This seems to be a love or hate it series. For me, not only do I love it, but I felt this season was not only funny, but actually had some surprising character development which puts it in a rare beast of comedies into the top tier…
What They Say :
Yoshii’s a good-hearted goofball enrolled at a school where students settle their differences by summoning Avatars, pint-sized stand-ins with battle powers based on academic ability. That academic ability part is bad news for idiotic Yoshii – he’s stuck in lowly Class F with the slackers. If these misfits want to escape their dump of a classroom and earn some respect, they’ll have to fight their way up the ranks and take on Class A, the brightest students on campus. It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure, but once the underachievers of Class F get motivated, they don’t give up – and Yoshii can’t even spell surrender!
The Review :
Set in 5.1 English Dolby and 2.0 Japanese Stereo, the Baka Test release had no real issues I noticed either visually or audio wise – watching in widescreen format, the animation is clear with no problems regarding delays, distortions or linking with the subtitles whilst the audio had no pauses, no problems again linking with the words or the subtitles being removed too fast or two slow, no issues with pictures going strange with pausing, and a very clean release especially considering how colourful the animation is in combination on how it switches animation styles so often (from grainy, to colour, to CGI) it flows very well on this release.
The menu on both discs have a couple of characters blatantly shoved in your faces – on Disc 1 we get Akira and Mizuki, whilst on disc two we get the twins Hideyoshi and Yuko(Akira being fanservicey) – Menu as always is nice and clean, basic but accessible with no issues in selection either from the menu or during the show. The initial menu allows Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras on both discs.
Baka Test was pretty good with its extras in Season 1 and Season 2 continues the trend. On Disc 1, we get a full episode commentary on episode 3 with Jamie Marchi (the lead writer and voice of Shouko) and Brina Palencia (voices of Hideyoshi and Yuko). With Hideyoshi being such a fan favourite character, Brina is fully aware of it and as the first half is the twins’ episode, she brings a lot of fun in discussing the two roles, how she adapts it, and how aware she is of Hideyoshi’s status as a trap character. She discusses a bit about playing a boy character whilst Jamie discusses mostly about her work as a writer and how to transfer Japanese puns into English and still make them work. It’s actually quite interesting and one of the more enjoyable commentaries I’ve heard recently.
Disc 2 has a lot of mini-episodes and extras to add to that. We first get a segment called Beauty & The Beast which is basically everyone trying to fight over who gets to play Hideyoshi’s love interest in a play he’s doing (which it ends hilariously). The Magical Hideyoshi segments as are they sound – basically movie trailers initially before the actual ‘movie’ of Hideyoshi being a magical girl – which again, ends rather appropriately for Baka Test.
The karaoke mix is a segment where Shouko invites Yuko to karaoke, which leads to many hilarious moments (poor Hideyoshi gets to suffer so much, as does Yuji) as Yuko’s lack of singing skills make her panic, whilst a surprising sweet segment called Runaway Haduki brings me to the actual serious moments the show has when Haduki runs away from her home and we get some insight to the relationship between Haduki and Hazuki, which ends up without the usual comic twist and is really adorable. We get a return for Kouta in his Mission Impossible spin-off which was for me the weakest in terms of comedy.
Akihisa’s Punishment is basically the FFF about to sentence him for his crime of being hugged by a girl (it was his sister, but considering Akira…), whilst the Cherry Blossom Viewing Party segment is basically the gang at a cherry blossom viewing party…hilarity ensues. With drunk Mizuki at the helm.
We also get another commentary, this time for Episode 13 between Kent Leisure (Engineer ep 17) and Stephen Holfe (Engineer of the other episodes) – this is a very different commentary as this is actually more like a behind the scenes segment on the direction of the show, how they knew about the show beforehand and how they had to prepare, talking about their favourite voice roles and actors, as well as their favourite series they’ve worked on in the past. It’s a lot more technical and doesn’t talk much about the episode itself, so if you like that sort of thing, it’s definitely a must, as is quite different.
Lastly, we have the clean opening/endings and some trailers for the show. The promo videos are quite fun because they are almost done in the style of an interview so was quite unique. Overall, very nice selection of extra content.
Baka Test is one of those shows that seems to have a rather split view in terms of whether it’s good or not. A lot of the repeat gags and such seem to be an issue combined with the fact some of the characters are rather unlikeable. However, on the other side the twists they add to the repeated gags can still make you laugh, and for me I am in this camp. And the second season actually removed a few of the things that I didn’t like and managed to add it to become a really good series, and not just a comedy series.
The bread and butter of Baka Test is still the comedy and a lot of the episodes do reflect on that. The characters you know and love/hate are still relatively unchanged at first – for example, the first episode does go through the cast to remind people who they are briefly…before getting to a beach episode with Yuki and Akihisa trying to learn how to hit on girls…or in Yuji’s case so he can avoid being killed by Shouko. The first thing I noticed is that after the final episode of Season 1, quite a few of the Class A girls are now quite friendly with a number of the class F characters – Shouko in particular is actually quite likeable with a lot of the cast (Mizuki and Akihisa in particular) though her main issue with her violent love for Yuji at first seems to be the same, things do actually change a little bit later in the series…
Of course, the usual gags are in full force. Akihisa is an idiot, Mizuki’s cooking is still deadly, Hideyoshi still gets confused as a girl, Kouta still needs a blood transfusion every 5 seconds *worse now the character Aiko, a minor character from Season 1, now sees him as a rival…and teases him and Akihisa every time she gets* and Minami is still way too violent every time she gets mildly insulted. But again, later in the series, she gets a lot better thanks to a flashback episode that both she and Yuji/Shouko get. These two episodes actually set the series apart with the character development as we see how Minami became friends with Akihisa (and more so when she seems to realize her feelings for him, she gets quite a bit nicer after a certain scene), whilst seeing why Shouko fell in love with Yuji is surprisingly sweet, especially as after that episode, we don’t get any of the Shouko being violent to Yuji’s eyes that she is known for.
Prior to that though, the comedy is still very funny. A lot of the side characters get involved a bit, whether it’s Kubo with his crush on Akihisa, Miharu with her crush on Minami (which is very satisfying when she finally gets her come uppance during the hot springs episodes and in general, one of my main issues was that she got away with everything despite being the most obsessive character in the show which is saying something) and Yuko surprisingly feeling jealous of Hideyoshi despite the fact she is far superior in intelligence and most things, Hideyoshi has a couple of things which makes her feel disappointed in herself, and the conversations between her and Akihisa are quite fun…even if it leads to our favourite idiot getting beat up as usual.
Everyone gets their funny moments to shine, whether it’s forcing the guys to cross-dress, or Mizuki getting drunk on liqueur chocolates and really scaring the guys, to a malfunction in her avatars which actually makes the avatars talk and actually shout out what the human is really thinking. This leads to some really awkward and funny situations with characters like Yuji’s real thoughts on Shouko and Minami’s avatar simply hoping on Akihisa’s lap before spilling the beans. The comedy is not as over the top as in Season 1 but it still does its job as what a comedy should do…that’s make you laugh.
The episode arc which leads to the Minami incident with Akihisa is basically the boys being blamed on being peepers on the girls. The main guys (Akihisa, Yuji, Hideyoshi and Kouta) all defend their innocence, and perform an elaborate plan to clear their name. They bring out members of other classes in their help (who of course, go just thinking they CAN peep on the girls). Iron Man is still hilarious in his over the top nature and a lot of the other teachers actually get some fun moments in too, and of course, it’s really satisfying when the boys are cleared. But it leads to my favourite episode – the Minami flashback. It’s really heartwarming and touching when she couldn’t speak Japanese that well after living in Germany, making her stand offish before Akihisa in his lovable loser way, does his best to befriend her. And whilst he doesn’t quite do it, the fact it’s the start of Minami falling in love with her makes her a lot more likeable from that point on, to the point with the exception of Miharu, I love all the cast in this series. Even when the gang try to find out what the real deal is between the two with the usual comedy hijinx, the fact that it is taken seriously and Minami truly does feel for Akihisa suggests that the potential love triangle just got more complicated and not as one sided as the end of Season 1 suggested.
The other flashback episode does the same for Shouko. Unlike Minami, I quite liked Shouko a lot more because she was a lot funnier with her reactions, but she still had a hair trigger temper when it came to Yuji. So again, this is great seeing her past with Yuji and also what he was really like as a kid. It’s interesting to see how this smart alec kid grew up to who he became. The final two episodes really cement the friendships a bit (Shouko pairing with Mizuki for example was really a surprise but shows how they are now friends and how Shouko has grown up a bit) during the haunting walk game, and whilst bringing up two minor villains from the past as the main baddies was a bit weak, seeing Akihisa and Yuji actually outsmart everyone was really satisfying and surprisingly how well developed the team is.
Of course, it is offset by comic timing from Kouta, a love confession from a guy to Hideyoshi, and a mass scramble for the poor idiot Akihisa at the end, but in the end, that is the core to Baka Test.
Season 2 I think does improve on Season 1 by taking these characters we remember, add subtle differences to them to make them more likeable, and focus on the relationship potential as much as the comedy. Weak points to the series would be mostly the fact that if you don’t like the repeated gags (a lot less than S1 and still with twists) then it’s not your cup of tea, Mizuki is kind of downgraded from main heroine to a bit more psychotic, and takes a back door to Shouko and Minami (though the food gags are always fun) so she gets a lack of focus, though they don’t go overboard as I said on some of the characters (Akira and Miharu being a lot less focused on with a bonus for me) and with the surprising development of Yuji, Shouko, Minami and Akihisa, this was a comedy with some real backbone, which makes this series with the exception of Squid Girl, an actual top show for me.
Baka Test is still a love/hate series for many people, yet for me Season 2 actually improves, but not going over the top with many of the usual gags, giving it much more subtlety and even some decent character development. It is still a very funny comedy and the characters are so unique and mostly likeable that all the situations involved all have neat twists and make it really good to watch. Fans of the first season will definitely like it, but even if you haven’t seen the first season, you can easily get into it with a bit of effort. Definitely recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary with Jamie Marchi (Lead Writer/Shoujo), Brina Palencia (Hideyoshi/Yuko), BAKA & TEST: SUMMON THE BEASTS SPINOUT, Beauty & The Beast, Magical Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi, CM 1, Karaoke Mix, Magical Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi, CM2:, Magical Hideyoshi, The Movie, Mission Impossibler: Baka, Runaway Haduki, Akihisa’s Inquisition:
Cherry Blossoms Viewing Party, EP 13 COMMENTARY: Kent Leisure (Engineer ep 17), Stephen Holfe (Engineer of the other episodes), PROMO VIDEOS, Original Commercials, TEXTLESS OP/CLOSINGS
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 11th February 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.