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Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts 2 PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 06 January 2012 00:00
Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts 2Class F are back for more antics with their summoned avatars. No class war this time, though, with the focus being on things more mischievous than before...

The thing with shows like Baka and Test is that it's hard to write reviews that are a decent length - the review for the first season barely required any page scrolling, and this won't be much difference. The second season brings the core cast of the first back, with no changes: Yoshii's still juggling his interests in Minami and Himeji, Yuuji's still trying hard not to be loved to death by Shouko, Hideyoshi's still of indeterminate gender, and the fringe cast of hangers-on are all still up to their usual tricks. The first season hit on a formula that worked well, and this time around they at least haven't messed with the characters that made it work.

What they have messed with, though, is what the gang get up to, with the school's hierarchy, the Summoner Test Wars and the quest to improve the lot of the students in class F having gone by the wayside in favour of things a little more serious - there are entirely gag-free episodes devoted to Yuuji and the story of how Shouko fell in love with him, and to Minami's difficult introduction to Japanese high-school life on her return from Germany - and on uses for the summoned avatars that are rather less critical than the Test Wars. Like fighting through hordes of girls and teachers to use them to peek on the girls' baths, an arc which takes up a full three episodes (blackmail in also involved). And that's where it falls down a little compared to the first season.

To be clear: I like the characters in Baka and Test. It's a fairly straightforward comedy so they mostly stick to the established character types for this sort of show (Hideyoshi being the main attempt to try something different, although "traps" aren't exactly unusual these days either), they bounce well off each other, and the summoned avatars are a good gimmick to have a little fun with. But the series worked better when it gave them an aim - winning the Test Wars - and more of a reason to involved the other classes in their antics. This season is more disjointed, being a series of unconnected arcs, and the serious background episodes really don't fit the established comedic style of the series. In something like Clannad, absolutely give me character development, as what that sort of show tries to do demands that you connect with the characters; in a slapstick comedy, I really don't care that Minami has trouble fitting in at her new school, or that Shouko wasn't always such a headcase - I just what to see them doing more goofy things, and this time around there are too many distractions away from that.

Now, before anyone points it out: I know I said in the review of season one that...

...while the Summoner Test Wars are a large part of Baka and Test - there are two significant arcs in the series devoted to them - the real fun comes in the middle episodes where the series is simply having fun with the characters.

That's almost the opposite of what I'm saying here, but it's only after watching this season and missing the Test Wars that I really gained an appreciation for them. Go figure. They were part of a formula that worked really well, and while this season is still a lot of fun to watch, there is something missing, and it hasn't quite nailed the comedy as well as the first season did. Still worth watching, but manage expectations accordingly.

Rating - ***