Anime Picks: Battle Girl High School

Follow the originators, not the imitators...

Going into Battle Girl High School, what I didn't know was that the series was based on a social network RPG, and it got an adaptation to celebrate the game's one year anniversary.  Now not all game adaptations are bad; Granblue and Bahamut have become some of my favorite fantasy series, and Tales of Zestiria was a highlight of last and this year in its beautiful animation and well-done characterization.   But, not every series can be like those three.

The first episode of Battle Girl High School introduces our heroes...and right off the bat we run into a problem.   There's something like over a dozen of them that they introduce all in the first episode, which is absurd--that's too many names to learn, too many personalities to develop, and too much crap going on for the first episode of the first season.  In fact, that's largely the problem with BGHS to begin with.

The world of BGHS is one where humanity is constantly under threat of attack from monsters known as Irousu, and the only ones capable of fighting them are the girls of the Shinjugammine Girls Academy, who use special equipment and "armor" to protect everyone.  Now that's straight-forward enough, but the plot of this introductory episode is that the girls have kicked the collective ass of the Irousu so much that they've become complacent and let their skills slip, and now their teachers/commanding officers have decided they need special training. That would make sense in a series like Symphogear, where the girls have saved the world no less than three times that we know of and have beaten literally everything thrown at them from alchemists to Last Action Heroes, but we've just met these girls and someone is already classifying them as lazy because they've won so many prior battles.  We're getting ahead of ourselves, and honestly that same story could have been told even if the girls were fairly new at their jobs.

Speaking of Symphogear, this series feels far too much like it's older sister. Yeah, they all fall into the Magical Girl genre of series--but most of them manage to set themselves apart in some noticeable way.   The OG Sailor Moon is the originator of the series, Nanoha introduced the concept of armored girls and heavy sci-fi elements, Madoka is "srs"/grimdark in its approach, and Symphogear blends elements of mahou shoujo with the "songs in battle" part of Macross to become its own ridiculous, awesome thing.  But so far, the only thing that sets this series apart from any of the others is the sheer number of girls involved.   Worse, not only does this series feel like a clone of Symphogear, but it doesn't do anything as well: the fights aren't as impressive, the concert song lacked any unique attributes, and the costume design isn't as cool.

The only thing I can give the show is that they do have a much larger variety of weapons to pummel the bad guys, though even that's by necessity, and I enjoyed the fact that these girls have apparently been doing this so long that they can socialize on the battlefield.  It's identified as "part of the problem" in series, but it actually helped to characterize some of them so they aren't just "Generic Magical Girl #s 1 through 20".   It was also pretty cool to see them blend in more typical school/slice of life-y elements into things, like how two of the girls were at risk of losing their clubs (of which each of them were the only member) because they never put in any work to recruit anyone.  If they work on it, that school element could be the thing that helps them stand out in a way that Nanoha or Symphogear didn't, as school was more of a place where you went to pull the lead characters from normalcy into action than an actual setting.

As silly as this show was, it hasn't quite turned me off yet.  I'm still on-board for at least the next episode, and more than likely I'll finish it out.


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