Roku de Nashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 01
「やる気のないロクでなし」 (Yaruki no nai roku de nashi)
“The Unmotivated Bastard”
From the first episode, the main draw of Akashic Records is the unscrupulous nature of our hero, Glenn Radars (Saito Soma). Through the unbridled force of Cecilia Arfornia (Kitamura Eri), he was granted a substitute teaching job to replace a highly renowned professor. He, then, proceeds to do everything in his power to get kicked out of his position. It is Glenn’s behavior that helps the show stand out from being another walk through fantasy school territory. There are still plenty of tropes that Akashic indulges in like an unusually placed fanservice scene in the women’s locker room that Glenn accidentally barges in to witness, but only he would be shameless enough to directly tell the girls he hopes to engrain the image of this scene in his eyes before he gets a face full of justice. Although there’s more time later to redeem Glenn as a magical prodigy in disguise, it is the first episode’s willingness to continue taking away any opportunities for Glenn to both take his job seriously and be taken seriously that makes it enjoyable.
One other aspect that Akashic does great is the chemistry he has with the other two main characters. Sistine Fibel (Fujita Akane), her no-nonsense attitude, and her disappointment in her new substitute teacher create a fun combination as Glenn aims to push her buttons while he slacks off on the job. Meanwhile, it is heart-warming that Rumia Tingel (Miyamoto Yume), Sistine’s close friend, was quick to grow some form of kinship with Glenn as their shared interest in food fleshes them out. Glenn and Cecilia started out amusing as she nearly blasts a massive energy beam at his face in one scene, and defends his honor from up-tight higher ups at the academy in another. They even make a funny pairing in the preview where she further pushes him to continue the show.
The only bond that does feel odd is the friendship between Sistine and Rumia. They’re the characters that are closest together as best friends, but the first episode doesn’t seem sure what the nature of their friendship is. Take the beginning, for example, where Rumia is portrayed as someone who goes out of their way to help people out, but is discouraged enough in her abilities that Sistine gives her a small pep talk to help her out. This seems more in-line with what their characters are really like. But then, there’s the part where Sistine makes herself feel better by grabbing Rumia’s boobs, making her friend flustered in the middle of the women’s locker room as she regrets not being as well-endowed as her blonde friend. Not that there’s any problem with this, but it did feel like I changed the channel, and this is one of the few times that Sistine looks hyper instead of serious or smiling contently. At least with fanservicey shows, it’s established much early which characters love to grab boobs. Sistine merely adopted the grope, which is why it feels less like it contributed anything to understanding their friendship and more like they needed something to pad the time.
And that brings me to one other flaw where it doesn’t want to give away its secrets right away. I understand how stories emphasize “show, don’t tell” as a way not to turn the narrative into an info-dump, but they leave out information that would be nice to know right away instead of an episode or ten from now. For instance, who is Cecilia and why does she hold so much weight to both the academy and to Glenn’s life? How did they just unanimously decide it was alright for him to be hired even with a shoddy resume and no relevant experience just from her word? How does he even know magic? Who’s this girl? These might just be nitpicks that would be resolved through the rest of the episodes, but for a straight-forward light novel romp, much of the mystery comes from details that would be more convenient for the audience to have much earlier on to understand why we should care about these characters.
With all that said, I am optimistic about the series. It does have some standard trappings of the fantasy school light novel genre with some narrative shortcomings, but the characters are amusing enough to carry the show, and it’s interesting that Glenn is presented by the end of the episode as an embarrassment rather than displaying some latent talent right from the start to blow everyone away. Still, I am cautious about how the rest of the show unfolds.