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Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts! PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 00:00
What do you get when you replace the usual system of school tests with something a little more high-tech - like, say, a fighting avatar whose power equals your test scores? Baka and Test, that's what. Class F should suck at this game, being the thickest students in school, but they have a few surprises to spring on the classes above them...

At the start of their school careers, the students of Fumizuki Academy take their class placement tests, the results of which will determine which stream - A-F - they'll be placed in. Unlike other schools, though, each stream has very different facilities, from plush luxury for Class A, to cardboard boxes and mats on the floor for Class F. Akihisa Yoshii very much deserves to be in Class F, as he's a complete idiot - but when school genius Mizuki Himeji ends up there with him after illness ruined her test scores, he becomes determined to help her get back to where she should be...

The school in Baka and Test is a little bit unusual, to be honest, right from the idea of having classroom facilities commensurate to the class's abilities. I hope the school fees are on a sliding scale here. It provides something of an incentive for the lower classes to outperform - beat the class above you in a challenge, and you get their room, along with the better facilities. The challenge comes by way of a Summoner Test War, where the students' electronic avatars - with powers based on their test scores - do battle to decide the winner. Study hard and improve your scores, and you have a chance of moving up in the world. Be a genuine idiot, and you're stuffed.

Class F, it must be said, mostly lives down to the image you'd expect of them - especially the nominal star of the show, Akihisa Yoshii. He's so thick that he's on academic probation, which gives him a rather unusual avatar. Fortunately, though, the class also has brainbox student Mizuki Himeji, who would have been in the 'A' class if she hadn't passed out during the streaming tests; and class rep Yuuji, who's a tactical genius where Summoner Test Wars are concerned. Put them all together, and even Class 'A' needs to watch out...

But while the Summoner Test Wars are a large part of Baka and Test - there are two significant arcs in the series devoted to them - there's also a large dose of screentime devoted to the series simply having fun with the characters. Akihisa's in love with Himeji, but fellow classmate (and violent tomboy) Minami is in love with Akihisa, and much hilarity ensues of how that triangle plays out; Yuuji has unwanted attention from Class A girl Shouko, who may be possibly the most scarily-possessive woman on the planet; and everybody loves Hideyoshi, a boy who is otherwise identical to his twin sister Yuko - which leads to plenty of fun to be had at the expense of just what sex he is (although with the school having toilets and changing rooms for a third sex, "Hideyoshi", you can guess how that works out). On my first run through the series, I though the mess-with-the-characters aspect of the series was the most fun; this time around, I got more of a kick out of the tactics & twists and turns of battle that went with the Summoner Test Wars. which I hadn't really been expecting - it perhaps depends what sort of mood you're in when watching as to which aspect of the show works best.

That said, put it all together, mix well, and there's plenty of fun to be had at the expense of Akihisa and friends, leaving Baka and Test ultimately great fun to watch, if a touch on the shallow side. It's not to be taken remotely seriously, and you'll want to go into it with your mind thoroughly switched off, but that's often no bad thing. It's a supremely silly idea, made to work purely by the collection of weird and wacky characters who take part, and it's definitely worth a look.

Rating - ***