Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sky Wizards Academy
BD+DVD - Complete Series
In the future, the Earth has been taken over by an invasive species known as “Devil Beetles.” This has driven humans to floating islands in the sky, where they utilize the latest technology to fight off the invaders as “sky wizards.” Kanata Age was once one of the most revered sky wizards, but he was branded a traitor after a tragic event. Despite that, several of his old friends still stand by him, and one suggests that he be given charge of the worst fireteam (group of sky wizards) at the academy. Now Kanata and the girls of Fireteam E-601 have the chance to prove themselves – can they make it work?
It's no surprise that Sky Wizards Academy is based on a series of light novels, because all the hallmarks are there: clumsy exposition, a story that deliberately teases major revelations without providing them, and enough focus on the female characters' bodies that you can easily imagine the long, awkward breast descriptions from the source material. Despite that, it does manage to tell a decent, interesting story that may make reading the original novels at least somewhat appealing, if only to get a few solid answers. This isn't an amazing show, but if you like magic high school stories already, Sky Wizards Academy does have a few things to offer.
The story follows overpowered nice-guy hero (mistaken for a pervert) Kanata Age. In the past, he was one of the elite sky wizards of the school on the floating island Mistgun, one of humanity's strongholds against the devil beetles, but a desperate battle got him branded a traitor when he refused to go back into the field afterward. To many viewers, his refusal smacks of PTSD, which can make the continual scorn he receives and the constant name calling of “coward” and “traitor” a major bone of contention. Given that the audience sees what happened before the main story begins and that two of the people who were with him, his friends Lloyd and Chloe, still consider him a friend and a good guy, it's clear that he isn't actually a traitor. While the final episode offers some solid reasons for his refusal besides the possibility of post-traumatic stress, Kanata's harsh treatment by the rest of the cast is a serious issue. Despite that, Kanata carries on, and when he's given the task of instructing the school's worst performing sky wizards, Fireteam E-601, he jumps right in.
While making the harem lead a (young) teacher rather than a classmate is an interesting deviation from the norm – and it's clear that while the girls do develop warm feelings for him, they still see him as an authority figure – the female cast is much more on the nose in characterization. Lecty is sweet but clumsy and shy, Misora is aggressive and stubborn, and Rico is a narcissist who believes she's an actual goddess. All three do eventually manage to overcome their issues with Kanata's help, but until those respective moments, they're barely more than stock characters. They're gradually joined by nice and elegant Chloe, best-friend type Lloyd, and bratty Yuri, who has definitely been drinking the school's Kool-Aid when it comes to Kanata rather than listening to her friends who were actually there, making her the most irritating of the bunch. The most surprising character is Real, a science student who falls for Yuri; his transformation is arguably the most extreme and interesting, even if it follows a formulaic plotline.
Despite its stereotypical characters, Sky Wizards Academy does nail the immaturity of fourteen-year-olds through Misora and the horrors of group projects through Rico, who feels that she just needs to sit back while everyone else does the actual work. The toxic school culture is also developed clearly, as student body president Freon has a hand in influencing everyone's attitudes towards both Kanata and his fireteam, and her total inability to admit that she was wrong once again makes her a familiar figure in the high school landscape. Oddly enough, this show is almost totally devoid of adults – even the school doesn't seem to have adult teachers or administration. It's a given that grown-ups are going to be largely absent in most anime, but this show takes it to an extreme with almost no explanation; perhaps that's something covered in the source material. On the same not-quite-believable level is the fact that while male sky wizards all wear the same suit to fight, females have a greater variety of outfits, most of which involve miniskirts with no leggings underneath, which seems like a really poor plan for flying. Many outfits also push up their breasts, because the best way to fight a devil beetle is with your cleavage popping out of your shirt.
That's part of the problem with the series' art – an inability to draw female bodies or the musculature on male bodies, as seen in the OVA. As usual, breasts are the major stumbling block, with clothing coming in a close second – shirts are more like boob gloves and skirts cling to butts and groins with fanservice in mind. On that subject, there's a fair amount of fanservice throughout the show, mostly focused on Lecty and locker room scenes of the girls before and after practice. There's also an odd theme of spilling things on guys' crotches that feels particularly awkward. "Awkward" is also the best descriptor for the animation, which is generally very basic with a few nice moments thrown in, and the “devil beetles” look and move more like space crabs. The background music, on the other hand, is surprisingly good with a couple of nice pieces throughout.
Extras are business as usual for a Funimation release, with commercials, clean themes, trailers, and commentaries. Those are for episodes one and seven, and they're generally entertaining; even if nothing major or serious is revealed, the voice actors are relaxed and clearly enjoying themselves, especially Ricco Fajardo in the episode seven commentary. (I will never see Lloyd the same way.) Your feelings about high-pitched voices are the most likely influence on whether you prefer the dub or sub for this one; while I prefer Joel McDonald's Kanata to Yoshitsugu Matsuoka's, I find most of the female cast less grating in the sub, where they sound less strained, with the major exception of Alex Moore's Freon.
There were efforts made to make Sky Wizards Academy stand out from the herd. Over the course of the show, we do come to understand that Yuri is mourning the loss of her old friend group without understanding the reasons that it changed, Lecty is given an actual social anxiety disorder, and Real's journey from zero to creepy in no time flat does make at least a little sense, aided in the dub by Chris Guerrero's voice work. But in a lot of other ways, this is just like every other magic high school harem show, from the characters to the story arcs, and it ends with questions remaining that we aren't likely to get answered any time soon.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C-
Music : B
+ Tries to develop its characters, makes an effort to set itself apart from the herd, background music is nice
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