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It’s back to school for Matt Kamen with Baka and Test!

At Fumizaki Academy, students don’t just face the usual trials of homework and exams to get the best out of school – if they want the best, they’ll have to fight for it! Championing an alternative approach to education, teachers maintain a modern day warrior caste system – the top performing class lives in luxury, the lowest suffer the worst conditions on offer. It’s not their academic rankings that determine status though – to win or retain the best equipment, a class needs to win no-holds-barred avatar summoning battles!

With battles overseen by teachers, the power of the kids’ avatars is decided by the results of the most recent test taken. The victors move up, while the losers are forced to take remedial lessons to restore their avatar’s health! Unfortunately for Class 2F, they’re less a classroom and more a storing room for the dumbest kids in school, meaning their avatars are weak and their resources poor. Enter the hidden aces – Mizuki Himeji is one of the smartest girls in school, who only missed out on placing in the top class due to falling ill and missing the entrance exam. After catching up, her avatar is one of the toughest available. Akihisa Yoshii, in turn, is idiotic enough to be the ‘baka’ (idiot) of the show’s name, but his avatar is the only one that can interact with the physical world around him. Guided by the dubious leadership of Yuji Sakamoto, Class F’s president, Mizuki and Akihisa are the edge the class needs to battle their way to the top of the school league!

This unlikely take on academia first appeared in the form of a series of light novels in 2007, published by Enterbrain. Written by Kenji Inoue, with illustrations by Yui Haga, Baka and Test has racked up an impressive ten volumes since its debut, with more to come. The series’ mixture of comedy and action, along with a peppering of romance and drama, has seen it explode in popularity. Three spin-off manga are currently published – one a straight up adaptation, one a four-panel joke strip and one focusing more on the students’ personal lives than their frequent avatar battles.

The anime adaptation is produced by the relatively fresh-faced studio Silver Link, which was also set up in 2007. Like the residents of Class 2F, Silver Link has been battling its way up through the anime industry since its inception, doing grunt work such as inbetween animation on the likes of Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, then assisting on key animation for Eden of the East and Astarotte’s Toy (another series by Yui Haga, coincidentally). Though 2009’s Tayutama: Kiss on my Deity was the first show Silver Link provided full Animation Production on, Baka and Test has been the company’s biggest success to date. The series is directed by Shin Oonuma, a veteran who worked as animator on the balletic drama Princess Tutu and comedy series Strawberry Eggs, before directing madcap shows such as Negima!

The complete first series is available for your revision needs now. Improved exam results not guaranteed. (Please do not try this at a real school – Ed.)

Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts is available in the UK from Manga Entertainment.

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