It’s been a somewhat underwhelming season of anime this summer both on a personal and more general level. Writing my dissertation meant that I didn’t get a chance to really get into most of the shows I started (New Game!! and Katsugeki Ranbu being the best examples). It was also the first season I’ve had a reason to get really angry with Netflix for their handling of anime release (Fate/Apocrypha this time). So I’m only up to date with two single cour shows from this season, one of which is Classroom of the Elite.
A show that could have been mistaken initially for a Oregairu clone, Classroom of the Elite is, like the former, a social commentary through intensely intelligent characters. Koudo Ikusei Senior High School is a school where everyone who graduates is guaranteed a sparkling career and great fortune. However, the show focuses on class D – the class used to ridicule the worst students in the school using a points based currency system. The two main characters are Ayanokouji and Horikita – two seemingly emotionless students who don’t share most of the characteristics of the rest of the class. The twelve episode season follows class D as they attempt to climb the school hierarchy.
Whoever wrote Classroom of the Elite must be quite the cynic. Everyone has more than one side to them; everyone has something to hide, and usually it’s not something good. This cynicism actually leads the story down a strong route though, pitting members of class against one another in realistic scenarios whilst also introducing new characters with purpose into the story. The show also does well to show that the world does not revolve around class D, and the other three classes also have their own issues to deal with that in some instances can be just as concerning.
All of that said, the plot is ultimately a let down. Despite the well timed character introductions alongside the well managed conflicts the events that surround these moments are badly thought up and seemed to be aimed at the lowest common denominator. For example, episode seven is set a the school pool. Of course, this is a common troupe in anime and doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Whatever constitutes a good pool/beach episodes was not passed on to the writers here though and episode displays the boys of class D’s attempt to set up a camera in the girls’ changing room, only to be foiled by Ayanokouji in the final moments.
As I’ll come onto, I like Ayanokouji’s character but he does often seem to take the place of deus ex machina. If I was trying to be sympathetic to Classroom of the Elite, I would argue that for the most part the show goes for a mystery vibe – creating problems for Ayanokouji to solve. The problem is, there is never any suspense as we know that Ayanokouji will always fix the problem in favour of whoever’s side he is on, and if he doesn’t, it was because he couldn’t be bothered or had no interest. This is seen to it’s fullest in the final four episodes where the classes are tested in a desert island scenario. The writers go to great length to point how class D are falling apart and all the other classes have done so much better. This technique can work, but really, you have to give your protagonists something or it will become obvious that you’re setting up a big turn around – and then no one is surprised when it actually happens.
I liked the characters in this a lot. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the characters in Classroom of the Elite are what makes the show watchable in the face over underwhelming writing. Perhaps though, the class system is the true strength here: although we see the story through the eyes of class D, Ayanokouji manages to interact with members of each of the other classes in some way and thus we are quickly given an insight into the way each class ethos. Sakayanagi, the leader of class A is cunning and full of planning; Ichinose in class B is probably as intelligent but would rather make alliances than go it alone and Ryuuen of class C is a thug, yet commands the respect of all of his classmates.
Let’s talk about Ayanokouji though. We’re not meant to be in any doubt that he is very intelligent, despite being in the bottom class. It also isn’t meant to surprise anyone that he is a troubled sort of person who suffered from a peculiar sort of upbringing. In this season he had all of the answers when the plot required them, and although this could sometimes feel frustrating it does go someway to building his character.
Horikita could be brandished with the same brush – cold and emotionless, yet a strong intellect she is driven to get into class A. In truth though, she is manipulated by her class mate on many occasions which leads to the revelation that she is far less self centred than we assumed, instead having a bit of a brother complex (who also happens to be the student council president.
The other character of note that should be mentioned is Kushida. The ‘Yui’ of the piece, she seemed as if she would be more important than she ended up being based on the opening couple of episodes. If the show does get a second season, I can see her coming to fore again as I would guess the author intended a lot for his favourite split personality.
Art and Animation
I’m not really sure if this should go into the ‘art and animation’ section of a review, but Classroom of the Elite is guilty of being all of the things everyone who doesn’t like anime cites as a reason for not liking anime. Strong female characters are time and time again undermined for no other reason than being female – whether it being the ‘panty incident’ in episode ten and eleven or the consistent levels of fan service present through the show. Faces are unnaturally out of proportion (even for anime) with everyone’s eyes being too big and too bright.
That said, the production values are exceptionally good. This show just looks like an anime should in terms of lines and movement – there is only so much you can do in a school anime but Classroom of the Elite, manages most of it.
I didn’t dislike Classroom of the Elite. Sure, the plot was patchy and Ayanokouji is far too intelligent for any show, but it all comes together to work quite nicely. The problems mean I can’t rate it particularly highly and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve got a full plan to watch list, but Classroom of the Elite is certainly a form of entertainment for someone and will surely get better scores from other viewers.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
What did you think of Classroom of the Elite? Do deus ex machina characters like Ayanokouji bother you or is it just part of the shows appeal? Do you think/want Classroom of the Elite will get another season? Any thoughts on what might happen next (as long as you haven’t read the light novel!)?