Alright, time to do another review! My partner and I selected this cute original sci-fi from Random Curiosity’s Summer 2015 Preview. We got really hooked after the first few episodes, and were looking forward to the series as a whole! Unfortunately, this ended up being one of our biggest disappointments of the season. But that includes some spoilers, so I’ll get to that in the end. For now, let’s take a look at the setting!
This geodome seems to be largely controlled by the Kirishima corporation, and by extension the residents are its employees. Our main cast consists of a “class of weirdos”– students who are employed by the Kirishima corporation, learning to build better, faster, stronger rockets for the future of the company. It gets confirmed that this is, indeed, a high school, and the students are referred to as “minors” on several occasions.
They are a talented crew of young people, each specializing in different areas in order to make a functioning team. In addition to engineers, software developers, and a test pilot, A-TEC’s student body includes a financial adviser and PR manager. They operate almost like a small company themselves, and have great group cohesion. The most notable of this group include…
Our class’s teacher, Sera-sensei. An avid idealist who has latched onto the Kirishima Group creation myth hook, line, and sinker, and will push his excessive company loyalty onto anyone and everyone at any opportunity! He has a good heart, but tends to be short-sighted and gullible due to his pampered position. He is a genius engineer who is extremely prized, but has nearly run A-TEC into the ground financially due to lack of common sense.
Mizuki is Sera-sensei’s younger sister, and being trained by a genius she has the second highest grades in class. She is extremely friendly, perceptive, and has natural leadership abilities– it’s no surprise that she made class president. Mizuki is shown to be a compassionate individual, reaching out even to those who are actively hostile to her and the rest of the class. She is no pushover, though, and stands up for herself and her friends. When she is upset, she single-mindedly throws herself into her work, believing in letting go of things that you can’t control and instead acting on what you can.
Then we have Iris– an adorable kuudere who has only two interests in life, which also double as personality traits: Mizuki and racing. All other traits are really peripheries of those two, but I’m not complaining. She’s a straightforwards person and it’s executed well enough (at least in the beginning) that I ended up growing really attached to her.
She follows Mizuki around like a baby duck, only less expressive and clumsy. She came to Kirishima Academy because Mizuki was going. She doesn’t seem to have any aspirations in her life other than “to always be with Mizuki”, and is an adrenaline junkie. In the first few minutes of the show, we see her launch onto a bridge railing in order to avoid traffic, and of course to beat her personal record. Her mad skills are talked up, as the classes “Ace”, and tends to get used as a plot device.
Which brings us to our last main character– the new transfer student. Can’t have a school setting without a mysterious transfer student. At first they know nothing of him, other than his pronouns, and information gleaned from hacking his secret file only makes the class more confused. Sera-sensei is called in to an emergency meeting with their director, however, and finds that the new transfer student was kidnapped and held hostage! Without listening to the rest of the story, he springs into action and tells his students of his plan to valiantly fly a prototype rocket through a no fly zone in order to save their waylaid soon-to-be-friend.
This idea is, of course, thoughtless and inane, so it is quickly thrown out. But, due to the recklessness of certain cast members, a rescue expedition is launched and we get to meet the last Main Character(tm).
Kiryuu Nagisa is a corporate powerhouse with underdog circumstances. He’s had to fight his way to the top using whatever underhanded means he could get his hands on and then some. He keeps a carefully cultivated animosity between himself and others, partly, I suspect, to keep himself from feeling sympathy towards those he needs to throw under the bus. Having been transferred into a high school, I had assumed that he was a similar age to the other A-TEC students– however, later some information is revealed showing he must at least be 18. (This came as a relief to me, as there is an older woman who makes sexual advances on him and the normalization of adults sexually preying on minors is extremely upsetting, and unfortunately common in anime.)
As soon as the rescue operation concludes, we discover that Nagisa was sent by the leaders of the Kirishima Group to dismantle A-TEC in response to their absolute financial ineptitude. Their budget sucks up more than 50 billion yen per year and they have very little to show for it. As the story progresses, we find out that all is not quite that simple– there is a political history extending back to the very foundation of their corporation and A-TEC has found itself caught in the crossfire. In addition, the company is undergoing expansion and change, potentially leaving behind Sera-sensei’s progressive dreams for something much less palatable.
Classroom Crisis does a great job at showing us corporate warfare, politicking and backroom deals, the sacrifices that have to be made to keep a company running and the difference in perspective between the laborers and decision makers. Their integration of technology is interesting, although some realism is sacrificed for the sake of drama. (Asteroid belts are really not dense enough to pose a problem to such a small ship.)
*Spoilers Start Here*
Okay, now that I’ve covered the basics, I want to get into what was so disappointing about this anime. Starting from the beginning, I loved the setting, thought the characters were interesting, and as time went on they developed interesting relationships with one another. I love interesting character interactions, it’s what I live for! Unfortunately, in what my partner has coined “Character Integrity Failure” it did not last.
The entire first half of the series spends time developing the relationship between Mizuki and Iris– their relationship is so important that, as previously stated, it is basically half of who Iris is. They walk to school together, they sit together in class, they turn in their papers together, they eat together, they even feed each other by hand. We have so many scenes that show how much Iris, specifically, cares about Mizuki, and they get very close
Starting at the end of episode 7, Iris starts to have PTSD flashbacks due to a violent event she experienced before meeting Mizuki. These flashbacks are triggered whenever she gets into the pilot seat of a rocket, effectively freezing up half of her personality, half of what makes her who she is. This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing– challenges like provide opportunities for development. Opportunities for those relationships that built up over the last 7 episodes to shine, or for Iris to have a personal crisis and for that to create barriers in her relationship with Mizuki that must be overcome.
The problem is that… this doesn’t happen. Iris struggles with PTSD alone, and without any internal dialogue she just stands on the screen with a traumatized look on her face. No one tries to help her, therapy isn’t mentioned, it’s basically just ignored. And while this is simply shitty behavior coming from the rest of the team, it is character breaking for Mizuki. There is just no logical reason why she would be treating her best friend like this. Literally, everyone continues the plot without Iris, and Iris gets shoved into a warehouse to have flashbacks alone in the dark, while she desperately uses the simulator again and again to try to force the usefulness back into herself.
With both Mizuki and racing taken away, Iris’s character has been put in a really bad place and it never recovers. Now, I’m sure there are excuses for this behavior– “maybe they didn’t *know* Iris has PTSD, she never talks about it!” Except that in the very next episode, Iris has a flashback while they’re preparing for a test flight, and everyone notices that something is wrong.
“But, Dai, that’s just unfair– everything happened so fast with A-TEC in danger of being dismantled, and Mizuki needed to concentrate fully on fixing up the rocket!” Except that we constantly see the two of them working together and talking together while Mizuki is doing mechanical work. There is literally no reason why she wouldn’t check in with her, or at least have Sera-sensei get her a doctor checkup. In addition, after Iris is hospitalized due to an ill-timed flashback, Mizuki sees her in the hospital… then makes the whole visit about herself, instead of listening to Iris when she wants to talk and be comforted.
Mizuki is shown having down time after this, but she spends it doing other things. Iris is released from the hospital, alone, goes out searching for answers, and here is Mizuki, macking on Nagisa.
Their relationship had development up until this point, so I have no complaints about them getting together. It was evident much earlier, and helped to highlight the closeness of Iris and Mizuki. Iris notices Mizuki’s feelings even before she does, and while it’s obvious that Iris is a bit hurt, she decides to move forward and support her friend.
Mizuki, who was shown early on to be extremely socially perceptive, can’t be missing all of this that is going on, so it just comes off like she is ignoring it. Just ignoring a friend in dire need, and not just any friend but her best friend who constantly watches out for and supports her. It’s like their friendship might as well have not happened. And worse still, after just ignoring Iris for several episodes, it turns out that Nagisa needs rescuing again. (I guess technically he didn’t actually need rescuing the first time, though.)
Iris is still wrecked from her flashbacks, but is gearing herself up to go save Nagisa anyway. Enter Mizuki, who talks to Iris and starts acting like a friend again… until the other members of A-TEC interrupt an important emotional moment and it’s revealed that Mizuki didn’t actually come out of any concern for her vulnerable friend who is about to endanger her life again— no, she came to order Iris to go save him. Although this seems to be a relief to Iris, since she’s been struggling on her own and uses other people’s direction in order to avoid dealing with her own shit, that is a super douchebag move. It just makes the whole interaction come off as disingenuous and like… Wow. But the worse is yet to come, folks!
They do rescue Nagisa, because duh. Iris manages to power through her PTSD using a combination of willpower and emotional support from Mizuki. She skillfully dodges the asteroid they are all about to splat into. That out of the way, she goes to retrieve their injured classmate while Mizuki makes sure the ship isn’t going to explode. There is an emotional scene where Iris uses Nagisa’s real name for the first time, and he wakes up. Mizuki comes down, hugs the two, and corporate plot gets wrapped up back in the board room.
Two lovers reunited, and having had some time to collect themselves, Mizuki embraces Nagisa as Iris watches– sad that Mizuki has chosen him, but happy that she has found love. Just kidding! She fucking throws an oil canister at Mizuki’s head and tells her in fewer words to “back up off my man.” Yeah, you read that right. Somehow, the creators thought it would be a great idea to just throw the rest of Iris’s character into the trash because fuck you we’re starting a Nagisa harem.
And it’s so frustrating because it was so promising, and I liked the characters, but it all got flushed down the drain.
Well, that’s the main summary of how this anime broke my heart. But there were a few other things I wanted to address in closing.
Overall, Classroom Crisis was refreshingly free from random fanservice. The women typically dress like people instead of sexual fantasies, which is pretty cool– the only real fanservice came up in the token hot spring episode.
Speaking of, one of the classmates featured in that episode is possibly queer and gender non-conforming, which was pretty cool. The character in question is named Subaru, and she is shown hanging out with her two close, male, friends. They attempt to sneak up onto a hill to spy on the girl’s bath, and the two guys ask “are you sure you want to see this” to which she replies “of course!” In addition, she is shown wearing a male-style suit during the last episode in the series.
It’s kind of sad, though, that a gender non-conforming character is gaining peer acceptance through violating the boundaries of her female classmates. A sad lesson in toxic masculinity. However, it may cheer you up to hear that Nagisa, really the most central male main character, shows an actual understanding of consent. Though first blackmailed into helping the three, as soon as he finds out that the operation they needed help with was being fucking creepers, he takes the fuck off.
Later on, when he is confronted by Sera-sensei about his relationship with Mizuki, he makes a point to confirm that their relationship is consensual, and is disturbed by Sera-sensei’s possessiveness over her. Sera-sensei’s response is really, really gross, though.
This line makes me so upset that I can’t even, so I won’t.
In the end, Classroom Crisis was an anime with a lot of potential. The first half was really good, but after episode 10 things just fell apart. In a lot of ways, this was a much worse experience than just finding a shitty anime, because it made me care about the characters and their relationships, but then destroyed all the character development that had been built up until that point. Just out the window.
Another thing that was initially exciting was the prospect of having queer main characters in a show that was not specifically yaoi/yuri– this definitely didn’t achieve that, but I hope that we will start seeing stories like that soon. Despite the way the creators flushed character relationships, I really liked the setting and the main storyline of this show. There were aspects of it that were truly exceptional, and if you are the kind of person who isn’t terribly bothered by badly done Bait and Switch Lesbians maybe give it a shot. If not, I’d probably recommend you pass this one by.