Classroom of the Elite
The "classrooms of the elite" are in Tokyo's Koudo Ikusei High School, a government-sponsored school for future professionals where, every month, students are awarded "points" that not only represent spending power for the students themselves, but also determine class ranking; violation of school rules, or poor academic performance, can result in a class losing its points to other classes. Class D is at the bottom of the heap on points- but a taciturn loner named Ayanokoji Kiyotaka may be able to turn that around.
"If you can't solve a single simultaneous equation, I shudder to think of where you'll end up in the future" - Suzune Horikita (a Class D student)
If the quote is true, I guess a lot of folks are in trouble. I'll have more on Suzune, and the object of her ire, later. Just note that even where the dialogue is intended to be comic, everything here is presented in a Very Serious Manner, complete with a quote from some great philosopher opening each episode (and often having only the most tenuous connection to the content of that episode.) The show wants to be a dark drama featuring dark leading characters, and so it makes its settings match: key scenes are set in dimly-lit classrooms, stairways, and alleys, and later in dense forest and (of course) at night. The show's pretentiousness even influences the presentation of its fanservice, which is treated in as joyless a manner as everything else here, almost as though the show's creators really didn't want it there, but it was called for in the specs. We're talking serious (and seriously heavy-handed) high school noir here.
Here's an early indicator of whether you'll want to stay around: in the first episode, some of the students are boarding a bus to go to the school. An elderly lady boards the bus as well, but the seat normally reserved for the disabled/elderly is occupied by a guy we'll later find out is named Koenji, who not only refuses to yield the seat to her, but gives her a lecture on the virtues of his selfishness that would have brought Ayn Rand to tears of joy and admiration.
The important thing to note here, though, is that neither of our shows principals- neither Suzune Horikita nor Ayanokoji Kiyotaka- offer their seats to the lady either. Suzune says it would have been against her principles; apparently even the most minor self-sacrifices of common courtesy are anathema to these ambitious up-and-comers, but despite the denials of the show's principals that they have any concern for the common and the weak, that's not really how things go; Ayanokoji's "genius" will wind up helping the (mostly) less ethically compromised "losers" of Class D, and later even the mostly-OK members of Class B, which forms an alliance with them, to get the better of the more ruthless (but less brilliant) members of the "evil" classes A and C. It's very much the formula of a supposedly amoral anti-hero helping out the common people (supposedly only out of self-interest, of course), a formula familiar from films like The Road Warrior and A Fistful of Dollars, but actually tracing back to a Japanese source, Akira Kurosawa's 1961 film Yojimbo. Ayanokoji's tactics are usually cerebral rather than violent- he sets people and events up, like chess pieces- but he (and therefore the show) never abandons his pretense of doing things only to help himself.
Ayanokoji is actually DRAWN bored and jaded (it's the eyes), and speaks in an appropriately deadpan manner. He and Suzune somehow end up the self-appointed guardians of their Class D, doing their best to increase the class points, while stemming the bleeding of points caused by class delinquents like Ken Sudo- a hothead and poor student whose very presence in a school for upcoming professionals seemed a bit strange to me; Suzune's quote at the beginning of the review is aimed at him. (I would have cut him loose, myself.) Bribery and blackmail (the latter using fake evidence, to boot) are some of the tactics Ayanokoji and Suzune resort to; remember the show is denying any ethical framework (while supporting one nevertheless.) Suzune, like Ayanokoji, is also drawn to fit her personality- a sarcastic girl who always has a chip on her shoulder. The only person she actively seeks the approval of is her brother, who's not only thoroughly corrupt himself (he's the head of the Student Council), but is even apparently physically abusive to her as well. It's obvious to everyone BUT Suzune that he'll never regard his sister as any better than the rest of her "loser" class.
Then there's Kiyoko Kushida, the girl who was trying to help the old lady find a seat. She's the large-breasted girl required in the fanservice specs, and given the standard scenes (swimsuit bounce, wrapped in a towel, etc.) She's also always seeking to be friends with everyone. Some people in this show are not exactly as they present themselves, though; for example, another of the show's large-breasted fanservice girls, named Sakura, is always saying, "I don't like showing my bare skin in front of people", while in fact showing PLENTY of it as an Internet "idol". The trio of Ayanokoji, Suzune, and Kushida somehow seemed to me like cynical, corrupt versions of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU's Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui, respectively.
Here I would also note Class D's homeroom teacher, Sae Chabashida. The first couple of times she enters a scene, the first thing we see is her legs, and Stocking Fetish is at least an interesting complement to Breast Fetish, though truthfully she's no slouch in THAT department either. Her conversations with Ayanokoji are laden with cryptic references that clearly indicate that what we've seen is just part of a larger story which I guess can be found in the light novels but didn't make it into the anime (yet).
The PRESENT season of the show ends with a multi-episode story in which the classes spend a week on an uninhabited island; it's apparently intended as a combination team-building exercise (WITHIN the classes) and a Survivor-style competition (BETWEEN the classes.) The "point" rules here are unusually complex, and so there are plenty of attempts to "game the system", especially by the "evil" classes (again, A and C.) Not to worry, Ayanokoji is on the case, though I'm not so sure I'd THANK someone who'd basically just treated me as a pawn. (I would suggest paying close attention to the denouement in Episode 12, or you'll NEVER understand how that all came out. As it is, I still think it has some elements of what I've called Arlington Road Syndrome- a plan whose success requires absolute control of variables that are not absolutely controllable.)
The Recommendation might seem strange, but the whole business of a "loser" class struggling with its ranking, and the use of hook-or-crook methods to improve those rankings, kind of reminded me of that show...
I was turned off by the show's artifice- its studied joylessness, its pseudo-profundity, and the fact that the lead characters are so unendearing (though there ARE several pleasant secondary characters); and while the show was interesting enough to sit through once (particularly Ayanokoji's more elaborate schemes), I couldn't find any moments I would have liked to re-visit. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: As noted, plenty of fanservice with Kushida and Sakura; we also get Suzune in a bra-and-panties bathing scene, and some girls getting semi-nude massages. There's also a surprising amount of physical violence in the show; perhaps some of these "future leaders" are actually aspiring to lead Yakuza chapters. Better for 15+.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Classroom of the Elite © 2017 Lerche
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