Just another place for one anime fan to put his thoughts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu

To be perfectly honest, I started watching this series mainly because I read some comment saying that it was a Shaft show not created by Shaft. I'm a self-proclaimed Shaft fanboy, so I decided to give it a chance, despite the fact that the premise didn't interest me in the slightest. A school where students are put in classes according to academic rank, and can use videogame avatars of themselves to fight for better facilities? A little too silly, and not in a good way.

But I've always been of the belief that the premise is the least important part of a show's quality; it's all in the execution. And after 5 episodes, the execution has been... mixed.

The first couple episodes certainly impressed. Having Akihisa's hand glued to the table for almost the entirety of episode 2 was comedic genius. They certainly gave me that Pani Poni Dash/ Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei vibe with its slapstick and ridiculous humor. That's not to say that Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu was aping Shaft's works. It definitely felt like it had its own identity. It takes some potshots at some modern anime conventions such as the trap or the overly perverted voyeur, but at the same time takes advantage of those same conventions to full effect. And there is something delightfully refreshing about a high school comedy which isn't a harem comedy these days. There's a love triangle between Akihisa, Minami, and Mizuki, and the girls do fit certain stereotypes, but that's about it.
But after the first couple episodes, things started to become a lot more... plain. The focus shifted on the more traditional plot point of a high school comedy, namely the unrequited love triangles and having a clueless male lead. There's also some comedic yuri and yaoi elements as well, which, in their ridiculousness, end up being too predictable. Similarly, the stereotypical so-bad-at-cooking-her-food-kills-you gag that just falls flat due to its mundaneness.

It's still funny, but in a more standard way. The abusive relationship between Shouko and Yuuji is probably what I found funniest in the latest episodes (I liked Apocalypse Now and loved Heart of Darkness, but I couldn't watch the movie twice back to back). The very latest one, about the scavenger hunt in the school, definitely had its moments, especially when Akihisa and his group were using the "by exhaustion" method of finding a prize towards the end.

Maybe it's a sign that the premise wasn't so bad after all - the contents of the first 2 episodes were the inter-class battles, and it was the show's imaginative depiction of them that I found to be so funny. But without them, the show follows high school comedy standards to a fault, and with no interesting characters, it ends up falling flat.

I'll be watching, hoping that the show goes back to the type of humor that differentiated it so much from other shows, the kind shown in the first 2 episodes.

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