|Very unique look at the Japanese Tech Corporate world through a near future sci-fi setting||May not appeal to everyone|
Every season there’s one show that just slips by most people, unnoticed, quietly and earnestly doing its best to tell a unique story on its own terms. If you’re a fan of that kind of series, then you’ve probably been there. You’ve seen a show that most people seem to drop within an episode or two, or just fall of the wagon midway through. But you? You don’t.
You press on, quietly enjoying it every week, seemingly in solitude. You realize that the show you’re watching isn’t exactly a work of art but… Its fun and enjoyable Dang it! YOU like it, you find the story, the characters and the world engrossing each week. Its a good time for a while, and then finally… Near the end, the show even throws in a few pleasant surprises your way, as if to reward you for sticking with it.
Classroom Crisis was that show for me in the Summer of 2015. A show that, against all the heavy hitters and solid series, continued to occupy a decent part of my ever crowded anime watching schedule, and rose to exceed expectations in its final few episodes. Its also a show that, I think is very much falls into the niche category, and will be interesting exciting to a select few people.
The story for the show centers around a bunch of engineering students part of a special class known only as ATEC. ATEC is unique in that it has high school students that not only study extremely advanced subjects under a genius young teacher, but also work as full time employees for the Kirishima Corporation at the same time. ATEC is the company’s R&D heavy cutting edge rocket engine building division, and one headed by a young and rather emotionally charged teacher Sera Kaito. Things get fairly interesting when the youngest member of the company controlling family, Kiryu Nagisa, is sent in to close down ATEC since it seems to be draining too much capital from the generally profitable and exceedingly large company.
The kicker is that ATEC has been around since the company’s inception, which was actually founded by a rocket engineer himself, and so there’s quite a bit of tradition involved there as well. Serta Kaito is the passionate engineer, the whiz kid that gets to do build the things that he’s passionate about, and teach and drive a class full of young like-minded students as well. Nagisa, on the otherhand, is a high school age student with such a sharp and keen eye for his business, that his own ideals and corporate way of doing things comes head to head with Seras.
The series starts off with this very unique and interesting premise, one where business is at odds with creativity and technological advancement and academia. Its a very very interesting concept for anyone that’s been even remotely involved with technology, IT or Engineering themselves. Of course, Classroom Crisis turns it up a notch, setting things in the near future where space travel has become a regular thing, and other planets have been colonized and inhabited by humans. The series is almost remarkably timely, with the recent surge of space related entertainment making its way to the masses in the west with movies like Gravity and more recently the Martian, while Japan has had its own revitalization of the concept with the currently ongoing mega franchise Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Brothers).
While Classroom Crisis never quite lands into the realism and idealism of the great Uchuu Kyoudai series, its still got at least one foot firmly planted there. There’s a genuine sense, appreciation and love for the realities of the technology industry, about how business and costs and results all tie in together. As anyone who’s actually worked in these industries will tell you, these things are often at odds with one another, dependent on one another and if nothing else, deeply related.
There’s a part of me that really appreciates how much of the gamut Classroom Crisis runs through, in its meager 13 episode run. There’s everything from corporate politics, to unions, to overtime, to budgets and there’s even some PTSD pilot stuff thrown in there for good measure. Classroom Crisis establishes a world that really does seem like the near future, and then commits to it, looking at current day issues through a more science fiction lens.
Its in this near future, slice of life, corporate technology storytelling that I think Classroom Crisis both wins audience members and loses them. For those of us that have actually crunched hard on making something, be it software, hardware or just worked in the tech industry, its all pretty relatable. In a lot of ways, I suspect that Classroom Crisis’s intended audience is very much those of us who can relate to it, because its almost got an insider’s perspective into the ways of the tech world, through a uniquely japanese lens of course.
The issue then, is that this is a series thrown out into the wild, and with mass market appeal as one of its goals. So how suitable then, is the show for someone who can’t relate to its more geeky aspects? Well… There’s actually still something there for those anime fans who aren’t as familiar with the series’ corporate tech industry angle, in my humble opinion.
As with most successful slice of life shows, Classroom Crisis has a good deal of the classic high school elements to make things interesting. Although its a bit later in the series, there’s a pretty awesome romance element that takes the stage, and stays with us till the end. The romance element, coupled with the more general high school beats that the anime medium in general does well, is great.
There’s also a classic Japanese family revenge story thrown in there, for good measure, and some nice character moments and twists are strewn into an already crowded story. What’s great is that while the actual reveal of the story is kind of predictable, the character moments and reactions are what sell it.
Which brings us to the real strength of the series; its characters. More so than most series, Classroom Crisis really does rely on its characters to make its world and its plot feel satisfying and interesting. And the characters really do come through, with a collection of varied, flawed but ultimately likable cast of characters.
What really makes the cast so special is that they feel like actual people, and the sort of people that you can imagine in a tech based industry like the one shown in the show. Sera Kaito is the young genius who’s all about bold, passionate speeches, and has almost tunnel vision when it comes to his dreams and passions. He’s inspiring, but also kind a bit too passionate and rushes into things. Nagisa is the exact opposite, cold, calculating and all about results and procedure at first, but clearly still a teenager with a soft side that generally cares for people.
There’s the cool, calm and almost robotic Iris, who’s the ace pilot of the class, but has her own issues and secrets. There’s Mizuki, the class Rep, Sera’s younger sister and all around likable girl. She’s also a busy body that just can’t leave people alone. There’s also Angelina, a teacher who serves as an assistant to Nagisa, and has a penchant for both numbers and martials arts. e.t.c. e.tc The list goes on, there’s a ton of characters, each with their own quirks with varying degrees of importance in the overall story.
Its with these characters, that the story can make seemingly mundane situations like Union rights and backroom corporate dealing feel so interesting and exciting. Its the characters, their quirks and their larger than life personalities that make these scenes interesting and endearing. Whether its Kaito’s very shounen lead esque naive outbursts, Nagisa’s cold calculating Lelouch style tactics or Mizuki’s charming positivity, they all add some color and life to what would be an otherwise mundane show about seemingly mundane things.
Its also worth noting, that Classroom Crisis is also one of those series that ends on a satisfying note. There’s enough of a resolution to the core issues of the series, that it feels complete as a stand alone package, yet there’s some obvious hinting at a potential larger story in the making. The characters themselves all go through a nice gradual character arc, one that definitely rewards the viewer with true progress and change, both in the dynamics between the characters, and their own personal growth and maturity itself. This is a story that successfully juggles contemporary corporate work life issues, with the classic coming of age high school stories that are fairly prevalent in anime these days.
Backing up the complex story, world and charming characters is some very competent and well done Anime production. Relatively new studio Lay-duce ends up taking care of the animation production, and their work is pretty darn great. The art direction is a nice combination of contemporary Japanese Urban areas mixed with lush greenery. There’s a good combination of night and day scenes, each feeling very nostalgic and familiar. I think what the production staff do fairly well is capture the essence of what it feels like to be a college student (even though this is a future tech high school class), and it really does end up feeling familiar and strangely new and cutting edge at the same time.
The music is just as great, featuring an upbeat and cheery OP theme and a nice and mellow ED theme. The soundtrack in general is pretty nice, accenting whatever mood the show is going for, and amping up emotions nicely. I think the biggest compliment I can give the sound work in this series is that its not excessively noticeable, and just provides a nice buffer to add to the immersion. Its in those kind of situations, where the music does it job stealthy in the background, that it really does work in service to the larger experience rather than just itself.
And of course, there’s the voice work. Uchida Yuuma does a fantastic job of selling the young, arrogant but still likable Nagisa, while Morikubo Showtaro, Ozawa Ari and Amamiya Sora do stellar work with Kaito, Mizuki and Iris respectively. Again, as is often the case with anime, The Seiyuu deliver top-tier performances that really make the anime such an impressive experience to not only watch, but hear as well.
In the end, Classroom Crisis is a unique beast. Its a competently done show, one that will undoubtedly find an audience in those familiar with today’s modern Tech industry. The classic high school slice of life elements add another interesting layer to an already unique show, grounding it into something more palatable for the general audience. Despite its best efforts though, Classroom Crisis isn’t for everyone. It may grab you with its strong cast of characters, or its intricate world building and unique perspective on the Corporate Technology sector of Japan. It also might just not jive with you, which is an equally possibly outcome.
For me though, Classroom Crisis is a fascinating and endearing piece of entertainment, one that stands a cut above the general cop of Anime simply because of its unique subject matter and charming characters. While it certainly won’t appeal to everyone, it still gets an A Grade for being a nice, likable, pretty and satisfying romp till the end.
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