Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, The Complete First Season – Blu-ray + DVD Combo Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Funimation Entertainment
MSRP: $64.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

Why can’t exams be this much fun to take?

Being no stranger to zany anime comedies, Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts sounded right up my alley because – let’s face it – sometimes over-the-top crazy antics are a refreshing change of pace for anyone who watches way too much anime … like us. As it turns out, The Complete First Season of Baka and Test might not be the perfect anime comedy out there but it has more than enough laughs to be a worthwhile and loony good time.

Welcome to Fumizuki Academy, a most unusual kind of prep school where advanced technology is implemented in one particular aspect … taking exams. You see, the latest virtual reality system is used to create the Summoner Test Wars where students can compete against each another in a Role-Playing Game-like environment complete with super cute avatars with their own hit points. Think of it as a duel where answering test questions correctly and quickly will determine who wins the round.

Since each student is placed according to their grades, Class F is at the very bottom of the ladder since it is composed of misfits like the class rep Yuuji Sakamoto who rallies the class into challenging the other classes to improve their laughable situation. I mean, Class F has to glue their own desks back together while others resort to using cardboard boxes. Win against another class and they win whatever they want from the losers. Yuuji is confident that they can win with their secret weapon … a student named Akihishi Yoshii who is in Class F because of his probationary status that resulted from Akihishi standing up for a cute buxom girl named Mizuki Himeji … who also finds herself in Class F.

Along with the pervy photographer named Kouta Tsuchiya, the easily angered Minami Shimada and the prettiest guy in school named Hideyoshi Kinoshita (who is often confused for a girl); Yuuji and Akihishi declare the Summoner Test Wars on and challenge Class E to a duel so early in the school’s semester. This catches the attention of the faculty as Class F show their stuff during their first duel and actually pull off a win … thus surprising everyone.

It becomes clear that everyone has underestimated Class F as they go against other classes in the school as other students start taking notice of them such as Hideyoshi’s twin sister as well as a girl named Shouko … who is more interested in getting Yuuji to go out with her (and worse) than dueling. Although he’s a student on probation, Akihishi is bright enough to come up with tactics that help them pull off some victories as he comes to realize that although she might look like a total airhead but Mizuki Himeji is smart.

While the key members of Class F manage to show the entire school that they are bright enough to take on the top students, they just aren’t smart enough to make heads or tails of their romantic lives. Akihishi likes Mizuki but he thinks that the letter she’s been writing was meant for Yuuji. Meanwhile, Minami is annoyed that Akihishi can’t see how much she likes him and starts seeing Mizuki as something of a rival. Oh, and sure he’s a guy (as he often says) but everyone is in love with Hideyoshi.

Most of the really funny stuff doesn’t happen in the classroom as we witness Shouko forcing Yuuki to go on dates with her and – at one point – she even concocts a plan to have him propose to her in a theme park. Never mind that she’s often tazering him or poking his eyes whenever Mizuki’s bosoms start bouncing, this girl is in love and not even Yuuji can say no to her. There are also some crazy crushes such as Class A’s Toshimitsu Kubo who has a manly crush on Akihishi or Miharu Shimizu – the girl who is obsessed with Minami.

Then there’s the Akihishi-Mizuki-Minami love triangle that is one of the highlights of the series as both girls compete for Akihishi’s affections. The running gag in the show is Minami often performing backbreaking suplexes on the young man for making too comments about her flat chest. Mizuki, on the other hand, tries to win Akihishi by cooking for him. It’s just too bad that her cooking is nearly fatal to anyone who even takes one bite.

Baka and Test is fun to watch when it strays from the Summoner Test War scenes that have all the excitement of watching somebody playing a chaotic RPG battle where you don’t know exactly how the player won the battle. This is too bad, really, since the avatars are so darn cute. There are a few school highlights, though, such as a scavenger hunt and an emergency that has Akihishi relying on his avatar to help the school.

Despite being far from perfect, The Complete First Season of Baka and Test is a guaranteed good time for those who don’t mind a comedy that’s flawed yet still very entertaining. That said, I really wouldn’t mind a second season of this series and even more so since the characters have a way of quickly becoming likeable enough that you can look past the unflattering avatar battles. It’s good fun that could have been a lot better.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C
Fumizuki Academy is a unique kind of school where the student body challenges each another in a virtual battle involving test questions. The bottom of the ladder is Class F but, with the help of a student on probation named Akihishi Yoshii, the class sets out to prove they’re not all complete idiots. Outside of class, they must deal with crushes, unrequited love and toxic box lunches.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The Blu-ray version is, not surprisingly, the best way to experience this series since the colors are more vivid and the picture sharper than the DVD version included. As far as the animation is concerned, the sight gags are actually very funny.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting in the series is handled well for both the original Japanese and the English dub voices that sound nearly similar … although I should note that Brina Palencia pulls off double duty flawlessly. The score is as upbeat as the opening and closing theme songs and that’s not a bad thing.

EXTRAS: A+
Funimation certainly brings out the juicy extras for this first season Combo Pack that includes both the Blu-ray and DVD version. For DVD owners, we get an extra disc while the Blu-ray version packs the extras on the second disc. The extras include promotional videos plus the original commercials and DVD spots as well. We even get the clean opening and closing animations and a few Funimation trailers.

The best stuff comes in the form of cute shorts including two fake previews for Mission: Impossible Baka with Kouta given an M: I-like task to take that perfect picture. Then there’s the Baka-Only Cross-Dressing Contest featuring the boys in drag. There’s also a funny but short Christmas special as well as a short where the gang is playing the King’s Game with comical consequences. Even that avatars get a short and Himeji gets her own special called Mizuki Himeji Girls’ Meal where she makes Nicaragua (featuring real footage of how to prepare it … minus the toxic ingredients she uses).

OVERALL: C
Baka and Test is far from being an awful series but it’s also the kind of show that you can’t ignore its flaws despite the fact that its comedy has what it takes to make you laugh out loud a few times. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that I found a number of things to like about it to recommend it to friends who like their anime comedies simple, oftentimes dumb yet fun enough to enjoy.

Review copy provided by Funimation Entertainment

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