to let his head sort of sag across the screen were supposed to come across as funny, but “ham-handed drama playing out as unintentional comedy” is turning out to be one of Elite's most reliable strengths.

Sakura turned out to also have a secret personality twist, but this one at least felt like a believable secret. It turned out that in spite of her demure persona, she actually spent her free time taking glamorous selfies as some kind of net idol. This was the show's strongest “actually this character is a ____ person" reversal for a few reasons. First off, this didn't actually contradict what we already knew about the character. In contrast with something like Kushida's 180, the idea that a shy person would have a secretly extroverted online life is totally believable. That coherency meant Sakura could experience a meaningful character arc across this episode, tethering the episode's finale to one of the leads' clear emotional struggles.

This episode was also greatly aided by its snappy pacing. The first half of the episode was concisely dedicated to arranging all the main pieces for the fight trial - gathering evidence, establishing Sakura's personality, and setting the date. After that, we jumped right into the trial itself, where both Horikita and Sakura were able to score nice wins for their character arcs. Horikita in particular got some of her best material in that scene, offering a level-headed critique of her opponents' testimony while still demonstrating the often self-destructive pride and competitive spirit that define her.

Overall, this was a fine episode of the show we'll probably be getting from here on out. There were still plenty of hokey lines and Ayanokoji is still a non-entity, but things moved quickly and the big courtroom scene was pretty fun. The more this show prioritizes plot-focused strategy shenanigans, the more its tactically brilliant but emotionally unconvincing characters will feel appropriate. Given this episode's own focus, it feels like we're on the right track.

Overall: B

Classroom of the Elite is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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