Comedy is subjective. Some people prefer witty satire and others prefer blunt brainless nonesense. Well, Baka to Test is the latter of the two. Just like its namesake, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu (Idiots and Tests and Summoning Beings) is one hell of an idiotic show. But it serves its purpose of providing nonsensical entertainment, and I'm afraid if you are expecting otherwise then Baka to Test is not for you.
To many, the story is – to put it plainly – outright stupid. Students are split into classes from A-F based on their academic skills; A being full of smartarses and F being crammed with quote/unquote “the mentally retarded”. Incidentally, what class you are in correlates to the facilities they have, much like an academic ‘caste system’.
So we have the idiots and tests out of the way, so what about the Summoning Beings? Evidently, there are ways to acquire these prestigious facilities – the obvious one being to score high on the mid-terms...and the other, Exam Summoning Battles. Such battles consist of the student’s being, which is a chibi version of themselves fighting other student’s beings. Much like video games, they have points (which can be considered as health bars) that are knocked off through physical contact. There is little to no “exam”, or any such academic skills tested in these battles, but what the heck – anything goes in anime, more so in this one. The show is already incoherent enough to be questioned at this point.
Akihisa and the rest of F-class duel in these ESB’s to get the hotel-suite like facilities and prove to everyone that grades aren’t everything! Along with that there are love triangles, moé, traps, incest, lolicons, cross-dressing, yaoi, yuri and every anime cliché under-the-sun.
And I for one love it for that.
Brainless comedy is brainless. Filled to the brim with slapstick humour and overacting such as the infamous anime nosebleed and much, much shouting to the point it is classed as screeching; dirty jokes and overall randomness Baka to Test helps the reviewer just sit back, relax and take it in all the over the top nature of the show.
Not only does it spoof anime traits but it also parodies anime shows, the most recognizable ones being that from Gurren Lagann and Code Geass but they are quite subtly played. Knowledge of these shows aren't required to enjoy the show as they are only for minimal comedy relief.
Another wonderfully played cliché are the stereotypical characters:
Akihisa, the idiotic male lead completely oblivious to all the girls lusting over him;
Himeji, the big breasted intelligent yet timid beauty – and the most obvious love interest;
Yuuji, strong willed and often in a comedic duo with Akihisa;
Minami, tomboyish though is actually quite the girl to heart;
Kouta, the class’ pervert;
And Hideyoshi, the ‘trap’ – often mistaken as a girl due to his appearances.
These walking stereotypes were all so superb at keeping the viewers laughing with their antics and traits. But as most stereotypes are – they are restricted. As progress throughout the show went on there was no doubt, a formula in the comedy. There were many spontaneous comedic moments as well, but most of it was rather repetitive. However, I wouldn’t say it hindered the show greatly as it does not insult the viewer’s sense of humour. It knows that we know this or that punch line or act yet it is delivered in such a way that it still stays fresh and funny. Much like a signature catchphrase, each character is assigned a certain quirk, habit or joke which we all come to know and love.
Silver Link’s animation was impressive for an almost unknown company. The only other anime they have actually produced (Tayutama ~Kiss on my Deity~) is not very well known and since then their animation has improved. Although the art and animation is fairly average and similar to most other shows, it has subtle add-ins that would make it recognizable even amongst a hundred different anime, such as the colourful shadows each character has – all different colours, no less and the “spotty” inking in backgrounds and objects. Baka has no trouble integrating different styles of art for either comedic purposes or otherwise – using blindingly bright colours when needed and eerily dark when called for. Music is, just like the art, average. The OP and ED are very skippable and the background music is forgettable.
Baka to Test does the job of using some very well known seiyuus as well as some not so very well known. All display a charismatic quality in their characters and bring out the character that they are. Akihisa is the loud idiot. Yuuji is the sometimes-calm-sometimes-not idiot. Himeji is naively sweet. Minami is an awkward idiot. Hideyoshi...does not sound like an idiot per se, but comes across as amusingly girly. And Kouta is perverted through and through. Just hearing the voicing alone could tell you this.
The ‘ending’ of the show is much left to be desired for, in other words it was quite a letdown. Fortunately it has the opportunity to redeem itself with the second season announced to be aired soon.
Baka to Test isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before. And honestly the excuse of a story isn’t even well thought out or developed. But sometimes you will have to sit there, laugh it all off and say “That’s just stupid!”