Review/discussion about: Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records
I inherited from my parents a tendency to keep records of the important documents I come across.
Financial papers, important personal information. While not the most organized set of folders imaginable, I keep track of the details in my life that require it to make sure that things are in order on my end.
Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records (or Akashic Records for short) could have done the same, keeping track of itself so that everything proceeded smoothly. Instead, it misplaces its details all over the place.
Akashic Records: another anime, another arc-tiered cake to devour. The Infiltration Arc, the Necklace Arc, the Project Revive Life Arc, and the Justice Arc layer this tale for the audience to digest as best it can. Unfortunately, weak frosting and missing flavor deliver to the audience an anime that starts out somewhat appetizing but eventually devolves into a forgettable foodstuff when the last bite chomps down.
The first taste starts at the top with the Kidnapping Arc. Minus the overt sexual assault scene, this arc argues for its status as the strongest of the bunch, setting the anime up for moderate success. The comedy is snappy and fun thanks to Glenn’s lazy, prideful attitude. (Indeed, said comedy is Akashic Record’s greatest strength as seen multiple times throughout the season.) The magic system takes a bit of priority with extra lessons as to its usage and construction. The plot heads for action and skirmishes as allusions to grander story beats and darker pasts appear.
Altogether, a competent first arc. But, after having one’s fill, the next tier to the cake becomes a tad harder to stomach. In the Necklace Arc, again disregarding a sexualized segment involving a strange older gentleman and his fetish, the anime still does a nice job on the comedy side. For example, Sisti reinforces how cool of a dude Glenn is for involving the whole class in the field games, forcing him to double down on his nice-guy act. It also makes use of particular plot elements. Specifically, Glenn transforms into Rumia as a demonstration to one of his students, and this same transformation magic equates to the solution required to dissolve the queen’s conflict.
However, this arc starts to give this cake a bitter flavor. It repeats a previous plot point – Rumia’s kidnapping – which demonstrates a lack in narrative variety way too early on in the season. Furthermore, Rumia herself somewhat out of nowhere just remembers now that Glenn was, in fact, the person who had saved her all those years ago, glossing over what was presumably setup to be a big moment between the two.
Nothing too problematic for the time being. Indeed, to be fair, the new characters Re=L and Albert hope to keep the cake from falling over in their ability to sweeten the proceedings with new relationships between the cast. Then the show reaches the third arc.
The Project Revive Life Arc, taking place between episodes seven and nine (inclusive), begins to turn Akashic Records into a mushy mess. It repeats, yet again, the Rumia-gets-kidnapped plot point which really makes one wonder if she shouldn’t have body guards protecting her 24/7. Regardless, the anime tries to cram in backstories about (fake) brothers and strange experiments that ultimately provide necessary info but do not lead to anything emotionally impactful. These episodes also don’t quite nail down the drama when Glenn survives despite a massive wound through his chest without ramification and when the anime fails to capitalize on incorporating his students despite their higher emphasis in the previous arc.
Again, nothing here is technically horrendous in construction. But it is a whole lot of blandness as the anime does not quite have the know-how to provide a plot that reaches someplace interesting or worthwhile.
Finally, in rolls in the last arc of the season, the Justice Arc, which makes the cake almost entirely unappetizing. The comedy isn’t as balanced as it was with the previous arcs, giving way for harsher happenings and more drama to unfold that it never quite got right in the first place. The plot goes with yet another “kidnapping” (read: blackmailed and forced to marry a weirdo which is basically kidnapping) scenario (but at least Sisti is the victim this time and not Rumia so that the show avoids outright repetition). And Glenn’s weirdly handled loss to “Leos” and leaving of Sisti put the story in a rough spot.
For, it must be noted (and in its own separate paragraph at that) that the final episode of Akashic Records is the worst one of the season by far. It rushes forward to a ridiculous degree thanks to a couple of time skips, pushing the content forward without much regard. Moreover, a very brief flashback or two aims to draw supposed parallels between this tense situation and a similar one he encountered in the past with a girl named Sara from his memories. But, without much context of the latter, these parallels do not form well at all.
Furthermore, the villain and his tactics after his big reveal are laughably silly. His final attack amounts to practically nothing, the crucifixion symbolism following his defeat is really unnecessary, and he just runs away after everything anyway. And the episode barely crams in some relevancy for Celica right at the very end with some subplot about a labyrinth that doesn’t matter at this point. The episode does have a full-circle narrative insofar as Glenn re-narrates his words from the very first episode, but that’s not nearly enough to justify the complete mess that proceeds his words.
With this cake now begrudgingly devoured, it settles for a while before introducing other talking points. Specifically, each arc (more or less) focuses on a certain character and delivers a certain idea pertaining to an overarching motif on personal growth. In the first arc, Sisti showcases hope in her beliefs and the intentions behind her actions. In the second arc, Rumia wrestles with her true feelings and the notion of no regrets. In the third arc, Re=L highlights how one does not always need a reason to live if one just protects what is close to him or to her. In the fourth arc, Glenn proves how easy it is to lose one’s true self along the way.
Over-reiterating at this point, but, while these ideas are not by any means explored let alone powerful, it’s nice to see that the anime had some kind of thread keeping this cake together as best it could.
Still, Akashic Records uses scissors of its own accord to cut this thread. Despite the title and their potential importance, almost nothing about the so-called “Akashic Records” pops up except for a few words here and there as to their existence. Other plot points, like Melgalius’s Sky Castle or the Researchers of Divine Wisdom, do not properly resolve. And the show does not do a very good job of carrying over a lot of the details from one arc to the next, like providing more about the academy itself or using Rumia’s royal bloodline.
So, while this cake doesn’t taste horrible, and the thread that binds it isn’t so much torn as it is mangled amidst sloppy extra details, the entire experience rises no higher than the absolute bare minimum in execution.
ART & ANIMATION
The main artistic element that stands out in Akashic Records is the designs for its characters. Specifically speaking, the main outfits for the girls go straight for eyeful pleasure. Exposed midriffs, skimpy skirts, garter belts, complementary colors (blue and white), extra details (tiny cat ears, ribbons).
On the one hand, these designs serve their purpose of crafting a bunch of cute, ecchi looks for the female leads. On the other hand, they’re a bit too overt when taking into consideration the anime’s goals. I.e., their sexualized nature does not benefit either the story or the characters. Regardless, Glenn’s meager look – a white button-up shirt, a red tie, and a disheveled head of hair – fit his lazy, unassuming nature well. And Celica’s appearance – blonde hair, black dress, and “evil” color scheme – coincide with her witchlike persona. Meaning, not all the designs misalign.
After the characters’ designs, the anime does not venture too far with either its art or its animation. It has different magic usage and skirmishes throughout the season, but variety isn’t a selling point here, and their effects usually do not amount to much besides flashy explosions. Background artistry and cinematography likewise provide nothing more than is absolutely necessary, putting the visuals in a passable state but without any flair to call their own.
However, besides an incorrect coloring to a student’s eyes during a comedic bit in episode seven, the anime does not commit any egregious errors that detract from the presentation. So, the mixed designs and the serviceable visuals keep the show upright enough to carry the show from start to finish.
For Akashic Records, it cares about four main characters: Sisti, Rumia, Re=L, and Glenn. Ironically, though, “care” may not be the correct word to use here.
Sisti is Rumia’s “sister,” and she comes from a political family with ties to the academy she attends. Her grandfather (now passed away) inspired her to pursue the ancient wisdom surrounding magic so that she could one day go where he sadly could not. While she is not exactly a juggernaut in the field, her promise and her drive push her along nevertheless.
A lot of her character revolves around fear. Fear of the truth behind how people sometimes use magic for vile deeds. Fear of going against her own beliefs. Fear of losing her friends and those close to her. Throughout the season – be it from Glenn’s harsh life lesson, Re=L’s provocations, or her own refusal to fight back – this fear grips her heart at most turns.
Sisti does have her small moments throughout the season. She supports Glenn during their skirmish with the skeleton warriors in the third episode, and she trusts in their judgement during the field games to keep spirits high. Unfortunately, it takes the entire season for her to finally confront those fears of hers altogether. In the final episode, she symbolically rips off the lower half of her (unwanted and bloodied) wedding dress, choosing to stand by Glenn and up for herself rather than running away as she so regularly did in the past.
While Sisti’s turnaround is appreciated, it’s a too-little-too-late inclusion. However, worse off is Rumia. A kindhearted girl, she looks after Sisti and Re=L like an older sibling does, keeping a level head about the situations they find themselves in and treating everyone around her like a true friend.
She becomes the target of the baddies because of her special ability to amplify a user’s magic, a rare trait within this world. As such, she spends most of her time kidnapped or otherwise on the sidelines without contributing much, if anything, of her own. Rumia makes up with her real mother, and her occasional asides with Glenn give the audience more insight as to her thoughts and her meager backstory. But, for the most part, she does little else besides be the nice one of the group.
Where Rumia barely maintains a presence as a notable character, Re=L goes one step lower and comes off as pretty pointless. From the get-go, she has two plans in mind: to always charge right at the enemy and to devote herself to Glenn indefinitely. As such, she’s very much the major comedic relief part to the group in her deadpan mannerisms and silly behavior.
She’s introduced at around the episode five mark, but doesn’t have much of a place within Akashic Records immediately. Instead, it isn’t until the Project Revive Life Arc (which is where her name Re=L comes from) that her character receives attention. During these episodes, Re=L befriends, betrays, and befriends again as more of her backstory as a laboratory copy surfaces.
Thus, she officially joins the cast – only to lose all relevancy afterwards. When that last arc rolls around, Re=L may as well have never existed to begin with since she does almost nothing of value throughout the last three episodes of the season. (Rumia is in the same boat here, but she at least had a role in the show from the very beginning.)
With Re=L not even noteworthy as a cast member, that just leaves Glenn. While once an impressionable kid who sought to guard and to nurture the world from its evil ways, he quickly learned that magic did not follow his ideals of a complete force for good.
But the audience does not learn about this detail of him right away. Instead, he presents himself as an unconventional main protagonist of sorts. Beyond lazy. Dishonest to a degree. Unfazed by the cliché dude-walks-in-on-a-bunch-of-girls-undressing scenario. Plus, he doesn’t fight normally either, relying more so on his secret weapon – the Fool’s Card – to do the exact opposite of battling with magic by negating it all around him. A fitting ability for the man who no longer loves magic.
With each episode, bits and pieces of Glenn’s backstory come to light, and he teaches his students more about magic and life in general. In other words, he slowly becomes a rounder character, a stronger professor, and a better person. This transition from lazy loser to full-fledged teacher does not equate to anything nuanced, but his progress at least demonstrates an improvement for him overall.
As the season nears its end, Akashic Records tries to do more with him on a personal level, but it mishandles the content. His roundabout description of himself in his aside with Sisti in episode eleven isn’t as meaningful without that aforementioned context. Furthermore, the poor attempts at linking his (presumably) beloved Sara with Sisti in episode twelve do not work well since the former’s relationship likewise does not have much of a basis.
Still, his lapse of self stands as a nice contrast to his professorial role throughout the previous rest of the season. A clear indicator that he belongs alongside his students to guard and to nurture as he has always wanted rather than away and alone within a world that he does not desire.
There’s one last “character” in the anime. Quotes needed because this character isn’t an individual but instead a collective. Although somewhat hinted at earlier in the season, episode four of Akashic Records turns Glenn’s whole class (minus Sisti, Rumia, and Re=L) into a cast member themselves. Some of these students form cliques and have tiny moments here and there, letting their involvement go beyond just filling space in the classroom to complement the main girls.
In the end, the entire cast sadly puts forth more negatives than positives. Sisti has an arc, but it is not addressed enough. Rumia drives the plot, but she does not maintain much of a presence. Re=L makes for a completely pointless inclusion. And Glenn receives a few sides to his character, yet they are not as pronounced or as sound as necessary for his part in the anime. At least the other students do not go unnoticed, but that realization doesn’t save Akashic Records to any large extent.
MUSIC & SOUND
“Blow Out”, the opening track for Akaschic Records, isn’t the most original song around in the medium, but it nonetheless has a solid foundation. The dual guitar riffs. The fast-paced drumming. The clean vocals. Each part combines to form a track that follows the anime’s premise and plot while still working as a fine song on its own. The “Ahh!” is perhaps a bit too out of sync, and the background sound-effect during its second half somewhat muddies the instrumentation. But these downsides do not completely detract from the OP’s audio appeal.
Opposite the OP, “Precious You☆” plays at the tail end of each episode as the show’s ending track. Slower and daintier, this beat-driven song puts more emphasis on the vocals. Multiple singers, specific sound placement, charming lyrics (“Be with me. Stay with me. You and me.”). Sadly, the ED is not as interesting as its OP counterpart, and it doesn’t catch the ear when listened to it on its own. So, while it works as a means to hear something at the end of each episode, it isn’t exactly a wonderful inclusion.
Between the OP and the ED, the original soundtrack does not contain anything too notable. Violins, pianos, and wind instruments usually make up most of the music played throughout Akashic Records as it pushes ahead with its fantasy setting and its more grounded moments. However, one particular piece does stand out. It plays the sound of a cuckoo clock, coinciding with Glenn’s dunce-like persona and bringing a dash of laughter when first heard.
As for the voice-acting performances, nothing too grand exists. Yume Miyamoto as Rumia stars in one of her first main roles, and, while not an incredible performance, she can clearly play kindhearted characters well. Akane Fujita as Sisti also stars in one of her first main roles, giving the “white-cat” girl cute reactions in her various scenes with Glenn. And speaking of Glenn, Soma Saito as the main protagonist deserves a small shoutout, too. When not so serious, his sillier moments give him the chance to display a fun contrast that further helps the comedy of the anime.
With just the ED not pulling its weight, and the rest of the music and sound offerings supporting the anime as best as they can, the audio production for the show barely earns a passing grade.
I did not pick this anime up initially during the Spring 2017 season. Some people back during its airing suggested it to me, and I myself saw all the fun they were having with it despite its somewhat common approach in the medium.
From the outset, it had me laughing and entertained if for nothing else besides the character interactions and the comedy. Glenn was a silly guy in his laziness and inability to accept defeat. Sisti’s shyness, usually from the romance angle, were cute to watch, too. And even the tiny scene with her father and mother at dinner in episode four got a big chuckle out of me, enough to highlight it in my notes while watching.
Past these first few or so episodes, though, the anime put higher focus on its drama and its action rather than sticking more strictly with its comedy. Because I didn’t particularly care for the serious scenes and because the action never really did anything cool, I slowly lost interest in the show as it went along.
To be fair, I did occasionally laugh during the last half or so of the anime. Re=L declaring to the whole class that Glenn is her “everything” got to me. Yet, when the last episode faded to black, I found myself shrugging my shoulders, unsurprised by its decline into less-than-mediocre territory.
If I had one wish, it would be for the anime to include Celica more in the festivities. Yes, the show jokes about how little screen time she has during the after-ED theater bits, but she’s attractive and fun whenever she is around. With each subsequent episode, though, I would frown at her continued absence. And so, both shrugging and frowning, the show just did not impress me much.
Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records has bits and pieces going for it, but the overall project simply doesn’t come together. A bland story, a bunch of mishandled characters, and an acceptable set of art and audio design decisions create the majority of this project. Rarely interesting and usually boring, it tracks only an unfulfilled desire for better organization.
Story: Bad, an arc-tiered cake whose subsequent layers either bloat or upset the stomach
Art & Animation: Fine, mixed designs and serviceable visuals lead to a presentation that carries on well enough
Characters: Bad, Sisti fears but without enough going for her person, Rumia drives the plot but lacks a presence otherwise, Re=L fails in her pointless involvement, Glenn tries to become a better individual, and the other students at least contribute
Music & Sound: Fine, okay offerings from the OP, the OST, and the VA performances, but the ED isn’t too intriguing
Enjoyment: Bad, entertaining first few episodes, some funnies sprinkled in afterwards, but mostly a shrugged experience that needed way more Celica
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3