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January 14, 2010

Baka to Test to Shokanju is like one of those Revolutionary Girl Utena joke episodes made into a series.

I’m loving it so far.

That isn’t to say that Baka is super creative or anything like that. The series is fairly generic in terms of its cast and setting. We’ve seen these characters in other anime series countless times, and we’ve seen school “battle” anime series as well. Baka isn’t good because of “what” it is, it’s good because of “how” it uses these clichés.

Take the main character, Akihisa. He’s your typical “pathetic” anime lead. But he also has a “special power,” another trait common for such “pathetic” leads. He may be generic and inept, but he also has something that makes him better than the other characters in the series. Akihisa has such a power: his little SD avatar is “real.” It can manipulate things in reality. In most other series this would be some sort of deal breaker that gives his class an edge over higher-ranking opponents. In Baka all it means is that Akihisa’s avatar is “linked” to him, and when it “feels” pain or hits something in reality, Akihisa feels it as well. His “special power” makes him even more pathetic, the exact opposite of what you usually see in an anime.

Baka derives a good amount of its humor from bucking trends. There’s an amusing sequence in the second episode where the pink haired girl, Himeji, is caught writing a love letter. Based on past experiences, you’d expect this letter to be for the “main” dude, since anime series rarely have a “main” girl like Himeji even acknowledge the existence of any male characters other than the lead. Nope, she’s writing a love letter to Yoshii, the conniving and arrogant class rep. The running commentary from what I assume is Akihisa’s common sense is pretty damn funny, as we see it infuriated with the way Akihisa tries to deny that Himeji likes someone other than him. It’s cool to not only see the main dude lose one of his potential “harem” members, it’s also cool to see that the anime is making a conscious decision to not go down that route. Even when Himeji tugs on Akihisa at the end of the episode it seems more like she’s just trying to get consolation prize. She doesn’t want Akihisa, she just can’t stand seeing that tomboy scoring a dude when she just got shafted by a Class A bitch.

There’s plenty of “cheap” gags as well, like having Mr. Voyeur and Akihisa erupt like nosebleed volcanos when a girl in Class A offers to teach them Health in a “practical” way, but the series manages to play off these gags pretty well and doesn’t dwell on them.

So far Baka is probably the funniest series I’ve seen since Astro Fighter Sunred started back in 2008. It isn’t a comedic masterpiece like DMC or Azumanga, but it’s far more clever than Family Guy-lite crap like Seitokai no Ichizon. Hopefully Baka can keep up with this frantic, screwball pace. If it tries to get serious or anything like that,  it’ll likely get awful very fast.

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