[Review] Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor – episode 1

When Sistine and Rumia encounter an odd young man on the way to their prestigious magical school they couldn’t have guessed he would be their new teacher – or that he would be so lacklustre. With no work experience, special skills or even legible handwriting, 19-year-old Glenn Radars seems to have no interest in teaching or his new students. But ambitious Sistine is determined to learn, and after requesting, commanding and threatening to get her new teacher to teach, she eventually challenges him to a duel.

I’ve talked about this before, but each time an anime peddles gratuitous sexualisation and other pandering tropes in its premiere episode it goes into minus points, meaning it has to work harder to earn a positive review overall. Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor seems pretty comfortable in the minus points.

Let’s look at a few of those on a scale of ‘a bit jarring’ to ‘we’re done here’:

Unnecessarily defined breasts? -1. (This is our introduction to a major character, and fabric doesn’t work that way.)

Close-up of Rumia's chest, her school uniform conforming to each breast, as she casts a spell. Subtitle: "The angels' blessings be with you."

Animal ears on young girls which seem completely without purpose and unrelated to the worldbuilding? -1.

Sistine, with little animal ears on the top of her head, waves a greeting at Rumia.

Completely inappropriate school uniform for young girls unmatched by a comparable uniform for boys? -1. (If anime fandom had a Hawkeye Initiative this show would be a good candidate.)

A crowd of schoolboys and schoolgirls, in similar uniforms except the girls have bare midriffs, short skirts and suspenders while the boys wear shirts, ties and cardigans.

An adult male character touching a teenaged female character in a sexualised way without consent? -1.

Rumia stands, looking shocked, as Glenn crouches down, lifts up the hem of her very short skirt and peers under it.

Ugh.

There was one positive: Sistine’s character. She is some kind of aristocrat’s daughter, powerful and influential, and responds to Rumia’s formality by insisting they are family, equals. She tries to protect Rumia, and after Glenn crosses a line she forces him back, crying out, “I can’t believe he’d touch a woman without permission!”

Unfortunately, the show then makes her a completely hypocrite by having her touch Rumia without permission in a scene more reminiscent of rapey porn than a magical high school story.

Sistine stands behind Rumia, cupping her breasts and looking annoyed as Rumia blushes. Subtitle: "You're developing rather steadily."

Brief reminder that Rumia feels that Sistine is of a higher social status to her, while Sistine wants her to feel like family. That’s two layers of messed-up power dynamic, smooshed together for a creepy, creepy scene that lasts way too long, with added voyeurism as their blushing classmates look on.

A few female classmates, all in lacy bras, underwear and suspenders, look on and blush. Subtitle: "Sisti, ah, no!"

That whole thing is the low point in a show of low points, played for humour as Glenn walks into this scene of sexual assault in a room full of young girls all wearing an adult man’s fantasy of schoolgirl underwear.

Through Glenn's legs we see the room full of girls in bras, underwear and suspenders, standing around Rumia and Sistine in a half-circle as Sistine continues to cup Rumia's breasts.

But wait! The show is self-aware! Glenn doesn’t blush or drool, he asks them to stop and think rationally about this “commonplace, cliche’d turn of events”!

The girls continue to be in their underwear, startled and frozen. Subtitle: "Why should a man panic and avert his eyes,"

Okay, teenage girls’ bodies are just bodies, they’re his students, they can trust him to stay calm and professional and just leave, right?

The girls continue to be in their underwear, startled and frozen. Subtitle: "or try to keep his hands to himself?"

NO GLENN

Close-up of Glenn's face as he screams. Subtitle: "So I'll burn this sight into my eyes!"

-1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1

There are other moments that are pretty unpleasant, but frankly, if any AniFem readers make it past the changing room scene it’ll be for morbid curiosity and/or snarky tweets alone. The show eventually gets to mentioning some plot at around 14 minutes and reaches Sistine’s duel challenge at around 18 minutes, but even that conclusion falls flat. It’s not an amazing story beautifully told but hindered by creepiness; the creepiness is the point. The story is flimsy scaffolding for the true purpose of the show, the anime equivalent of “I’ve come to fix your plumbing.”

I personally enjoy character clashes like Glenn and Sistine’s, and started the episode prepared to be entertained by that. However, making both of them enthusiastic sexual molesters and Rumia a passive and amiable victim from the start is too much for me to get past.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.

 

Comments are open! Let us know what you thought of the show! Please read our comments policy before joining the conversation and contact us if you have any problems.

Amelia is the editor-in-chief of Anime Feminist, has a degree in Japanese Studies and is a freelance writer for websites and magazines on film, television, anime and manga.

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  • ImaniToo

    I read everywhere that this was supposed to be one of the most anticipated seasons in a long time. (I’ve only started to follow TV anime seasons since Fall 2016.) Winter 2017 was seen as pretty lacklustre, save for a few​ favourites.

    Yet, at this point last season, I’d already found about 6 that seemed worthwhile. At this point the only new one I’ve started is KADO and I may consider Granblue based on AF’s review.

    • Andrei Feliu

      I would suggest you not listen to “anime reviewers” because most of the times their opinions are biased according to their own preferences or they just repeat what everyone says about a specific anime just to get views on their videos. I think you would have better luck looking on any websites with voting system (eg: myanimelist.com). Of course this won’t completely work for everyone either, since some people might like a more “niche” genre or type of anime, but that’s what category tags are for. On myanimelist anime with a rating of at least 7 are usually pretty decent and you might even find some really good ones that didn’t have had much of an audience and the most popular/appreciated ones are usually above 8.

      • Anime reviewers are of course basing reviews on their own opinions and preferences – what else would they base it on? 🙂 The key is to find a reviewer or several whose preferences overlap enough with your own that you can take their recommendations as an indication that something wouldn’t be a waste of your time. This is true even within the team – if Peter or Caitlin like an anime I’m almost certainly going to at least appreciate it, whereas my tastes are very different from Lauren’s or Vrai’s. This shows up perfectly in ANN’s preview guide – their reviewers almost always offer a range of opinions, but I know Jacob’s views resonate most closely with mine so I pay most attention to what he recommends. I won’t always love what Jacob, Peter or Caitlin loves, but most of the time I’ll at least like it, and that’s good enough.

        Ranking sites are another useful tool, though none of us on the team use My Anime List anymore. There are a few decent options out there, but AniFem readers are particularly likely to appreciate Anime Planet (http://www.anime-planet.com/), run by a feminist woman who has developed tags and so on from a feminist perspective.

      • ImaniToo

        Yes, the problem wasn’t “biased” reviewers at all. I figured out it was because a lot of the most anticipated titles were sequels or new entries in major properties. I’d only seen Attack on Titan, so I couldn’t enjoy the bounty like everyone else.

        I did binge on Bahamut: Genesis so I could frolic with Virgin Soul. Of course, the writers decided to shaft two out of the three female characters in the first season. Now they have Nina–bounty hunter, construction worker, blushing tween–bouncing around in skimpy gear, completely unlike what her people or anyone else, anywhere in the damn show wears (up to ep 3), because anime. I thought if I’m gonna see T&A let it be from someone sensible. Swapped it for Yamamoto Sayo’s Lupin III. /rantover

        *ahem* As the Spring 2017 season has settled in I’ve found a few titles I’m more or less happy with. Thanks for trying to help, though :-).

  • GreyLurker

    Oddly enough I can’t get past the uniforms. They make no damn sense. The setting is clearly a cleaner version of the victorian era. We have horse and buggy, gas street lamps, top hats, ankle length dresses. The bulk of the clothing is also browns and greys.All of it is clearly a Victorian aesthetic

    and then we have these bright blue and white mini-skirts with suspenders.

    It doesn’t fit, it’s completely imerssion breaking. There is no way a victorian style culture would pick those as a school girl uniform. For everythigng else this series has good and bad, this is the point I can’t seem to get past. There is just no logical sense for those uniforms to exist in that setting

    • Moni

      Yeah I don’t understand it either. It doesn’t make sense for the men’s uniforms are practical and professional looking and the girls look like they belong in the costume section of Adam and Eve (down to the being looking that they’re uncomfortable to wear as well).

      • GreyLurker

        Ok episode 2 was (mostly) better. The highlight for me was when he started going into detail on that Shock Bolt spell. I loved that bit, they really got into the magic system here and it was really interesting to see how things work.


        ..
        .
        and then that other stuff happened. God damn it couldn’t we have had her apply the lessons she had just learned to save herself. No…we gotta do this instead……fine….

  • Rory More

    Thanks for the heads up, Amelia! I wonder what a light novel written by you and the other Anifem writers would be like…

    • Light novels are more diverse than anime adaptations would have us believe! Even within otaku-beloved light novels though, I’ve actually been rewatching Sword Art Online and Asuna’s role is fantastic at the start. She isn’t introduced immediately, and when she is it’s through she and Kirito fighting together. His appreciation for her skills is emphasised over any appreciation for her looks, and they spend a good chunk of time following separate paths and interacting as equals before they end up spending more time together – as initiated by Asuna. It’s a shame her role was damselled later, because its earliest stages are a really positive example of a female love interest in a light novel adaptation.

      • Rory More

        Sword Art Online works for me up to Yui, and then as people far more intellectually invested and able explain why it falls apart from there.

        I will fondly remember SAO as the show where I genuinely like the abridged more as both a spoof and a show

  • The full sentence is important for this one – it’s a minus point for animal ears with no connection to the character or world around them, i.e. they’re there purely to please the audience members who like cute girls with animal ears and serve no other purpose. That kind of pandering is immersion-breaking, hence the minus point. Turns out it’s actually a hair ribbon (I have never seen a hair ribbon positioned to poke out of hair in the way animal ears would, but okay) just designed to evoke that animal ear look. Still pandering, only now with plausible deniability.

    All of that pales next to the rose-tinted sexual assault scene though. Everything else could have been amazing and that would have been a dealbreaker for me.

  • This is why I don’t tend to actively recommend that people avoid certain titles, just aim to give relevant information so that anyone who considers certain elements a dealbreaker can make an informed decision on whether to skip it or watch it. I hope it lives up to your expectations!

  • cosmicengine

    So… I don’t know if anyone watched any further into this than the first episode and I wouldn’t blame anyone’s who didn’t – this first episode seems to be almost crafted to repel a reasonable observer. With that being said though, I think after about four episodes I’m beginning to think there’s more going on than I first thought and that maybe it’s actually a kind of an attempt at a parody of all of those standard fare dumbass tropes in LN / high school / magical girl / fantasy anime.

    Some things I noticed are that after the first episode, I don’t think there are any other groping scenes or long sequences of underage women in their underwear. There doesn’t seem to be nearly as much of a focus on “fanservice” (camera groping) in the shots. Radars acknowledges the misplaced animal ears on Sistine by giving her the nick-name “white-cat” in a manner that actually advances the plot – even if giving her that name is basically bullying. He does it to explain how words stick in the mind and how this relates to magic, but I don’t think it was necessary for a male in a position of power to humiliate a female he’s supposed to be teaching and protecting in the process of teaching that lesson. Then again, he is the “bastard magical instructor” – but come on…

    So here’s what I’m thinking it might be: This show is some kind of attempt to parody the ridiculous tropes of these genres, but it still has to be successful in a market that kind of requires playing to them. So they’ve made a main character that’s a drop-in for the target audience: Kirito-Christ but without the need to really excel through hard work or restrain those base urges. Radars is as advertised – he’s a bastard. He’s lazy, poor, slimy and awkward and bad at his job. But he’s also really good at his job, sometimes, accidentally; and seems to genuinely start to care about his students and their well-being and do right by them – at least a little. He’s also, of course, OP as fuck without even trying…although there have been suggestions that he has some kind of noble past that involved some suffering and hard work. Some of his actions in later episodes suggest he might not be a complete asshole. Maybe this is some kind of weird approach to a redemption story..?

    The school uniforms, for example, are so ridiculous that I can only see them as a result of someone thinking “so we don’t even give a shit about making these ‘high school uniforms’ remotely true to life anymore? Alright, I give you the ultimate ‘uniform’: Stripper heels, thigh-highs with prominent garters, a pleated skirt the size of a relatively thick belt, some additional straps that serve no purpose and a sailor-style crop-top that gives up right underneath the boobs. Is this what you wanted, world?” Obviously the male uniforms would have to have capes and such, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d included magical swords as part of the male uniform as well, or something equally phallic and silly that only the special boys can have. If you’re going for parody, go further I say.

    Maybe these are something like those things in shows like Ren & Stimpy and Spongebob that were obviously not meant for the children who were the target audience – the jokes and dark parts that you only “get” when you watch these shows at a much older age… maybe I’m reading far too much into a dumb show.

    There’s an adult female character who plays a kind of minor role as well, as Radars’ sugar-momma or something, and of course she’s basically wearing lingerie. She appears to be competent, capable, grounded, and except for her inappropriate – if she really is his adopted mother – sexually-suggestive fascination with the far-younger Radars and the costuming I can’t point to any (further) overt negative traits. I very well could have missed quite a bit though. I don’t know how to write reviews and I haven’t been paying extremely close attention to this show, really.

    There’s a tournament arc / festival in another episode where a pervy guy tries to “dominate” some of the students as one of the competitions. Only one of the participants is female – Rumia, who…

    – “Spoiler” warning, for any who may actually decide to watch the show (which I can’t exactly say I recommend at this time) –

    …is actually secretly the Royal Princess. Rumia wins this match after a dark-horse competitor whose character design pegs him as a Major Badass With Superpowers. He brags that he can’t lose and tries to intimidate her and says some sexist shit and then the match begins. The pervy guy does some pervy shit and one-by-one everybody loses except for Rumia and Major Badass. In the last round, Radars and Sistine convince Rumia to drop out because she’s pushing herself too hard for the sake of her friends – but it turns out that Badass actually passed out standing up, so Rumia is the winner after all.

    She was thought by the rest of the kingdom to have been killed (she was actually rescued by Radars who is keeping this a secret from her instead of lording it over her…that’s a kind of good sign, I think) and is attending school in secret under an assumed identity because apparently it would make the populace uncomfortable for some reason for the royal family to also be powerful mages. I can kind of see how that works, in a sense…. although I would think a queen who is also a magical wizard would be a good thing for security, I can get how maybe at least some would worry that there would be a risk of that queen or king abusing their power.

    The current queen is present at the tournament – she also seems to be a positive female character. It seems to bother Rumia that her mother isn’t wearing a necklace that they seem to share a connection over – but it’s established in previous scenes that she wears it all the time, and she only takes it off right before she arrives so that she doesn’t blow Rumia’s cover. She regrets having to send her daughter away and misses her terribly but she knows that if she were to acknowledge her or even keep in touch, she’d be putting both her daughter and her kingdom in danger. She commands the respect of everyone, including male characters like her captain of the guard, and she isn’t dressed like a stripper for no reason.

    I don’t know how it doesn’t bother her that the Princess Royal *is*, but this is anime and sometimes there are no answers to good questions.

    – Plot details end at this point. I don’t think it’s reasonable to actually talk about “spoiling” a show like this, for obvious reasons. –

    I think this show is trying to be another Konosuba, but it just doesn’t quite make it in term of parodying of the genre and medium excesses it rips on or the character comedy that made that show enjoyable for me.

    So, I don’t know. If one approaches the show as satire, it becomes at least somewhat enjoyable, so if you’ve got nothing else to do there’s that. But we should all have a lot more to do, and it’s not really all that good – the art is kind of lazy, the plot is too, the tropes are a little too entrenched and prominent and the comedy isn’t terrific. The first episode is frankly terrible, and all of the points the reviewer made are completely valid – whether Sistine’s “ears” are attached or not makes no difference, for example: They’re basically animal-girl cosplay in a world that shouldn’t have animal-girl cosplay, which is pandering even if it is played for a couple of laughs (and not in the best way) later on in the series.

    As I mentioned earlier I’m not sure if I can recommend watching this show, but I do kind of think there’s more going on here than a lot of people have seen. This show has become kind of trendy to rip on in the way that SAO has, and I think that’s justified based on the first episode – but I also think there are faaaar worse shows out there this season like Chivalry of a Failed Knight. Imagine if AssWar were to be somehow worse in all of the ways it’s already bad and add in some new bad elements like an older brother making out with his younger sister, what seems to be a school policy of forcing female students to be roommates with older male students, etc – honestly, it’s a continuation of this race-to-the-bottom in the genre. I haven’t seen anyone review it yet – maybe that’s because it’s so obviously bad it doesn’t even deserve the time it would take for anyone important to tear it down.

    I find this show interesting and not as bad as I thought it was after the first episode. I don’t know if I’ll finish it, but I haven’t dropped it yet.

    Just my thoughts – thank you for your excellent review(s)!