[Review] Classroom of the Elite – episode 1

Kōdo Ikusei Senior High School is a leading prestigious school with state-of-the-art facilities where nearly 100% of students go on to university or find employment. The students there have the freedom to wear any hairstyle and bring any personal effects they desire. Kōdo Ikusei is a paradise-like school, but the truth is that only the most superior of students receive favorable treatment. Kiyotaka Ayanokōji is a student of D-class, which is where the school dumps its “inferior” students in order to ridicule them. For a certain reason, Kiyotaka was careless on his entrance examination, and was put in D-class. After meeting Suzune Horikita and Kikyō Kushida, two other students in his class, Kiyotaka’s situation begins to change.

Source: Anime News Network

Classroom of the Elite thinks it’s a lot smarter than it actually is. This is a show that opens with a quote from Nietzsche (which is slightly more or less stupidly pretentious than quoting Rand, depending on who you ask) and ends on La Rouchefoucald. Simultaneously, I had guessed its end-of-episode twist by about the five-minute mark. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, because there are several hints of genuine intrigue here, but is certainly sets a tone.

First of all, the twist in question might be screamingly obvious, but it’s still a solid premise with a lot of potential for interesting escalation. It could be as simple as an over-the-top bloodbath or Lord of the Flies situation during the scrabbling for points; or, if the writers are feeling ambitious, an incisive critique of the crushing expectations Japanese students face every day. Elements like the implied panopticon and the unnerving idea of isolating students from society and forcing them to live on company scrip have potential as paranoia-builders, but there’s no guarantee the subtlety will stick around now that the series has shown its conceptual hand.

The homeroom teacher leans over her desk, eyes closed, a lot of cleavage showing. Dialogue: Which means you're all worth nothing

Its basically restrained designs are a point in favor of respectability—there are a few brief (fully clothed) boob shots following the main character’s line of sight (literal male gaze, in essence), and the homeroom teacher has a stupidly Anime outfit, but for the most part the designs scream utility more than fanservice. Suzune is particularly intriguing, a blunt loner who is (alongside the protagonist) one of the only ones to grasp what’s going on. She gravitates toward the main character because plot, but it manages to feel natural based on their outsider status rather than because either has Love Interest inscribed on their forehead.

Speaking of that protagonist… Ayanokoji is kind of an asshole, and it’s a trial to be shackled to him as the POV character. His disaffected status is probably temporary, since he and his saved points are likely to be a hot commodity very soon, but it was slow and grating to be stuck with someone who steadfastly refuses to care about anything, even something really easy like “maybe you should give old ladies your seat on the bus.” On the other hand, if this is to turn into a bloody series where bad things happen to bad people, perhaps that’s for the best.

Ayanokoji and Suzune talk at a convenience store. Dialogue from Suzune: True. But I, for one, feel no need to make friends.

Slow, by the way, is a good descriptor for the episode overall. Slow and unsubtle. As I said, the twist is obvious quite quickly, but the episode sticks to its guns on taking you through the first “normal” month of blissful unawareness with some ominous foreshadowing sprinkled in. Some of that foreshadowing is good, like the “free” items in the school convenience store (the first time, at least—the episode reminds you of it multiple times to make sure you get it); some of it is less good, like repeatedly hammering home how much most members of the class are spending.

Also, the lighting switches from warm sunset reds to cold greys for the revelation scene, because it understands intro to color design. Actually, the visual design isn’t much to write home about in general. There are a lot of static shots of people talking or basic walking animations, but overall it’s fairly stiff and unremarkable. And talky. Boy, is it talky.

Students in the classroom look at their phones in concern. Dialogue: How come?

All that said, I’m interested enough in Suzune and the potential of the premise to stick around for at least the first three episodes. If it can pick up the pacing and strive for actual intelligence rather than posturing, there might be something intriguing here.

Read the ANN Preview Review Guide.

 

Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; the slasher fan in them is down for watching some terrible people die. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, listen to them podcasting on Soundcloud, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.

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  • Dyram

    I watched it this morning. There were no surprises the whole time. That said, the concept has potential and it isn’t *bad*, so I’ll probably keep watching until it offends me.
    With any luck, maybe it’ll even get good!