The anime of Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai was a mistake. From the abysmal sales numbers, to the director’s apparent area of expertise, that is the only conclusion I can make. I would like to keep this succinct, so stay with me here.
The director of the anime Taimadou Gakuen is a man by the anime of Tomoyuki Kawamura. He has two other credited directing roles in anime according to MAL, Mistuboshi Colors and Kamigami no Asobi. Looking at both anime in comparison to Taimadou Gakuen, I can see his relative strengths and weaknesses. Brightly colored characters that are appealing to the eye…
While the settings are, as with most anime, underdeveloped.
And you know, that’s okay. With most anime, that’s excusable. With comedy, you can totally just focus on the characters doing character things without worrying about how they move in space. You don’t have to make a space appear lived in if your characters are blank slates to begin with. Believability is not a virtue every anime needs to possess-
However, Taimadou Gakuen is an anime that sorely needed it. To make use of the edge inherent to the series, to really create a strong and effective contrast between the disparate tones that define the series, the biggest failure from the production standpoint is Taimadou Gakuen‘s unbelievable world.
I have stated repeatedly that I like the way this series looks during its slice of life scenes. However, almost all the action is awful. Beyond that, the series has many scenes that should be dark and gorey- yet the focus of the shot on anything but the violence is so jarring, that the viewer is left confused rather than distraught or disturbed.
The violence is distracting. But why is violence common in this story? In other words, what is the premise of Taimadou Gakuen?
Well. In some sort of post-apocalyptic world, magic exists and there are witches who are born with the innate ability to control and use magic. To oppress the witches and eradicate magic, presumably so that magic like the one that rendered the majority of the Earth toxic and uninhabitable is never used again, the Inquisition was founded. They use technology and heretical magic tools, nicknamed “Relic Eaters”, to achieve that task. To oppose the Inquisition, the witches have formed Valhalla, and execute acts of terrorism.
Within the Inquisition is Anti-Magic Academy, a school where the next generation of Inquisitors is trained to hate witches, magic, and follow the instructions they have been given. The students are organized into test platoons to tackle petty crime in preparation for the day they will fight to eradicate magic once and for all, the journeys of one such platoon being the focus of the narrative. However, among these platoons of child soldiers, the 35th Test Platoon is a bit odd. A collection of social outcasts, failures who didn’t quite fit the mold, the 35th Test Platoon is more than likely to fail out of school unless something radical happens to change their recorded number of zero successful missions.
So, you can see the disparate tones from the description alone, yes? The talk of witches and the Inquisition followed by a group of outcasts struggling in school? Each arc, typically taking between two and three episodes of the anime, follows one member of the main cast as they get over their personal hangups to become more confident and trusting individuals. They become better at their role on the team…
You know, the team of teenagers which is supposed to fight terrorism oppress a race of people?
It’s off-putting. When a character is gleefully enjoying their anpan and milk during one scene, only to find a gang trafficking the carcasses of human children a few scenes after…
You can’t help but feel like there’s something that doesn’t line up in this world. When a witch transfers into the academy in the third episode, the race that the Inquisition claims to hate, alarm bells should be sounding in every viewer’s head. The conflicts of each arc derive increasingly from the war between Valhalla and the Inquisition, and the viewer is ultimately left questioning the lengths to which Inquisition, the supposed good guys, will go to eradicate a people that perhaps aren’t intrinsically evil.
And then in the final arc of the anime, it is revealed that Valhalla may (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) be conducting sadistic human experimentation on the witches that they capture alive…
Well, big surprise! It’s not subtle commentary on the effects of hate and the ways it can be manipulated. I think Taimadou Gakuen‘s solution to its proposed problem, taking control of one’s own life through genuine and mutual trust with other people, is rather clever and empathetic.
But it all hits with a rather muted effect, because the world of Taimadou Gakuen is so muted and samely directed, save for a few moments in the second episode (a flashback) which was the one decent trade-off for the anime axing the development of the most important side character. The horror doesn’t feel like horror, so the whole thing just feels confused.
And speaking of confused, I already wrote quite a bit about how the first arc totally botches the characterization of both its lead characters. Basically, Takeru is a validated yet schizophrenic Jesus-like, and Ouka has been reduced to a similarly schizophrenic tsundere who is liable to just cry and spill her entire past to a man she has zero chemistry with-
Which makes zero sense because her whole struggle is rooted in the fact that her situation led her to become closed off towards other people! It makes her seem weak! In the light novel, this was all fixed, because Ouka never became so hysteric, and actually opened up to Takeru on her own terms- because she recognized his sincere efforts to reach out to her, which contrasted the prejudice that everyone else had towards her. It’s such a surprise that an anime production directed by a fanservice director reduces its women characters to incoherent victims, despite the story being about individuals trying to break down and overcome the circumstances that make them such.
And while I’m mentioning the writing, I have to explain that this anime goes so far as to contradict the message about growing from mutual trust… because the main character is a guy, and guys can’t rely on anyone. Guys can do anything if they just try and believe hard enough! Although girls still need to do that trust thing, so it makes sense for women to be dependent on men!
I am not kidding. This is the only analysis I can come to from looking at the changes to characterizations between the anime and light novel.
Fuck this anime.
I love the slice of life moments, and I also love the opening and ending songs. Kanako Itou songs are just great! I like the voices of the characters, and it makes me happy to see these characters that I love being happy. But it’s a serious shit show and a mistake of an anime. It takes talent to marry two disparate tones. In that way, even if the writing of the Taimadou Gakuen anime was fixed to be like the light novel, it still would fail to capture the emotions of the light novel. The darkness fails to really be dark or at least comprehensible, so the eventual victories of the protagonist feel unearned. The battles are unbelievably ugly and ineffective at provoking emotion or hype.
There are some clever things, like the perfect comedic cut at the very end of episode 7, or the way that the opening and ending themes occasionally bleed into the animation. But I think that the result of me giving the anime of Taimadou Gakuen one last chance to redeem itself in my eyes has lead me to an uncomfortable conclusion. There are no immediate or obvious ways to fix the fundamental flaws that prevent this series from success. It was a failure on multiple layers from its very conception. This was not the conclusion that I wanted to reach.
I love the Taimadou Gakuen light novel series. It can be corny, the way everyone shouts out their attacks is campy, and the story has several clear flaws- such as the noticeably weaker second half which is in some ways comparable to the much reviled Great Ninja War arc from Naruto…
But, damn! The ending of the fifth volume, right where the anime reaches its anime-original conclusion, is one of the best cliff-hangers I have ever witnessed in story telling! By screwing up basically everything this arc stands for, the anime tears apart its own themes, characters, and introduces an unnecessary deus ex machina ending which fails to resolve any of the plot threads that the series devoted its entirety to setting up. So yeah, next post I want to discuss that disaster!
I want to discuss this horrible deus ex machina which made Taimadou Gakuen the single worst anime adaptation of a light novel I have seen to date. Communicating what was lost in the translation from light novel to anime will be my last post regarding Taimadou Gakuen‘s anime. But if you want to check this either versions for yourself, the anime is watchable on Crunchyroll, while a fan translation has been posted online.
Now, time for me to go read a good light novel!