Baka And Test: Summon The Beasts Season 2 (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 298 minutes approx.
It’s back to school time for the students of Fumizuki Academy where grades literally mean all the difference between power and luxury but with a twist – each pupil has a holographic avatar that can be used in battles fought between the classes forthright to better classroom facilities.
As before, we follow the (mis)fortunes of Class F where bona fide imbecile Akihisa Yoshii and his equally dopey classmates struggle to survive against their superior schoolmates and indeed themselves. Little has changed since the first season – Minami Shimada still harbours a crush on Yoshi yet still can only show this by beating him up; cute but ditzy Mizuki Himeji still quietly fancies Yoshi and still can’t cook anything that isn’t considered a chemical weapon; Yuji Sakamoto continues to fight a hopeless battle against the violently possessive affections of Class A representative Shoko Kirishima; Hideyoshi Kinoshita remains unable to convince everyone he is male; and Kota Tsuchiya aka Voyeur has yet to tame the nosebleed eruptions.
So has anything changed at all since the first series? Well the focus in this release shifts away from the battling avatars, and indeed from the school grounds, as we explore the histories of the main characters. This brings about a dramatic shift in tone but for such an offbeat show that already covers just about every genre within its seemingly boundless whacky remit this isn’t as jarring as it may sound. A wickedly subversive and surreal streak runs through everything even when the episodes are heavily drenched in pathos – such as the history between Shoko and Yuji and Mizuki’s return to Japan from Germany – keeping the spirit of Baka & Test very much alive. In many ways these make for the more interesting moments in this series, making the characters more rich, relatable and understandable.
Naturally this seriousness doesn’t last long and it as soon as that door closes the one marked “utter madness and chaos” opens again, which will be warmly greeted by some since the concept with the avatars is the unique drawing point of the show. But without this focal point, the humour does tend to run away with itself and often become a barrage of base juvenile bawdiness. The opening episodes are set on a beach getaway which results in the usual boob and innuendo gags as well as the customary volcanic nosebleeds from the males. An unhealthy fixation with cross-dressing is another recurring facet in this series, starting with the boys being forced to dress up as girls for a beauty contest and androgynous Hideyoshi swapping clothes with twin sister Yuko at school.
It’s not all aimless frolics but the mini story arcs present do have rather prurient and base foundations to them. On a training camp excursion, the boys of Class F are blackmailed by an anonymous antagonist with illicitly taken photos of them dressing as girls. They have a clue – a birth mark on her you-know-where – so the only way to find their blackmailer is to spy on the girls during their hot springs bath time! But the teachers son hear about this so its all hands – or avatars – on deck as the boys recruit assistant from the other classes to get this all important evidence. Elsewhere a love triangle seems to be on the cards between Yoshii, Himeji and Shimada while the school upgrade system goes wry and the students are left with some unusual new look avatars that cause just as much – if not more – chaos than before.
If there is a caveat against this second series of Baka & Test it is that its constant onslaught of zany humour is on occasion so overwhelming that the material starts to wear thin, thus the jokes feel like uninspired repeats of everything we saw in the first series. Trademark and running gags are one thing but even the most hardened anime fan can only take so many nosebleed and boob gags. That is not to decry all of the material in this set by a sense of deja vu is very palpable. The other side of the coin is whether fans will tolerate the lack of the battling avatars in this season and may find the more serious back story replacements as mood killers. Hopefully this is not the case but as we know, change isn’t welcome by some.
Therefore season two of Baka & Test is a strange beast – it delivers everything you’d expect it to but offers little in the way of forward progression; yet it explores new directions with the back stories of the characters to offer a more rounded and developed product. It is still a huge load of fun and its nice to see it trying to better itself but without a central story to run through the entire twelve episodes it feels as though something is missing. But if irreverent, abstract and ribald humour is your thing then this show should still tick all the boxes for you
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 2.0
Episode 3 Commentary
Baka & Test: Summon The Beasts Spinout!
Episode 13 Commentary
English Language Trailer
Textless Opening – “Kimi + Nazo+ Watashi de Jump!”
Textless Closing – “Eureka Baby”
Textless Closing – “Baka to Koshitsu to Kodoku Meshi”
Textless closing – “Hi Ho!”
Ratings – ***
Man In Black