Sistina is a student at the magical academy where she hopes to improve her ability in the magical arts in order to unravel the mystery surrounding the Sky Castle. When her favourite teacher retires from teaching, a replacement in the form of a man named Glenn Radars is assigned to take over teaching duties.
But to dismay of Sistina and her classmates, Glenn is incredibly lazy, unmotivated and seems to be the most incompetent magical instructor possible. Why was such a useless man chosen for this job by the greatest magician in the academy’s history?
Magical high school Light Novel adaptations have become commonplace in the last decade. There’s a ridiculously large amount of these types of shows coming out every season that it’s difficult to pay any mind to any new additions to the bucket. It’s been getting old for a while now.
Yet, here we are with another magical high school Anime based on a Light Novel that follows a lot of the same archetypes and predictable narrative trappings that are commonplace in these types of shows, but with one key difference: the sheer laziness and incompetency of its male protagonist, Glenn.
And no, it’s not a Tatsuya Shiba kind of incompetence where he’s actually super amazing at everything and only appears to be useless because he performed poorly on the schools poorly presented entry exams. Glenn is genuinely lazy and useless, which single-handedly makes a world of difference.
I’m a fan of the novels, so I can most definitely say that while there is more to Glenn than meets the eye, and he certainly does have a level of competency when it comes to magical ability, he’s not another overpowered Jesus-kun and he has his limits.
Glenn’s personality is also fairly subversive for this kind of series. Whereas most characters in his role tend to be hidden, calculating geniuses or hotheaded, energetic youths, Glenn is incredibly lazy and easily bored. He doesn’t want to teach the class and is only there because he was forced to. He constantly gives the class “self-study” sessions because he can’t be bothered to teach. He even jumps for joy when Sistina threatens that she’ll have him fired. This is downright hilarious and just really interesting because it’s different. Call this show derivative if you like, but you can’t deny Glenn’s attitude creates a uniqueness that’s guaranteed to crack a smile here and there.
But then again, I’m the laziest guy in the world, so perhaps I’m seeing a lot of myself in the lazy and incompetent man that is Glenn and as such relate to his character more than most people.
Furthermore, Glenns actual position in the story is also interesting. He’s not playing the role of student, but is a teacher instead, and while he is the titular “Bastard Magic Instructor”, this is Sistina’s story. So far, there hasn’t been much to her character aside from wanting to uncover the mysteries of the enigmatic “Sky Castle”, but judging from the novels, she’ll have her moments.
It’s not all great however. The premiere episode, while setting things up very nicely and being chock-full of quality humour and fun character interactions, had quite a bit of info-dumping to it. While I agree this is necessary to introduce the audience to the world, it was a bit much in places, and I’m hoping it gets toned down as the series progresses. The novels themselves are a bit heavy when it comes to exposition, as you’d expect, so I’m unsure how well this will translate to the adaptation. Hopefully we don’t end up with Mahouka style exposition, because that would suck.
Furthermore, despite my above praise for the show having some subversive elements to it, the script does fall into various genre-typical moments that many would deem cliche and tiresome. There’s a fairly typical school setting. Sistina is a top grade student who comes from a wealthy background. There’s even the obligatory “I challenge you to duel!” moment near the end of the episode. However, there’s enough uniqueness in here to ignore most of those and I can easily dismiss that last one in particular because the show did a fantastic job at playing it up for laughs and poking fun at the situation.
While we’re on that subject, the series is wonderfully self-aware and loves to poke fun at the overused tropes and situations typical of the genre. The duel scene mentioned above is presented as a serious, high tension situation with Glenn acting overconfident and the audience expecting him to have some kind of hidden talent that’ll allow him to win. Then he loses. In literally 2 seconds he gets beaten. Then he challenges Sistina to a rematch and loses again. And again. And again.
There’s also a scene where Glenn accidentally walks in on a group of female students changing, and instead of turning away embarrassed or fainting from a nose bleed, he openly yells something along the lines of: “This is a cliche moment, and I’m going to react to it by burning this image into my eyes!”
But sure. The show is derivative. Keep saying that.
To those expecting a more serious story however, don’t worry. It gets more serious while still being pretty funny when it needs to be. Akashic Records is not a Comedy despite how it has currently been presented and there’s plenty of serious storytelling to come, most of which is fairly unique and interesting.
The visuals of Akashic Records are pretty decent. The character designs aren’t the best, nor are they the most detailed, but they’re serviceable. There’s a lot of controversy over the revealing school uniforms, to the point I’ve heard claims such as “whoever designed that uniform should be executed.” They’re a bit revealing. It’s not a big deal. Calling for the death penalty over something so trivial is silly. They look fine and are a far cry from many other shows that did it worse.
The animation is also pretty average so far. There’s nothing spectacular as of yet and the directing is decent at best, but hopefully further down the line we’ll get some really nice looking scenes. However, Liden Films are at the helm of this one, so I won’t get my hopes up. They’re not exactly the masters of their craft or anything. Furthermore, this is the director, Minato Kazuto’s first show. Ever. So I’m expecting things to get a little shaky from time to time. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here.
The music is great so far and the sound design is spectacular. We haven’t been given an Opening sequence yet, or even and Opening theme, so I can’t talk about those yet. Hopefully they’re good!
A lot of people are already dismissing Akashic Records as a generic and derivative work with no identity of its own, and while I don’t particularly blame people for feeling that way, I feel this is fully misguided. There’s a lot of unique elements here that make the series stand out from its contemporaries, be it the subversive nature of Glenn’s personality or the shows self-aware approach towards presenting genre-typical elements into its narrative.
Furthermore, as a fan of the novels, I can say with confidence that this series has an identity of its own, even if it takes a while to fully embrace it.
This isn’t just some Mahouka rip-off. It’s so much more than that. I’d argue it’s better. Take that however you will.
Akashic Records isn’t perfect and it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s far better than people are giving it credit for, and I look forward to seeing how this adaptation is handled further down the line.
If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Maybe you’ll find something worth your time.
Or maybe you won’t and once again I’ll be the only one championing this series, just like I did with ēlDLIVE.