The first of many looks at seasonal airing anime to come. The Spring 2017 season is something that grabbed my attention fast with a lot of unique shows. Shows that defied my expectation, ones that rekindled or ignited a feeling towards a series I never thought I would feel anything towards. Then there was this one. RokuAka or Akashic Records of a Bastard Magic Instructor is a show that falls on the shoulders of its lead, Glenn Radars. Another entry into the infamous magical school genre in anime, RokuAka serves as an interesting look at not only the reasons why the genre doesn’t work most times but also the potential it contains. With Glenn Radars being paraded around this season as one of the better characters, does he really bolster his series or is he more of a crutch the series tries to stand on?
RokuAka is a show based on the idea that Glenn Radars is a lazy, but kind-hearted genius in regards to magic. Signing up to be a teacher for the sole purpose of his mentor forcing him to get a job, Glenn tries to make the best of his time in school and to help those students who need extra guidance. Couple that with a dark past in military magic, numerous subplots about political assassinations, a cult based on the dark arts, and spunky students in swimsuits and you have RokuAka in a nutshell. It has the same trappings as similar shows, yet the focus of this show is not so much a lead who desires a harem but rather a teacher looking out for his students. Who may or may not fall for him, well can’t have everything.
The story of RokuAka though is an odd one, and contains 3 separate arcs about the three main girls in the series. Rumia, Sistine and Re=L are all given time to have arcs that significantly have them tackling various problems regarding their life. Whether it be human experimentation, royal shenanigans, or marriage advice, the arcs are distinct to each of their characters but also have a fair amount of downtime. The characters who can grow like them are given moments to shine, yet the biggest focus in each arc is on the movements of Glenn and how he navigates through the scenario. This is where the problem comes in, Glenn doesn’t really develop much throughout the twelve episodes. He learns to respect his job and deal with his students, but that is done in the first episode and one could say because of his past that he had that in him all along. Glenn as a character has had traumatic experiences, but we are seeing more of the aftermath than the transformation.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t interesting to watch, it just means that while other characters are getting sidelined for him we are just going to be getting the same beats over and over again. The same goofy and heroic rescues, the same genius-like tactics hidden by his aloof charm, and the same outcome of him saving the day. There is no surprise in this show and for the most part it’s by the numbers. The girls themselves develop, but what happens is that they are only hindered by their relationship to Glenn as they often relegated to harem girl status. Sistine is almost always called White Cat…downgrading her to a nickname and since she often acts flustered or scared it kind of makes her feel a bit too one dimensional for most of the show. Re=L is bland and lacks feeling, unless she was gushing about food or obsessing over Glenn. Rumia surprisingly does have a sense of character, yet most of the time during her arc she is cast as the damsel in distress to be saved by the hero Glenn. In a way Glenn is the best and worst part of this series, removing time and energy from other characters onto himself and often resulting in the other characters being relegated to stereotypes or succumb to typical harem or hero tropes.
That doesn’t even go into the fact that one of the most interesting characters, Glenn’s mentor Celica, is never there. She can’t be because if she was all the situations would be solved really fast, since she is one of the most powerful mages. So the show finds ways to make sure she either can’t act or is nowhere near the situation at hand often forcing her to have next to no effective screen time besides her funny scene in the beginning. That also goes for Albert and his new band of mages, who randomly show up at the end without even giving their names. Or probably because I didn’t commit their names let alone designs to memory besides one having a good mustache. That is my big problem with this show, besides Glenn, there is no character to really connect with or find enjoyment in. All of the characters need Glenn to be relevant, need him to react off of, need him to grow, to some degree he kind of saps the life out of all other characters.
The villains are too painful for words. Whether it be the insane girl in the maid costume (and she is always in the maid costume for some reason, might be her thing) or the guy in the top hat spouting off about justice, none have a defined presence in the show. Some are often relegated to just heinous acts for the heck of it even an attempted rape scene which was oddly forgotten and skimmed over after it happened. I mean shouldn’t that have had some effect to the victim as a character, or be referenced again because that is a pretty big deal? I digress however as often these villains just do bad things because they are bad guys. Often what they do will not be brought up again with lasting consequences after their arc is finished. Evil for the sake of evil is as lazy as you can get when writing antagonists.
Though the stories that involve said antagonists and the three girls are surprisingly engaging. While not necessarily the girls themselves or any other character is particularly interesting, the plot that surrounds them has potential. Each one given enough time to solve the problem and give the girl a moment of clarity or a time to shine. Of course Glenn gets more time to shine, but the fact remains is that each story arc effectively creates scenarios where these characters devoid of much purpose actually have an interesting basis to go off of. They never overstay their welcome, have a solid structure that wraps up neatly with a bit of mystery after the fact and is quite tightly written to avoid much confusion even if at times it can be a bit generic.
Looking at the gracious saviour that is Glenn Radars, there is a distinct reason why he is so interesting, because compared to so many other protagonists he feels refreshing. He uses his weird personality and the perception of others to his advantage to always surprise and defeat his opponent. He has flaws, a distinct lack of morals, has a dark side hidden by a great loss, and a beginning filled with optimism in regards to magic. This is a character that in just twelve episodes we have rooted for, found moments where we can idolize his tenacity, understand his pain and where he comes from on his lessons and all the while still enjoy his screen time when he is held back by classic tropes like the peeping tom on the girls locker room. There is something to him as a character that while he isn’t the most complex one in the world or one that really develops efficiently throughout the show he still manages to be the hero that can entertain with his personality.
That is why this show as a whole is polarizing to me. On one hand it has effective and efficient storytelling, even if what it is telling isn’t the most engaging thing nor has the best use of its characters within it. Then you have Glenn Radars who hogs too much of the spotlight, taking away time and dedication to others and acting as the crutch for their development or interesting moments of screen time. The show is dependent on Glenn to work, and that causes some issues with all else involved. His comedy is fun, for the most part as some perverted scenes or scenes he is blown away by Sistine do not work because it is a predictable trope or joke you can expect from the genre. The character himself is interesting to look at, yet when you look at the overall point that the story wants to progress to it took it twelve episodes to even mention the Akashic Records in the first place which is the show’s namesake. This is a character that works on his own but bogs down everything in the process creating an uneven idea that could have been average watchable material and makes it mixed.
RokuAka strives and falls because of its protagonist. When you put the shows on a singular character without dedicating time to others you can cause the show itself to be quite bland in execution. Its character is effective, but that causes faults in the show to appear. Glenn is fun, Glenn is cool, Glenn is a great guy as shown through his heroics, but Glenn can’t save everything. Giving us more characters to look forward to, an antagonist worth combatting him, or one full story arc basing it around him so it doesn’t feel like he is stealing others thunder in their own story arcs would have made it better. There are changes that would have convinced me that this show should be a shining example of its genre, yet all we have in the end is a weird school uniform, a bunch of things that happened, crazy people who are evil because of evil, and a good character who sucks the life from the series unfortunately.
I wish RokuAka could have proven me wrong, I want to enjoy shows like this but their dependency on tropes and generic shenanigans along with not a well developed cast makes it hard for me. I think there is something there for people, just not enough to really say that this one can stand out in the genre.
So what did you think of RokuAka? What do you think of Glenn Radars? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself an awesome day!