Conventionally people say “Absence makes the heart grows fonder”. Somehow my fondness for watching anime didn’t seem to grow in the time I sealed them away during my studies. (Maybe it means that I am at maximum fondness???)
Anyways, I couldn’t find the motivation to watch any new anime series, nor had I any idea of what genre to start with. Thankfully Plyasm came to the rescue and suggested ClassElite and Inuyashiki right off the bat. (That was a much needed push to get my lazy hands to tune in to the shows)
Without further ado, its time to expand my 1 page of point-notes in my anime logbook and get some writing going…
(Starting from this review, I am writing my own synopses for any anime media concerned. Reason for which is due to enlightenment from Pantless who wisely mentioned that a content creator's synopses ought to derive from their interpretation of the reviewed material).
Kiyotaka Ayanokouji makes it into Koudo Ikusei Senior High School, a more-or-less university-equivalent institution which is a microcosm of the outside society. Granted the freedom to do what they want, the students are allocated credits as an alternative to real money in the school compounds, which can be used for any kind of transactions.
While settling in one of the four freshman classes, Ayanokouji’s classmates treated the system like a paradise, assuming their freedom be an entitlement. But all good things do not last, and the reality is the cruel truth hidden beneath a decorated exterior. Terms and conditions apply to students and their behaviour, and the whole schooling system is in fact – one that mimics the hierarchy in society, where success is rewarded and sloppiness is punished. The school perfectly explains what a ‘dog eat dog world’ is.
Compromised by his classmates’ actions leading to his class ranking of D, Ayanokouji has to find his own means of survival while associating with other acquaintances like Horikita Suzune, Kushida Kikyo and Hirata Yosuke, each of whom may prove to be either liabilities or stepping stones between him and his goal.
Psychological Comedy (Does this even make sense?), Unnecessarily excessive fan-service
Also known as “Classroom of the Elite”
(July 2017 – September 2017) 12 Episodes
[(Main) Songs List]
1] Caste Room (OP)
2] Beautiful Soldier (ED)
[Recommendation] – 7.45/10
(I really can’t give a 7.5 because that would make it a ‘Good’ in my scoring)
(Spoiler-less) To be honest, this show has the potential. The potential to become a Liar Game equivalent psychological series. Unfortunately the more I progressed through the story, the less I find the series staying committed to a relevant plot surrounding the school’s questionable educational framework and its mechanisms.
Regardless of my disappointment in the direction the series took, the philosophical musings pertaining to social issues are abundant, and I have to give my praise for the source working around such a controversial idea. That being said, if you are in for some interestingly crazy concepts, some thinking, and if you don’t mind the excessive fanservice which knows no bounds after episode 6, do give this series a try. You might enjoy it more than I do too (The story after episode 6 are still interesting at times, and you’ll need to focus a little to catch on what’s going on).
Anything similar you may ask? Hmm… I guess I’d throw in No Game No Life for some badass protagonist similarity and the involvement of tactics and strategies (It’s not so clear in ClassElite though); then some Kiznaiver because of pokerface protagonist similarity and lots of ridiculous sequences. Some people recommend Assassination Classroom, but I haven’t watched that yet – they are both similar with respect to the class-ranking problem though, that’s for sure. And I am not going to try to associate it with Hyouka or Oregairu because these two are just too different from ClassElite.
Instead of asking “What’s the plot?”, a better question is “Where’s the ‘plot’?”. ClassElite progresses at a fairly awkward pace after its attention-grabbing first episode. Instead of a smooth delivery of the students’ interpretation of the school’s diabolical system, we are invited to watch Ayanokoji’s day-to-day tackle-and-redirect adventures as Ike Kanji, Sudou Ken and Haruki Yamauchi causes problems again, and again, and again…
The first half of the series set the stage of introducing the relevant actors for us to keep an eye on, while the second half devolved into a fan-service drama. More side characters are added to the show in the second half, but are lacking in depth (Yeap, you know who you are, Ibuki and Sakura, just to list a couple). There is of course a fun episode dedicated purely for fan-service purposes. And if that isn’t enough, the series converts its test arc into fan-service round 2.
At the end of the day, we are given a very clear idea about the perspective of Ayanokoji, which sets this 12 episode series as a launchpad for the full story (Perhaps season 2? Or one can refer to the original source). Despite the abundance of fan-service moments, each episode does (more or less) bring up intriguing questions to ask ourselves. One of which I will expand on in the final section of this thoughts reviews (as usual).
Some questions to think about (in no particular order):
[ – ] On lawless education and invisible consequences of misconduct
[ – ] The liability of impression and trust
[ – ] Boon and bane of popularity
[ – ] Immediate vs delayed gratification
[ – ] Dreams vs Academics – What would you sacrifice? Is there a need to sacrifice?
The art-style is pretty decent (Wow! Much Vibrant! So Saturation! Very Art!) although I can’t really get used to the combination of colours used here – Red? Purple? Orange? Yellow? There are other colours available you know?
This consistency is balanced for both character and scenery illustrations until episode 7 came along (and everything thereafter). It is incorrect to say that the quality dropped, because what really happened was a shift in focus from ‘general’ art to ‘fan-service’ art. And I’m not kidding because the duration of fan-service angles and shots grew with every subsequent episode.
There isn’t much else to discuss about the art, but to ‘prove’ my point, here’s a preview of those fan-service moments which we all have a love-hate relationship with:
Were they really necessary? With the exception of that one scene for Kushida’s case, I would say no (I don’t think that counts as fan-service anyway). It’s like these fan-service moments are there for just being. It’s like the anime wants to show that all these female characters surrounding the MC are busty (or ‘thicc’) physically to try to establish some kind of harem (which is not applicable for this series).
In any case, even if I do not mind fan-servicing, the colour saturation/vibrancy in combination with the illustration style makes it not enjoyable in comparison to those that I hunt on pixiv.
Before I watched ClassElite, I have always been listening to the OP while playing Osu!. So naturally I found the OP catchy (albeit not as catchy as Sparkling Daydream from Chuuni). Even after 12 episodes of incremental fan-servicing, I still am unable to figure out why ClassElite used an excess of words – Japanese, French and all – splashed all over the screen throughout the OP. I hope it is not an attempt to copy Hyouka‘s OP, because they kind of overdid it. (Note: Research and context required to understand if the method is justified in the case of the series). Still, I do like the blend of colors to make the OP more vibrant, given its already extravagant color palette used for its character and scene designs.
The ED on the other hand is calming with a combination of pop and jazz (i think?) elements. It sounds very much like a Horikita song (especially after looking at its lyrics). I do kind of like the little effort they made in putting in a different character for each ED, and the little sneak peak of each individual’s credits remaining in their bank (So that I won’t skip the ED, haha! Ok, I usually don’t skip EDs, don’t worry).
Speaking of lyrics, the OP then doesn’t seem that all fitting to the show because of how the ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ of the characters basically contrast like light and day (*hint*). It makes the OP sound more suitable for an action-adventure or super-hero anime series.
Let’s see… What have I noted for these characters…
(Pokerface… Oppai… Oppai… Narcissist… Oppai… Useless… Oppai… Useless… Oppai…)
Characters like Kouenji, Hirata and Ichinose are not given enough value for their presence in the series. I’m guessing that the plot is not sufficiently developed enough for these characters to make an impression and deliver with purpose. It is still a waste for the series, because while not forgettable (for various reasons), they aren’t “that important” and therefore not very relevant for the viewing experience.
Kushida Kikyo is your typical genki girl, or more correctly – your oppai popularity queen. Relying on moe and the feminine damsel ‘characteristics’, she ‘owns’ her classmates (in more ways than one). As stereo-typically portrayed the males all bend to her appeal, and if necessary she will command the force to his bidding. In my opinion, she’s the fan-service package before Sakura and Ichinose kind of upstaged her and doubled up as supplementary packages.
As for Horikita Suzune, it is obvious that she is the tsundere. You can never go wrong with that assumption because 1) She has no friends, 2) she talks to and scoffs at the MC, and 3) She really talks a lot for someone who has no interest in talking. Being the kind of girl who sees things the way she only desires, its not surprising that she has problems with both outside people and her family members (Ok, a disclaimer, that’s not necessarily the case in real life). The main issue of this stubborn personality is her naivety, which she doesn’t actually realize when she has the tendency to raise suspicions only on minute details that pose a threat to her lifestyle and philosophies.
Last but not least, there’s Ayanokoji Kiyotaka. The one character who had the greatest potential to shine in the series given his tact and his observant & analytical nature. Needless to say, he is the one and only real character in this series (psst.. because the others are just pebbles by the river). I’m not sure about other viewers, but I had a very clear idea early on that this guy isn’t your most trustworthy companion regardless of how proficient he is in problem-solving. Reason being, he “tai chi (太极)” responsibilities away from himself and pushes the recognition of his achievements to others. That, in my book, is a warning flag that something is up. It is amazing how no one (well… most people) seems to suspect that while they happily take the credit for the resolved conflict or emergency. There is a lot of room to explore Ayanokoji’s abilities in the series, but the later episodes just dilute the value of his tactical prowess. It would be great if more focus can be placed on how he understands the mechanics of the system or the test without revealing too much about his character.
I am now getting flashbacks of the time I had to write one-word essays in tertiary education. This one in particular is very relevant, since my country emphasizes on meritocracy as an intrinsic framework for its systems. As I am not a political science major, it would be irreverent of me to engage on the topic and compare between the capitalism & socialistic forms as mentioned. Instead, I’ll simply make some simple points about the pros and cons of the meritocratic system.
Meritocracy: A political system based on ability, talent and achievements (or, merit). Individuals who are all the more capable are recommended and invested to govern the people.
Hence in the general sense, a meritocratic system is simply one that priorities on skills and achievements. In some ways, it isn’t very much different from the concept of “The Survival of the Fittest” from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
When it comes to survival in a group, the aggregate would certainly not want to take any chances by depending on individuals who struggle at making good & right decisions. This is seen in ClassElite – Only recognized individuals are trusted and anyone lesser than that are deemed garbage (and condemned). By placing your trust on the things/people who are reliable (and have proven so), the probability of a win-win scenario would be greatly increased. At the individual level, the much-acclaimed individual can enjoy greater benefits such as continued support from the masses, and favouritism.
Wait, hang on a second. Isn’t favouritism kind of partial now? In the first place, the meritocratic framework is meant to be impartial so that people are judged by their capabilities, but it is the impact of this system that creates biasness. Well, that’s why the word “Elite” is aptly included in the story’s title. As beneficial as meritocracy can be, there bounds to be hidden markov effects that show up only later. The bias is pretty clear cut in ClassElite, not just from how the classes are ranked, but also from how classmates subconsciously rank one another in the social construct.
That said, the meritocratic system can be abused by corrupted powers. The issue then shifts from the framework being intrinsically flawed, to the notion that humans are fundamentally problematic. A good system under the hands of the wicked can’t be any good. It’s like math where (1 x (-1) gives you -1, and a disclaimer: a bad system under the hands of the wicked won’t necessarily turn out good). ClassElite once again gives an idea of this (I can’t elaborate because then there will be spoilers), where students in higher ranked classes can trash the ‘trash’.
Another point relevant to meritocracy is that outputs of the system should still be taken at face value. While it is more likely that a honours student out-performs a pass student, there can still be the possibility of the latter being deserving of merit compared to the former. With an increasing proportion of individuals pursuing further studies, the value of academic credentials become diluted (Here’s some simple math – assuming that a fixed percentage of students are awarded their respective category of merit, a larger population implies a greater quantity of graduates in that category). Besides, just because an individual received a greater recognition in academics doesn’t mean that they are capable individuals – It could simply imply that they are good at studying, or memorising.
On the topic of meritocracy, I decidedly went to search for a few articles where the concept is concerned over the years. Some of these are fairly provoking reads, although I have to caution the reader (if you intend to spare some time on the subject) to take the theses with a pinch of salt.
A few of these concerns the relevance of other factors like social presets in affecting the integrity of a meritocratic framework ; of course linking to the rather familiar arguments at home, a couple of them critic the meritocratic structure .
If you made it all the way until here without skipping the [[ Thoughts ]] segment, here’s a round of applause for navigating through the dense jargon and technicalities there this time.
I’m currently working out how to tune the final section so that it will be a little academic, but then still understandable (although I will not write in this style all the time). Do forgive me for the mess I’ve currently created (*Take out a table cloth*).
If you patrons have any interesting ideas to discuss (or help me relieve this sudden spike in complex confusion), do share them in the conversation channel below! The Inn-Keeper is open for a lively chat~
That’s all for this thoughts review folks! Thanks for reading!
1] “Anime Thoughts: Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e” Cover Photo
2] “Anime Thoughts: Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shikou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e” Gifs
3] “Offering a Job: Meritocracy and Social Networks” (November 2000)
4] “Gender, Race, and Meritocracy in Organizational Careers”(May 2008)
5] “The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations,” (December 2010)
6] “Doing class analysis in Singapore’s elite education: unravelling the smokescreen of ‘meritocratic talk’” (2014)
7] “Elite rationalities and curricular form: “Meritorious” class reproduction in the elite thinking curriculum in Singapore” (2015)
* Links to academic papers in prose are open access. Those in acknowledgements section link to the article's digital object identifier (doi) in the respective journal sites which may or may not have open access.