You have to feel sorry for the students of Class 2-F at Fumizuki Academy. The losers in the educational experiment (or ESB) promoted by the principal, they have to put up with the worst educational equipment and furniture available (at least they’ve got desks this time around, not cardboard boxes) in the whole school. Each student at this school has their own cute chibi avatar whose fighting ability is linked to their owner’s test scores. When summoned, the avatars battle each other to determine the educational pecking order of their owners’ classes (and therefore the standard of facilities they are entitled to.)
But all this pales into insignificance alongside the hormonal battles raging in the hearts and bodies of the beleaguered Class F students. Take Akihisa Yoshii, for example. He’s a good-hearted guy (even if he’s a little slow on the uptake) and his avatar is probably the most physically powerful of all. He’s also the object of two of the girls’ affections: ditsy, curvaceous pink-haired Himeji and red-haired transfer student Minami. Minami is idolised by furiously feisty Miharu from Class D who won’t tolerate any rivals. Akihisa’s ally is Yuuji who has girl problems of his own as his obsessed friend from elementary school, Shouko, insists that they are engaged and will stop at nothing to get her man. Nothing. Then there’s Kouta, who’s always snapping away (not to mention setting up surveillance equipment) but whose constant perving results in explosive and extensive nosebleeds. Last but not least in the quartet of friends is the androgynous Hideyoshi who has to keep insisting that he is a boy, even though he’s easily able to switch places with his twin sister Yuuko. Add to this explosive mixture of personalities strait-laced megane Kubo from Class A who has a crush on Akihisa, then put all the classes through a week’s residential Academic Training Camp, throw in a pinch or two of malicious blackmailing, and chaos ensues.
Season 2 gets going with a summer trip to the seaside. Cue all the well-seasoned anime clichés about bikinis, comparative breast sizes, watermelons, yukatas… And yet here the action seems fresh and funny, partly down to the fact that the characters are genuinely likable, yet mostly because of the quickfire script, stylish visuals, and the creators’ evident delight in parodying the very manga genres they’re feeding off. This leads into the mayhem caused by a malicious piece of blackmail at the Academic Training Camp – and even the teachers get caught up in the madness, as Akihisa and Yuuji attempt to clear their names by plotting an intricate strategy to infiltrate the girls’ bathroom. (Yes, I know, but that’s the way it plays out.) But it’s when the students’ avatars undergo dramatic transformations that we learn that the principal has laid the grounds for a new battle – and the battlefield will be a Haunted House!
Baka and Test returns for a second season bringing with it all the craziness from the first – and it’s still fun to watch. All the visual jokes are still there, the gender-bending (it’s no surprise that Hideyoshi and Yuuko Kinoshita were voted favourite pair of twins in a recent ANN poll) and the deliciously affectionate parodies of genre clichés from BL and Yuri to GTO.
Not much has changed in the personal relationships games since Season 1. Shouko is still determined to marry Yuuji – and will go to any lengths to make sure he agrees (the taser gun is still in evidence.) Himeji’s cooking is as deadly as ever (and she’s still blissfully unaware of that fact.) The girls still have it in for the boys. The boys usually come off worst. Minami gets a whole episode to herself, showing how difficult it’s been for her as a transfer student from Germany, to fit in – and this is touchingly done. Less successful is the episode devoted to relating how Shouko and Yuuji first met in elementary school; this should have been cute but it drags a little and doesn’t add much to what we know about them already. Frankly, Baka and Test is at its best when not taking itself too seriously – and for the most part director Shin Oonuma keeps the action fast and furious.
The US voice acting is excellent. Especially good are the actors portraying the four boys: Josh Grelle as Akihisa, Scott Freeman as Yuuji, Greg Ayres as Kouta, and Brina Palencia playing Hideyoshi (and his twin sister Yuuko!) Of course, as with Tiger & Bunny, a great deal depends on the US script – and this is another clever reversioning from Jaimi Marchi (who also plays Shouko) Leah Clarke, and Blair Rowan. That’s not to say that the original seiyuu are outclassed; Hiro Shimono as Akihisa and Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Yuuji stand out as the main buddies and co-conspirators.
Opening Theme, “Kimi + Nazo + Watashi de JUMP!!” by Larval Stage Planning, sets the scene perfectly with candy-coloured character images and a lively J-pop vibe to match. Beware the Ending Theme: “Eureka Baby” by Natsuko Aso; it’s so catchy you won’t be able to get it out of your brain for days.
As in Season 1, there are bucketloads of Special Features: Commentaries for Episodes 3 & 13, Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts Spinout!, Promo Videos, Original Commercials, U.S. Trailer, and Textless Songs.
It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s funny. It’s like eating a whole box of your favourite candies in one go. Sometimes you need to treat yourself; go on, you know you deserve it!