What’s it about ?
Oh goody : this is the third light novel adaptation about teenagers in magical high school this season. Third time’s the charm ?
Uh, the AntiMagic Academy is a more interesting setting than most of its ilk : it’s an explicit military training facility, preparing the next generation of witch-hunting inquisitors. Students are divided into Platoons, who go onto proper field missions all the time.
Takeru, our male lead, heads the titular 35th Test Platoon. They’re known as complete screw-ups who keep idling around instead of performing their missions. His laid-back leadership may be part of the issue… or maybe it’s the only way to handle such a rag-tag of misfits.
Usagi, the sniper, always gets distracted and can’t aim for crap. Suginami, the mission control, spends more time teasing them than actually giving them intelligence. (And her hacking always gives them more trouble than it’s worth.) Also, they’re kinda lacking a proper heavy hitter.
Enter Ouka. Who used to be a proper graduated inquisitor, but got sent back to training after she turned out to be way too intense and lethal on her missions. The academy make a point of assigning her to the 35th Test Platoon ; she doesn’t get it, and keeps soloing everything anyway. While she is very good at witch-hunting, she’s way too vicious about it, and it leads to an immediate clash with her “teammates”.
You can always count on studio Silver Link to make a show look better than average ; not so much with the animation than with the colour design.
This is a complete shock : I actually quite liked this. WHY ? Let’s take a review :
– Making the setting explicitly military-based shifts the plot beats to something more palatable. There’s virtually none of the standard high school tropes at play here. Even the “competition” between platoons (with explicit points) is framed around real-world missions that give a clear indication of what the academy is grooming its trainees for. (Instead of generic tournaments with no obvious purpose but having super-powered teenagers let off steam.)
– We come to a nearly fully-formed cast. Instead of “Here’s our male lead encountering a bunch of potential haremettes in quick succession”, it’s “here’s our fight unit, which happens to have one dude and three girls”. The one dude feels a lot less special and singled out by the narrative. Focusing the episode on only those four and the bare minimum of supporting cast also helps out.
– It’s quite fast-paced. In one episode, we get the whole cast introduced, two missions, already some character development, and foreshadowing for the antagonists. As it turns out, cutting down on the cliché fluff and being mercifully light on techno-babble leaves out a lot of room for actual stuff to happen.
– There’s a lot of good casting. Yoshimasa Hosoya is a very interesting choice for the male lead, as his baseline is “angry dude”. Takeru is way more nice than his average, but there’s still a heavy subtext of barely-contained anger to his interpretation. Which gives him an edge over most of his type. Also, having Ryoko Shiraishi and Rumi Ookubo for the comedy sidekicks is always a boon, as they know their stuff.
– Nobody’s a princess.
None of this is rocket science ; and it’s not like this is a great show by any regards. (For one, it still has a “dude falls onto the tsundere’s breasts” gag.) But it’s all little touches that make it a show that I’m actually mildly interested in following, instead of just wanting to strangle the writers for their laziness.