There are hundreds of anime series set in schools, but an interesting subset is those that focus on elite students, the best of the best. Another interesting subset is those that focus on the failures, the “D” or “E” or “F” class students, depending on the number of classes. Classroom of the Elite is doubly interesting, because it actually does both. It is set in the Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School, which teaches the high-flyers and leaders of the future, so the D class within the school are mostly the kinds of students that would be in the A class anywhere else, but in a school that teaches the elite, they are the failures. But nothing is straightforward in this series, and some of the students are in D class for reasons that are not immediately obvious.
Some do have clear character flaws, such as Kouenji, who is incredibly intelligent and physically fit, but is so narcissistic that he is a terrible team player. Then there is Airi who is the victim of a stalker and that stops her wanting to stand out from the pack. Not quite so straightforward, but a reasonably familiar character trope, is Kushida, who is the most popular girl in the class but underneath her drive to be popular lurks another, nastier personality altogether. Of the two main characters, Horikita is clever and talented enough to be an A class student, but she thinks she can go through life without the help of friends, which will only get her so far in life. The other main character is Ayanokoji, who is a remarkably complex and fascinating character. Superficially he appears to be an average student who is awkward around other people, but as the series progresses it becomes obvious that there is a lot more to him than that. He deliberately tries to fall under the radar, and the more brilliant he is the more he tries to conceal his brilliance and find ways for others to take the credit for his actions. He is so determined to be average that he contrived to score 50/100 on every subject in his entrance exams, which in itself is of course a remarkable thing to pull off. Just when you think the series is following the typical path of the main guy softening up the aloof girl and teaching her the need for friendships, and girls are starting to see the real Ayanokoji and fall for him, the final scene of the final episode throws in a massive curveball and it turns out he is a completely different kind of character to the one he appeared to be. That makes it hugely frustrating that there is only one series of this so far. It was made in 2017, and the light novels and manga are ongoing, so I’m hopeful that we will get another series eventually. Without one this serves as an exercise in frustration, because so much is set up that never pays off. There are so many mysteries surrounding the main characters, and the whole point of this is that we are clearly moving toward the D students gradually ascending to A status, outwitting their “superiors” en route, but by the end of the 12th and final episode it still feels like we are very much at the beginning of something. Even a second series isn’t going to do any kind of justice to the plot threads established here. Classroom of the Elite needs and deserves several.
This is a series that warrants a second viewing. There is a huge cast of characters. Most of the D class students have something important to do throughout the series, and there are also key characters from each of the other three classes, several of whom make a strong impression. The school runs a points system, which is converted to money that the students can spend. There’s a major twist to how that works in the first episode, and the intricacies of the way points can be gained and lost build up to a complex picture that is still unclear at the end of the series. At the end of each episode we paused the end credits to see a points tally for each character beside their names in the cast list, which would have been even more interesting if we had kept track of everyone’s names a bit better, hence the need for a second viewing. Rewatching the series in light of the final revelation about Ayanokoji would also be something well worth doing.
Classroom of the Elite has a lot to say about friendships and human interactions in general. I’m not so sure that many of the characters come across as hugely likeable, especially when their hidden motivations and issues are gradually revealed, but they are certainly characters you want to find out more about. It’s a series that is packed full of mysteries. I would like to be able to find out the answers to more of those mysteries without having to invest in a book series, but such is the life of an anime fan. They need to start putting disclaimers on the Blu-ray covers: “Warning! This isn’t finished.” But life isn’t always fair, and that’s one thing the students of Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School all have to learn as well. RP