The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 78 – Baka and Test

Baka and Test

We continue to look at anime set in schools that would never exist in real life. This time we look at a school which combines currently non-existent technology with what has to be the most extreme form of educational streaming imaginable.

The title of this anime also features my favourite Japanese word. The word “baka” fits into that small category of words like “feck” which sound rather rude to English ears but is not too offensive. Say it out aloud and it sounds a bit like “bugger”, but actually “baka” simply means “idiot”.

Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, often just shortened to Baka and Test, began as a series of novels written between 2007-2013 by Kenji Inoue, with several manga versions also made. Two anime TV series and original video anime were made between 2010 and 2011.

The school setting is Fumizuki Academy, where the school is divided into six classes, Class A, Class B and so on down to Class F. Class A has the brightest students, who are also given the best equipment and all the luxuries they could want. Class B is slightly less luxurious and the students are slightly worse academically. The series however follows the students in Class F, where the dumbest students are forced to study and are given the worst, most basic equipment. However, classes are able to challenge each other in order to capture or retain better facilities. This is where the technology comes in.

Each class can summon a battle, overseen by a teacher. The students fight using special avatars, aka “Summoned Beings”. Each Summoned Being has a different strength, based on their academic scores in the field of study the overseeing teacher specialises in. So if you being overseen by a maths teacher, your strength is based on scores in maths tests. The Summoned Being loses points each time it is hit. While you can flee battle and take extra tests to boost your score, the student still has to be careful because if they reach zero, they lose the battle and a forced to take remedial lessons under the Fumizuki Academy’s strictest teacher, Soichi “Iron Man” Nishimura.

The central story revolves around Class F student Akihisa Yoshii, the titular “baka”. He is hopeless academically, but dreams that one day all students will be treated the same in the academy. His one useful feature is that his Summoned Being is tangible and can do things in the real world like carrying things. The problem is that when one gets hurt, so does the other. Akihisa finds himself in the middle of a love triangle in the class between two female students. One is Mizuki Himeji, who is actually one of the smartest students in the school, but ended up in Class F because she fell ill on the day on the entrance exam, meaning she scored zero. The other is Minami Shimada, a student who has spent most of her life in Germany and thus while clever has difficulty reading Japanese. She has a seemingly hostile attitude, but is more caring on the inside.

Aside from these three, the other main students in Class F are Akihisa’s old school-friend Yuji Sakamoto, who is actually very smart but did not bother to study when he entered the academy and now works as the class representative; Hideyoshi Kinoshita, a male student who actually looks incredibly feminine and keeps having to correct people about his gender; and Kota Tsuchiya, the class pervert who spends most of his time taking rude photos of his female classmates and selling them on, often to Akihisa.

As you might have already gathered, one of the major flaws of this series is the complicated nature of the situation. You have this mixture of extreme (lack of) academic ability, combined with this fighting element. It does get rather confusing so understanding where you are at any given point can be difficult.

However, put that aside the actual plots between the classmates are more interesting. This becomes true when the love triangle between Akihisa, Mizuki and Minami starts to play out. Mizuki and Minami both have their own comic areas. Minami is violent and often takes out her frustrations on Akihisa. Meanwhile Mizuki is totally oblivious to the fact that she cannot cook at all, despite the fact that every dish she makes tends to poison anyone who eats it.

The other characters are also equally comic. Feminine Hideyoshi is a brilliant actor and thus his acting and mimicry are useful in battles, while Kota’s extreme perversion leads to plenty of over-the-top reactions to anything that sounds remotely sexy. Yuji meanwhile has problems with one of the Class A students, a girl called Shoko Kirishima who is madly in love with him and acts violent if Yuji even so much as looks at another girl.

If you can get past the bizarre situation, you have a rather fun, somewhat zany comedy anime.

The two TV series of Baka and Test are released on DVD by Manga Entertainment.