First Look: Classroom of the Elite

Alternative title(s): Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e
Light Novel Adaptation by Lerche
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Was Ayn Rand on to something? Stay tuned to find out!

colons’ verdict: I find it hard to separate politics and enjoyability. Fortunately, with this show, I don’t have to. (It’s bad)

This is a bad television program. It does literally nothing new or interesting, it treats the viewer like they’re not paying attention, and presents awful politics as morally ambiguous. For now, at least.

So we have Shit Protag attending a Randian school set up by the Japanese government, where students are encouraged with material rewards to act in their own interest, except only as it benefits them within the confines of the points-based system laid out by the establishment of the school. The intention of this school is to ‘nurture young people who will support the country in the future’, and they achieve this by creating a system in which academic achievement is correlated directly with disposable income.

You’ll never guess where the protagonist sits

Politically, whether I am on board with this show cannot be determined yet; it’s still not clear to me whether this story will endorse this school. They’ve created a system which seems like a pretty poor analogy for capitalism, though, so any political statements this show makes are already compromised. While the students can have their salary reduced to zero, their accommodation is free, and all the convenience stores on campus give away the essentials for free. Unlike in a truly libertarian system, nobody is going to die or be homeless because they fail to meet the system’s arbitrary measure of value.

As a piece of entertainment, though, there’s no argument. This show treats you like a nail. They are super explicit in the scene where they talk about the ¥100,000/month salaries being conditional, and yet throughout the episode they constantly remind you that hey, maybe this isn’t guaranteed, and all the characters we meet seem completely oblivious to this. They even play super dramatic music over the ‘reveal’, as if there was any chance this was supposed to be a surprise.

There’s also an extremely clumsy subplot in which a character whose entire motivation is wanting to be friends with everyone, who sets up an elaborate heist in order to ‘accidentally’ befriend the person in class 1-D who has refused to talk to anyone. If there was any indication that this character was up to something more, that could potentially be interesting, but given how clumsy they were with the other dramatic reveal, I find it hard to believe this is anything but what it appears to be on the surface, which is basically a character who is a Pokémon trainer, but with every human. Also, she has breasts that make timpani noises.

Give this one a miss, please.

They couldn’t even find a hand-written font with decent character support for their ‘Swäche’.

Jel’s verdict: This show had a scene with a teenager refusing to give his seat on the bus to an old lady and I think we were supposed to be OK with it

Watching this episode made me think of a recent story about a group of Final Fantasy XIV players who put in hundreds of hours of work to buy up all the houses on a particular server, then released a manifesto explaining why. Basically it boiled down to “if you wanted one that that bad, you’d work this hard for it”, a libertarian or objectivist or whatever you want to call it message that did little more than anger a lot of people who just want to enjoy a game.

While that way of thinking does make me absolutely furious, I do find it fascinating trying to understand why a noticeable amount of socially repressed nerds find it so comforting. Are they so isolated that they have forgotten what human kindness feels like? Does devotion to supposedly objective measures like logic and intelligence make them feel superior, like they know more than the rest of us? Or is it a pathetic adult version of a baby throwing a tantrum, a means of grasping what little control they can from their surroundings?

How could you not root for this fun couple?

None of those questions are really asked in this episode, in fact I’m not too clear what Classroom of the Elite is trying to say. The politics presented do feel like the author just discovered Ayn Rand for the first time with its merit based reward system and obvious digs at the unwashed masses’ inclination toward wastefulness. But are they saying those things are good or bad?

It boils down to what the main couple is going to do. Will they embrace the system and master it, or will they realize it’s wrong and attempt to break it? I think there’s evidence going in either direction, but I’m leaning toward the first option. Our main clue is where our heroes stand at the end of the month compared to the rest of the class. They were conservative with both their money and their conduct, and in the end were rewarded for it. Throw in other details like the friendly girl being portrayed as too naive as she tries to express basic human kindness, and I know which direction I’m placing my bet on.

And so while there were some interesting thoughts running through my head while watching this, let me be clear and say Classroom of the Elite is probably going to be one of the worst shows of the season. Colons already mentioned some of the technical reasons why, and if you throw in some half baked conservative political ideas we haven’t seen since The Irregular at Magic High School (that is a very bad thing if you are not familiar) then this might even end up being #HATEWATCH worthy. Maybe we can do a weekly double feature with Angel’s 3Piece?

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2 thoughts on “First Look: Classroom of the Elite

  1. It seems the closest thing I can remember where anime does an effective critique on human politics and society is Kino’s Journey, which aired 14 years ago! Not to sound like an old grandpa before I get to 30, but we had it better.

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