Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon Complete Series Anime Review

Will you abandon your own humanity to achieve your goals?

What They Say:
Set in a world where witches run havoc, the military decides to shift from using a sword to utilizing guns to neutralize magical threats. The Anti-Magic Academy is an institution that specializes in training witch hunters. Takeru Kusanagi, who can’t use guns and continues to fight with a sword, is relegated to the 35th Test Platoon, a motley group who can’t cooperate. One day, Ouka Ohtori, an elite pistol master who was forced into demotion, joins the platoon. Will they be able to gather their strengths and work together?

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
It's becoming a common occurrence for various series that I know absolutely nothing about to blindside me and overtake a 4-5 hour portion of my life, leaving nothing but a few gasps and several wide-eyed stares in their respective wakes. In just this year alone, it's happened with shows like Ranpo Kitan, Death Parade, SaeKano, and so many others. Why do so many of the shows that I haven't looked into wind up being better than the ones I count down the days for? Am I just overhyping things too much? Anyway, Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon is just another example of one of these series to glide in under my radar and become something much bigger than anticipated. However, not everyone seems to see it that way.

Being another light novel adaptation, the Anti-Magic Academy anime already had a story set in stone prior to its creation. This is both a good and bad thing. The good part is that since the product has already been exposed to the general populous, there are a guaranteed few people who will be tuning in to see how the anime turns out. The bad part, though, is that these same people are typically the ones to shout, "Heresy!" when things don't play out exactly as they should. Personally, I haven't read the light novels. And I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing at this point after reading so many reviews from people who did.

Written by Touki Yanagimi with art from Kippu, Anti-Magic Academy focuses on one of the many different student platoons of the aptly named "Anti-Magic Academy." However, the platoon that we will be spending our time with (Platoon 35) isn't exactly the best one out there. In fact, they're total crap in comparison to every other platoon of the school. But that all changes once Ouka Ootori is appointed as its newest inquisitor. For those that haven't watched the series, inquisitors are basically this anime's version of magic-police, or people who dedicate their lives to eliminating "Witches" which can be viewed as criminalistic mages for lack of a better word(s). Ouka Ootori happens to be a damn good one, but that's probably because she has given up everything else in her life in order to exact revenge for her sister, who was basically killed by a witch. Kind of. As for the rest of the platoon, well, they're pretty okay. I guess.

The leader of the 35th test platoon, Takeru Kusanagi, is a level-headed, semi-typical male protagonist. And I say semi-typical because he isn't an overly-dense unrealistic moron that doesn't realize he is the main character of a harem. Takeru isn't just another carbon copy of this type of character, though. His backstory, which is briefly highlighted in the later portion of the anime, is actually pretty cool. There is this whole thing with how he is forced into either protecting or murdering his sister (SPOILER: She's a witch) and it's actually really cool. The other characters are all equally memorable as well. There's Usagi: The sniper rabbit, Suginami: The girl next door if that girl never left her house, and Mari Nikaidou: The second cutest girl of the season. The cast itself is probably the most memorable of the season as far as I'm concerned, and a huge reason for that is that each one was actually developed.

Here is where the light-novel fans are probably clenching their fists and thinking, "Yo, they weren't developed at all! Suginami only had three episodes of backstory! WTF?!". The fact of the matter is this -- we're looking at a typical one-cour show. With the 12 episodes we have, there isn't a ton of time for development. But honestly, the way this development was handled was actually significantly better than a bunch of other adaptations that face the same issue. Look at Toyko Ghoul √A for example. Do you remember how they handled character development? That's right, they just skipped over it entirely. Anti-Magic Academy actually gives some thought to each of its characters, even if that time wasn't in the form of six-episode arcs for each person.

One of the best things about Anti-Magic Academy is how unafraid it is to highlight the darker portions of its story -- a feat that a lot of anime nowadays strays away from in order to achieve a better time-slot and ultimately be exposed to a wider variety of people. There is actually a ton of moments in this series that will make you think, "Wait, what is this show rated?" and those moments really go on to sculpt another unique viewing experience. But at the same time, the series still dedicates sufficient time to those fanservice-craving viewers that just want to see Suginami without her shirt on. That's not a bad thing, don't worry, guys. In fact, I think that's a totally plausible reason to watch this show in the first place. I mean, come on. We all know it.

In the later portion of the show, we are finally introduced to Kusanagi's little sister, Kiseki (Which is an incredibly perfect name for her character if you know the meaning of the word). Kiseki is basically Saya from Saya no Uta, meaning that she is basically so awesome that her awesomeness can't be contained and takes on the form of a giant monster that wants to kill everyone. In fact, she is so awesome that the inquisition has had to chain her up for years now just to ensure that she doesn't escape and kill all of their families, making her into some sick test-subject for the inquisition who, up until now, appeared to be the good guys. And so they kill her hundreds of times every day, only to have her constantly respawn as if nothing had ever happened. This sequence of events is not only disturbing and totally f'ed up, but excruciatingly depressing as soon as we find out how adorable and kind she really is. Needless to say, Kusanagi finds everything out about her being murdered all the time and totally flips on the inquisition and spirals into a madness centered on protecting his sister at all costs. And considering this is a harem, his entire platoon follows him, putting their lives on the line as well, culminating in an action-packed arc that turned this series into something even bigger -- a story about "Right vs. Wrong."

Now, I don't think I'd go as far as saying this is an essential watch or how I will remember this for the rest of my life. But it's shows like these that serve as a reminder as to why I watch anime. The first two anime series I ever watched were Love Hina and Elfen Lied. And, in a weird way, this is kind of a wonky combination between those two, as well as...Index or something along those lines. What I'm trying to say is that everyone has that niche -- that one type of show that really appeals to them in a nostalgic sort of way. For me, Anti-Magic Academy was just that. I don't care about the light novel (Though I will definitely buy it if winds up being published in the US), I don't care about what this anime "skipped." I care about what I saw. And to sum it up, what I saw was everything that I wanted to see, wrapped tightly in one unique package.

In Summary: 
Despite what you may hear about it, Anti-Magic Academy is well-paced action drama that pays close attention to what its viewers want to see. Character development is executed well for the short amount of time the series has to offer, and the cast is one of the most lovable and memorable of the year. A surprisingly dark story will reel you in within the first several episodes and continue to surprise you from that point on. Though the art might not be as beautiful as some other series out there, the story and cast more than make up for it. If you like action, cute girls, an actual story and weird eyeball-flesh-monsters, this anime might just be what you've been searching for.

Grade: B+

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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