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November 11, 2021
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By Andrew Osmond.

Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon spends its first moments fooling you into thinking that it’ll be a gritty military drama. There’s a flashforward to a terrible battle. There are ruined city buildings, a wounded youth in a school uniform facing death, and a little witch-girl intoning “Congratulations” with flat menace.

And then we’re in the story proper, and the youth, Takeru, is walking into a classroom in time to see… a buxom girl classmate in a bunny suit, who’s being forced to pose sexily for her malicious woman senior. Yes, we’ve found the show’s goofball side already, with lashings of fanservice. Anti-Magic Academy slides between the action/goofball poles for pretty much the whole series.

I should say there’s lots of fanservice, but it never gets as all-enveloping as, say, High School DxD, so don’t expect that kind of anime. I’ll also say Anti-Magic operates pretty much on harem principles, with Takeru as the only boy in a battle team full of girls. But he’s much cooler than many harem protagonists. Takeru’s already a strong warrior when we meet him, and he’s voiced in Japanese by Yoshimasa Hosoya, who enjoyed a fascinating character journey as another soldier, Reiner, in Attack on Titan.

Takeru is also a very upstanding guy – he’s very protective of girls, for deep personal reasons. But misunderstandings will happen, and his female colleagues have a tendency to let their hair down in front of him. That, or take their clothes off.

Based on a “light novel” series, Anti-Magic Academy throws viewers into a soup of familiar anime staples, making it instant light viewing. The set-up is that this is a modern world where magic powers are real and the forces of order – including Takeru and his girl allies in their title Test Platoon – must fight them continually. The baddies use forbidden spells and artefacts, sometimes using warriors from legend to fight their battles (shades of the Fate franchise). Later stories have more of an SF flavour, with cruel experiments in genetic engineering and a young child cursed with Akira powers.

Naturally there’s a lot of fighting, and this fighting is a real mishmash. Takeru himself prefers to use swords – the clue’s in his family name, Kusanagi. In mythology, Kusanagi is Japan’s answer to Excalibur, which is presumably why Motoko in Ghost in the Shell chose that name too. But as well as swords, there’s heavy artillery and robot mecha, and heroic transformations linked to the little witch-girl in the opening scene.

Each of the main storylines centres on a different character in Takeru’s team, and it turns out they all have extremely dark and tragic backstories, often involving family members, in whiplash contrast to the frequent goofing. But of course the characters have the collective strength of their team family; they can bicker about boob sizes and fight for each other’s lives at the same time.

The show’s animated by the Silver Link studio, who you may know for such series as Baka & Test: Summon the Beasts and Fate/kaelid liner Prisma Ilya (a magical-girl take on the Fate franchise). Anti-Magic Academy also has broad parallels with a series that Silver Link made around the same time, called Armed Girl’s Machiavellism, which had a similar mix of frequent fights and harem comedy with a cool hero.

Andrew Osmond is the author of 100 Animated Feature Films. Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon is released in the UK by Anime Limited.

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