Introduction:BAKA and TEST - Summon the Beast was just freshly licensed by FUNimation in the middle of the show's run in Japan (actually more towards the end-- I believe there are 13 episodes expected for the show, and they're up to episode 9 in Japan currently). They posted the first two episodes of the series (subtitled) on the FUNi video site, so I thought I should stop by and take a look.
BAKA and TEST Episodes 1-2
Release Date: 03/05/10
Plot:From the publisher:
"Fumizuki Academy’s students can summon Avatars, pint-sized versions of themselves that battle using special powers. The students are grouped by skill level, and those in Class A are the brightest. Then there’s Akihisa Yoshii’s group – lowly Class F. They’re the worst on campus, and they’re about to take on the school’s best."
Akihisa is a moron among morons, and somehow he got the bright idea to go to a school where the quality of your daily life is determined by your test scores. Joining him in class F are a childhood-friend type female, an upskirt photographer, a nice effeminate guy, a "cool" guy, and one of those sweet, buxom, kinda dim but booksmart gals, who would probably be in class A were it not for her poor health, which forced her to leave the testing room and get a zero.
This last bit seems quite odd since we later learn that the tests are infinitely long and students can take them for as long (or as little time) as they want in order to boost their scores well above 100, so as long as she answered ANY questions she should have scored above a 0...but oh well, it's all in the name of art! Right?
Why would they do it? Well, in this unique school's setup, students can summon an "avatar" (they're not blue), whose power and health is equal to their score in the subject which they choose to battle in. The battle has nothing to do with the subject itself, usually.
Another interesting facet of the school: any class can challenge another class to a battle, and whichever class wins can choose to swap equipment with the defeated class. So, class F can trade in their shoddy tables and drafty classroom for the swank of class A, if they can win in an avatar-battle.
Tone:All of the above adds up into a tale that is sort of like a wacky parody of an MMO. Actually, throughout episode one's descriptions of how all this stuff works, I was thinking that I'd be amused to play a game like that.
As for the anime, its over-the-top parody is mostly derivative of other titles, right down to the shot of the upskirt photographer finally getting a good peep and turning his face all grown-up and dramatic, which was ripped almost directly in style from Kyou no Go no Ni and Minamike (assuming that these series didn't already take it from somewhere I'm not familiar with, of course).
Which isn't to say it didn't have some amusing moments, but at the end of the first episode I was pretty nonplussed: the show had moved so fast that I almost felt like I had just watched an amusing one-shot special, and didn't feel particularly interested in watching more.
But watch more I did, and while I also found the second episode amusing, I still didn't feel like I needed to see more of it. So, while I wouldn't say the show is "bad," I can't say I'm likely to become a regular devotee, either, although I could certainly imagine myself watching it idly in the background while bored or working on something else.
The director here is Shin Oonuma, who has assisted Akiyuki Shinbo on several productions before, and some of that influence is visible in Baka and Test, particularly in terms of pacing and dialogue. But it never feels as sharp or as clever.
Those of you who like a very light-hearted comedy with some fanservice jokes and nothing very much to think hard-- or who just want something to watch as a timewaster --will probably enjoy Baka and Test's online streaming, and even I may watch more of it in this context.
But as for buying a DVD collection? Based on this sampling, I just didn't find anything in it really all that funny-- you've seen these characters before, and you've seen these kinds of jokes before, and odds are good you've seen them done better, too.
Pros and Cons:
- Cute character designs
- Interesting setup
- Good animation
- Stereotypical characters
- Stereotypical jokes
- Payoff on interesting setup not as good as I'd hoped so far
If, Then, But:
If you like these then you might like Baka and Test. But...
- Yakitate Japan!! (but not as funny)
- School Rumble (but not as funny)
- Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (but not as funny)
Well, I've said my piece. Share yours in the comments!