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Baka And Test: Summon The Beasts Complete Series Collection UK Anime DVD Review

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Baka And Test: Summon The Beasts Complete Series Collection [DVD]

A comedy school romp that actually does something a comedy should do…make me laugh.

What They Say:
Fumizuki Academy’s students can summon Avatars, pint-sized versions of themselves that battle using special powers. The students are grouped by skill level, and those in Class A are the brightest. Then there’s Akihisa Yoshii’s group lowly Class F. They’re the worst on campus, and they’re about to take on the school’s best.

The Review:
Menu:
The menu on Baka Test has the opening theme song playing with a picture of Mizuki and Akihisa on Disc 1 and Minami with a love struck Miharu looks on in Disc 2. Each menu has fanservicy pictures of all the girls (and of course Hideyoshi) whilst you make your selection of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on Disc 2 Extras. The set up is in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and 2.0 Japanese Stereo. The menu scrolls down in episode select for the 7 episodes in Disc 1 and 6 in Disc 2 (no scene select), easy to navigate on all screens though surprised couldn’t fit all the selections on screen…then I remember they need another screen for more Hideyoshi service and I totally understand…

Extras:
Baka Test does deliver some sweet short extras, as short episodes/OVAs are played for extra laughs (only in Japanese). We have the Mission Impossible Baka preview and episode, with Kouta spoofing MI, as he as all hot blooded men tend to do after watching this show, is intend on finding some dirty, revealing photos of Hideyoshi. A few risqué shots courtesy of some milk hitting Hideyoshi, Mizuki and Minami, the girls go into the changing room. Cue lots of blood being lost and Akihasa eating lunch in the bottom right to block most of the juicy shots…

The Baka Only Cross-dressing contest basically involving all of 2-F’s guys along with a couple of other characters from the show being judged on how well they look cross-dressing, being judged by Yuko (Hideyoshi’s sister) and Kubo (a possible male admirer of Akihisa)…it is pretty funny seeing the reactions of them and the teachers of certain characters, especially the reactions to Yuuji, Kouta and Akihisa.

Mizuki Himeji Girls Meal is a short on Mizuki making nikujaga(meat and potatoes)…and if you’ve seen Mizuki’s cooking, you will at least know why this girl’s food tastes as it does. The King Game in Fumizuki Academy had me laughing the most, as the cast of 2-F, along with Shouko and Aiko plays the king game which goes about as well as you can, with unspeaking horrors for Kouta, Akihisa, poor Mizuki doesn’t get her kiss she wanted, Yuji…well, you can see how he suffers, but Akihisa gets his biggest revenge ever at the end much to the girls horror…

The Special Christmas segment was not as good as basically it was the same story but told by Mizuki, Minami, Hideyoshi and Akihisa just interspersed with different comedy bits from the FFF, but the Baka And Test Tales was a nice mixture of a number of tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Wizard Of Oz, Snow Black…er White) with our favourite cast, with some funny moments, usually involving Mizuki and Shouko to their respective beaus. Lastly, we have some Japanese commercials, some promo videos and all the textless songs, opening and endings. Not much in the way of info about the show, but some nice and fun shorts involving our favourite brand of bakas.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Baka and Test is one of those series that I was surprised get a UK release, it definitely has its appeal but it wasn’t a series I was aware that was quite well known in the UK that would warrant a license. However, with shows like this and Clannad now over here, I’m more than happy that there is more range now, as this is definitely a love or hate series depending on how you see the comedy.

Personally, I loved it.

The story starts off with our lead baka, Yoshii Akihisa taking a test to judge what class he will be in at Fumizuki Academy, an interesting school that gives you better supplies depending on how well you grade. As he prepares, a beautiful girl named Mizuki is feeling unwell but if she leaves the class, she gets an automatic 0 which will put her in the worst class. Fast forward a bit later, and Akihisa is revealed to have been in the worst class, joined by his best friend (and worst tormentor) Yuji, another female friend Minami, a tomboy who seems to like Akihisa and shows her affection by putting him in wrestling holds every time he insults her flat chest, and ninja pervert Kouta, who always tries to take pictures whenever Minami puts Akihisa in the holds in case her skirt flows up.

Oh, and another character named Hideyoshi who you may have seen me mention a couple of times. Quite simply, the most beautiful anime character of all time? All men bow before him. Huh, wait? HIM? Yes, this series does indeed try to screw with every heterosexual male’s mind. And trust me, it works.

Anyway, Mizuki joins the class as well because of her getting a 0, but Yuji isn’t enjoying being on cardboard boxes, super glue for fixing chairs and dirty floors. His goal is to get into Class A, to prove idiots have their own way of proving a point, where there are drinks and snacks, high tech equipment and conditioning. At this school, you can move to higher classes if you defeat a higher class in a battle using their avatars – a high tech system which works RPG style, where your avatar is a reflection of your test scores, so the better you do, the stronger your avatar is. This also reflects on specific subjects, for example Minami is actually really good a math so she can get a math teacher to approve a battle, then her avatar is quite strong. However, at almost any other subject, she is really weak so her strength goes way down and is much easier to defeat. The show’s plot revolves around Class F facing the other classes yet not taking their rooms…and instead using them as a way to defeat Class A, which includes Hideyoshi’s twin sister Yuko…and the real boss, Shouko…a beautiful girl who at first everyone thought was interested in Mizuki…but is in fact interested in another…

Class F is a real cast of characters. It’s revealed that Mizuki is in fact Class A standard, with only Shouko possibly being stronger than her in terms of intelligence. Each member of the class has their own skills which actually work just as good in defeating teams instead of relying on their smarts. Yuji for example is actually quite smart and scores low to fake out teams, but also works as a strategist and chess master. Akihisa is dumb, but his avatar is able to actually work in real life (which usually gets him hurt, but it does come in handy quite a lot) and later in the series, gets a bracelet which allows him to summon his avatar without the need of a teacher. Minami is an athlete and good at math, Hideyoshi is a superb actor who can dress in any costume and imitate voices really well (and yes, all of the costumes are female related…it’s one of many running gags) and Kouta is excellent in Health and Physical Ed, as well as being..well, a ninja of sorts. However, the real meat of the series is the comedy, which is where Baka Test either succeeds or fails at.

The show does rely on a number of running jokes (Yuji always convincing Akihisa to go to another class or do something stupid, he agrees…and gets beat up, Hideyoshi never being accepted as a guy, to the point that he actually has his own toilet and bathroom instead of going to the boys or girls room, Kouta’s nosebleeds, Minami’s lesbian stalker, Himeji’s cooking, and the Yuji/Shouko relationship) but strangely for me, this actually works because they actually manage to remain being funny. They don’t overplay it, maybe once an episode, and the cast are so varied and wacky that they are all likeable mostly. Akihisa in particular is actually a very likeable lead, being dim witted but big hearted, a bit perverted but not to the point it’s a major characteristic, as he’s very charitable and thinks of the best for Mizuki in particular. Yuji is also interesting, as he acts as a foil to Akihisa where you think that the poor sap can’t win against him…but then they add the Shouko dynamic and realize he’s suffering just as much…whilst everyone else ships them.

The comedy flows really well – when other characters are introduced and used (my favourite being Iron Man – an inhuman teacher with the strength of 100 men who always appears when your points are down to 0 to drag you off for remedial classes, whether it’s in school, in the pipe areas or in the public baths), and yet it does still manage to do a plot despite its short length and focus on comedy. There is the love triangle between Akihisa, Minami and Mizuki for example, the girls seem to be good friends as they are the only girls in Class F and do share Aki a bit, but at the same time there is a spark that you know could set everything off. The main plot is Yuji managing to convince the other classes to battle Class A in mock battles to tire them out instead of taking their rooms so they can get Class A’s room, which leads to an actual good final two episodes when it is Class A vs. Class F with a surprise ending. Sure it still works in a lot of comedy but there were some real nice moments.

Not everything is perfect of course. The addition of Akihisa’s sister for me was not needing, as she was easily the worst character of the bunch, as adding her to try and instruct a parenting persuasion to Aki really just turned into her being a really selfish entity which had some mild redemption but wasn’t really needed in the flow of things. The comedy can be hit or miss depending on how you judge a show basically revolved around running gags. Some of the running gags they put twists and originality too (like Hideyoshi never getting men’s clothes) but the comedy can really be an issue depending on your thoughts. I know this is a love or hate series, so my grade is more reflective on the love side because I felt the comedy does work. And also there are some really good tender moments as it isn’t just pure comedy – a few episodes in particular is when Akihisa wants to win some key ring dolls for Minami’s little sister, Minami herself gets one for the lunch box episode, and those moments during the amusement park episode, whilst were hilarious, showed that Yuji does in fact care for Shouko…taser strikes and all.

For me, the show works. It has a lovable cast of characters, all the main cast are mostly likeable (sometimes Minami can be a bit too bitchy, but she’s nothing compared to her stalker Miharu, Kouta’s pervert nature only stretches to nose bleeding and try to get a camera shot, is played for laughs but can get annoying rather than comic at times) and as a comedy, it does its main job in making me laugh. It does however do well to tie in a decent plot and sub-plot, and whilst it isn’t resolved it does set up for a sequel, and more of this type of comedy, I will welcome it.

In Summary:
Baka Test is hard to recommend to everyone because the comedy will appeal in some circles, and not in others. It relies on running jokes and a varied but entertaining cast for most of its laughs, whether it’s dark Shouko tasering her poor would be boyfriend to watch 7 hour movies twice, or if it’s the trap of all traps confusing all males with their masculinity. However, it does add some elements of character and tenderness intermixed with the plot and comedy which does make it very watchable overall, and whilst they are some annoying moments, it definitely does the job it was set out to do, which is make me smile. I recommend it personally, but might be worth a rent to see if the comedy is your cup of tea.

Features:
Baka Test OVA shorts: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: BAKA MISSION 01 AND PREVIEW, BAKA ONLY CROSSDRESSING CONTEST, MIZUKI HIMEJI GIRLS MEAL, THE KING GAME IN FUMIZUKI ACADEMY, SPECIAL CHRISTMAS FOOTAGE, BAKA AND TEST TALES, PROMO VIDEOS, ORIGINAL COMMERCIALS, ORIGINAL DVD SPOTS, THREE TEXTLESS OPENING SONGS

Content Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: May 28th, 2012
MSRP: £22.99
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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