Cheating Craft

May 27, 2017

They say that grades are everything. They are somewhat your ticket to success. Especially in countries in which your future life and success depends on the grades you get in your exam, it is all the more reason parents are pushing and pressuring their children to get the best grades. The competition is only going to get more intense with more and more vying their luck each year. So what if you aren’t smart enough but still want an easy life? You cheat your way! And so this is the basic premise of Cheating Craft. By hook or crook you’re going to score and pass the exams. Therefore the exam is turned into a chaotic battlefield once these cheaters start using their tricks. But don’t get caught! Because examiners trying to fight and stem off these cheaters add further to the utter chaos. Sounds fun, right? Oh please, don’t ever resort to cheating anyhow and anyway!

Episode 1
This entire episode dedicates in explaining the setting of this anime. In a world where both men had grown up in similar environments and studied at the same school, what is it that makes their life as a success or failure so different? Exams! This country has a National Special Level University Exam. A gruelling exam which means passing guarantees a life of success while failing means you fail forever. That is why children have undergone intensive tutoring and education at an early age to pass the exam at the cost of their youths. Frustrations abound when they try to meet their parents’ expectations. Those who are able to pass with their own intellect are called Learning Type or L-Type. Those who don’t but cheat their way are called Cheating Type or C-Type. Thus some parents go as far as to invest and infuse cheating mechanisms into their children to guarantee a pass. Unfortunately if you get caught, you get kicked out. So don’t use half-baked mechanisms if you wish to cheat the system. But for the C-Type to overcome this, L-Type partner is necessary in this symbiotic relationship. Because other C-Types find competition in other rivals and will take out L-Types, the partnering C-Type will do all he can to protect his L-Type partner while eliminating the rest. Wow. I didn’t know taking an exam is like a battlefield. I mean, a real battlefield! Do you have to really destroy the entire building? But this is the law of the land. Only those who pass the most gruelling of them all will go on to lead a successful life. Now, a new young pair prepares to take this exam. Mumei Shokatsu and Koui Ou are doing this to save Mumei’s father who was wrongly imprisoned.

Episode 2
As the exam begins, the moment the old drunk teacher falls asleep, the cheaters begin to play. So we see all sorts of creative contraptions used to outdo each other. Mumei has his own Shokatsu Technique to get things done as he protects Koui as she diligently answers the questions. But Jun will not allow this to go on peacefully and sets his bugs to disrupt. More chaotic power battles and at this point the teacher wakes up and has had enough. He ties them up with his Jagan Keibaku (literally stealing their freedom to move through special insight). Mumei continues to be defiant as he attacks him. Although the old man can dodge every paper attack, it is just a decoy so Jun can plant his poisonous bug into his drink and paralyze him. But with 1 minute left on f the clock, can Mumei copy Koui’s work? Don’t worry. Koui’s paper is double ply so what she wrote is already duplicated. All Mumei needs to do is write his name. The duo are now official students enrolled in the school. They vow to graduate from here with top grades and save Mumei’s dad but he gets distracted after laying eyes on the beautiful Haku Ryuu.

Episode 3
Exams aren’t just hard questions. Why, they have to take them in extreme conditions! This time they are doing it in some frigid blizzard! Mumei totally loves talking to Haku although Koui isn’t too pleased with this b*tch. Each time she tries to give her piece of mind, Mumei shuts her up. She is in no mood to be bugged by Jun and beats him up. But he loves the way she gives him pain and wants to be her boyfriend! This is going to get more troublesome. An announcement for Haku to come to see the teacher. Seems she is accused for cheating in the recent exam. Footage reveals she was looking at her pen suspiciously although Haku argues this is just her charm. Mumei defends her and believes she is the L-Type. The teacher then has Haku retake the test again and if she is unable to get a perfect score, not only she will be expelled by Mumei as well. The teacher thinks Haku is struggling because she is without her pen but upon closer look, the questions are different and tougher. This pisses off Mumei as he fights sensei for the pen. By the time he defeats him, Haku has already finished her test. She got 100%. She reveals inside her pen is a photo of her parents. It gives her motivation. Mumei wants to have a pen like that too but Koui is sceptical if it is for their mission since he is fawning over getting the same matching type as Haku’s.

Episode 4
Taking exams on an airplane?! Oh, the air pressure! Cheating? Ejected! Mumei continues to fawn over Haku who is grateful for his help. This of course doesn’t sit well with Koui who has her own plate full because stupid Jun is trying to flirt with her. Not that she gives a damn anyway. Not that he learns from her threatening warnings anyway. Koui is further displeased that Mumei wants to go out with Haku this weekend to buy a pen instead of their scheduled study session. Mumei shuts her up before she could protest though he insists this is necessary so he could get a pen to take his exam. As expected, Mumei tails in secrecy the duo. At the café where they also sell pen, it seems Shuu Rinu only allows Mumei into his secret room. You can easily guess this guy has taken a liking for Mumei and what follows are lots of gay and yaoi innuendoes. With Koui eavesdropping, you can bet she is mistaking this leading up to be some hot yaoi overtones. Not that she’s against it anyway. So with pen this and pen that, I’m just waiting when they’ll make a dick joke. You know, penis. Geddit?! Shuu then gets to business and suggests high quality pens. However Mumei rejects them all and finds one to his own liking. It is the same matching pen like Haku. Oh well, if he’s happy. Shuu can’t wait to see what kind of chaos will come of their encounter.

Episode 5
The students think the teacher is so kind to bring them to the pool. Turns out their next exam location is in the middle of an ocean. Or rather a big pool. Some thought they can cheat but they didn’t expect sharks to take them out from underneath. With the sharks tearing up the cheating students, the big shark boss even unleashes sharknado! I know this is a swimsuit episode but can Jun stop ogling at Mumei all the time? He got what he deserves. The boss shark eventually reveals its plan for the shark clan to take over humanity and conquer all. Mumei isn’t cowed. As long as he has the matching pen, he can do anything. So he creates a violent whirlpool with it to suck up all the sharks (and the students too). So this is the power of love that triumphs all? Time is up and Koui finishes her test and duplicates it to Mumei. Shuu is now ever certain that Mumei is the one.

Episode 6
I don’t really understand this episode. Amidst the other characters who are seemingly being taken their police mug shot, they are interviewed and asked about things and circumstances whom I believe it is related to Mumei and Shuu. In between that, weird scenes between Mumei and Shuu like a showdown at some lava plant, at the car dumpsite and pool. Then after the strange showdown at the chapel, suddenly it is all bromance that would drive fujoshi fans wild. When Shuu is finally asked if he knows about Mumei, he replies doesn’t. And that was when Mumei ‘died’. Huh?

Episode 7
This time the exam is on an aircraft carrier! Any wrong move and the super computer will eject you! I think there’s something wrong with the computer’s ‘perfection’. Anyway, it seems Mumei is down in the dumps because he experienced his first defeated. We can tell it is Koui in a hood trying to bring him back. But first she takes him to a prison island where his dad is held. The boatman knows about the Shokatsu Technique as it ranges back to the era of Three Kingdoms. And there’s a bit more about how the technique is supposed to bring prosperity but it all depends on the user. Mumei is now faced with the warden and must show his ultimate Shokatsu Technique as proof as the inheritor and rescue his father. Mumei throws everything he’s got but nothing works. The warden tells him his techniques are third rate. Even he might have studied the secret texts like crazy, he followed it blindly. Because Mumei won’t give up, the warden gives him another chance. One day to show him his new power. Otherwise he will also be taking Koui with him.

Episode 8
Mumei takes the elevator up a high tower to begin his training. As he already mastered the wind technique, he must master the fire one. He has to do this or his father and Koui’s lives are at stake. Say, isn’t Koui enjoying herself with a large cup of parfait? And isn’t father just a dummy? So his first training is to enter a hot sauna with other men? With all the sweaty manly skin over him, the ultimate man hug! I don’t know. He passed. Next up is sorting little chicks into combustible or incombustible material. He did it. Next is to conquer his altitude sickness by manipulating oxygen. Once he has done all that, it is time to face the warden to prove himself. Mumei combines his fire and wind technique to beat him. It is revealed behind the warden’s mask that he is his father. He is satisfied Mumei has improved. As for Koui, she is suffering. She ate too much. And is still continuing to eat? Father gives Mumei a pen and paper which symbolizes fire and wind respectively. With this, he can take on any difficulty. Mumei returns to class with renewed determination.

Episode 9
While the students are taking their exam on a jet ski near the waterfall, Mumei begins his fight with Shuu. Apparently Shuu doesn’t recognize him after he lost. Mumei shows his improvement using his newly acquired fire and wind techniques but this even bores Shuu who is a master of manipulating his strings. A Crocodile Dundee examiner wants to blow them out of the sky for violating the exam rules. However Anri hypnotizes him to go away. It seems she is interested to see the guys duke it out so she can see who is most suitable to be the special level university graduate. Koui has finished her exam and she gets so enthralled in watching the guys fight, she didn’t see where she is going. This forces Mumei to abandon his match to go save her before she falls off. Even his efforts are not enough as Shuu’s strings help prevent their free fall. Mumei continues to fantasize a very yaoi and BL version of Mumei and Shuu making out after the intense fight. Meanwhile Jun who was lost in the jungle, stumbled upon an ancient tribe and is made the tribal chief!

Episode 10
Now what? A fashion show?! Mumei, fail. Haku, pass. Jun, instant fail. Koui… Lots of mixed reactions but eventually rejected because of her creepy smile. Thus Ou sensei invites the girls over to her place to talk about improving Koui’s fashion sense. However Ou soon gets drunk and starts ranting about her failed relationships. Anri can’t just start any topic because Haku and Koui are just having fun eating and Ou will just be triggered with whatever supposedly feminine words. Then she’ll go into long rants about failing to live up to her parents’ expectations (getting married and have children, that is). At one point she even assaults Haku for being cute but her mood swings means she starts crying before falling sound asleep. Anri thought they can get to the real topic but nothing changes. When she asks Haku if there is anyone she likes, she flusters greatly. Not Shuu, not Mumei. To Anri’s shock, Haku hints her crush is Koui!!! OMG!!! Didn’t see that coming? In the end, they realize this isn’t Ou’s place but her juniors! She’s still drunk and sound asleep.

Episode 11
This is the final exam of their first semester. Because there are no examiners around, they wonder if this is a trap. Or could they have run out of ideas? Suddenly this old guy, Katsuhira pops up on stage. As he is a famous voice actor over the TV and internet, he has this ability to charm anybody who listens to his voice. So we see everyone succumb to his voice and start becoming their dreams. Yeah, they can’t concentrate on the exam anymore. Anri thought of using her hypnosis to cancel it out but Katsuhira’s voice is stronger. So you wanna be a seiyuu, eh? Mumei fights him and also succumbs. He wants to be a chef? Luckily he is snapped out by Shuu’s strings. But he is soon defeated shortly as Mumei recovers to avenge him by unleashing a few secret Shokatsu Techniques. Katsuhira intends to target Koui to bring him down. But his voice has no effect on her. She has lived a poor deprived life without TV and internet, she doesn’t know who the f*ck he is! And with that, Katsuhira is defeated! Think the exam is over? Not so fast. Because Ou returns in a very dark, badass sexy form. The real exam begins now.

Episode 12
Ou uses a beam to make the moon move closer to Earth. If they fail to pass this final exam, it will crush and destroy Earth. Ou reveals she is from an advanced alien civilization. With far superior technology and culture, she was appointed as a teacher in this school to see if mankind is worthy to be on par with them. Fail and they are deemed unworthy. Mumei still doesn’t believe her so Ou captures Haku as his motivation. Save the world and save the girl. Man, a hero’s job is tough. And since Mumei is chosen to represent mankind, he will only take the exam. Oh, we’re screwed, right? Ou also has some device that negates his Shokatsu Techniques. Yeah, we’re really screwed. Other students try to attack her but she easily knows their techniques and defeat them. Other teachers come to fight her but are easily defeated. After Koui lectures Mumei about being useless without his technique, the students launch another attack against Ou. While it might look futile, it was served as a distraction as Jun’s bug disabled the device to enable Mumei to use his Shokatsu Technique. With the rest lending him their power, Mumei unleashes the greatest Shokatsu Technique ever: Nichirin Shouten. It turns his body into a flaming sun! He defeats Ou, saves Haku and destroys the beam that is pulling the moon. The hero’s reunion with Haku is ruined when Mumei realizes he is buck naked before her. Yeah, the flames must have burnt up his clothes. Next day, school returns to normal. Yes, everything returns to normal like as though all that never happened. Koui tricks Mumei by giving a challenge letter from Shuu to meet at a certain place. She waits with glee but when Mumei goes meet somebody, Koui screams terrified. WTF?! Did they leave it to our imagination on whom Mumei meets?! Is it another hot beautiful babe? Is it an ugly guy?! Is it an alien bug monster?! Or maybe a huge dick???!!! Certainly she didn’t see that coming.

Cheated Crap
If I was one of the students enrolled in this school, I would definitely drop out on purpose. I don’t know how much I could take anymore of this confusing crap. Yes, sad to say that I had a bit of expectations after reading the synopsis. But from where it went and to that ‘cliff-hanger’ incident at the end, it went downhill fast. I can sense myself losing interest quickly but I still retained hope that seeing this series had only a dozen of episodes, I hope that there would be some sort of twist that would make me change my mind in the end. Didn’t happen. And thus it continued its path towards disappointment. Uh huh. Whatever about Ou being an alien didn’t really matter at all. So what if mankind is worthy to share some advanced culture or technology? Because as long as humans are humans, there will still be cheating. Why? Because they can.

Initially the basic premise and first few episodes sound interesting enough. However with the random standalone episodes, the plot goes nowhere in addition of being somewhat confusing. My guess is that they are trying to showcase the various obstacles in taking the exams for some episodes but because they are so random, I just felt lost in wondering what the implications are anyway. The plot for Mumei to save his father becomes a distant memory because I don’t really see how he is progressing with it. Maybe with him passing each test is the progress but I don’t really feel or have any connection to it.

Because of those sentiments, it also affects how I feel about the characters: Annoying. And here I thought maybe the characters would do something and pull the dreary plot somewhere but instead I realized that they too maybe the culprits in bringing down this series. Like Mumei as the typical hot headed lead character and Koui is supposed to be his polar opposite and being more reserved. Then he gets blindsided by his crush on Haku and so we see him getting distracted to try and win her heart or something. And then out of the blue, they pit him against Shuu and lost and I don’t even know what the hell is going on anymore then. Yeah, the romance bits can’t help feel like a distraction because it’s like this show can’t decide to be a comedy, action, drama or romance so they put everything into one and see what comes of it. So screw the romance part because I wanted to believe Koui has a thing for Mumei but because of her poker face, I don’t really know. Her reaction when Mumei ‘dated’ Haku might be an indication but let’s face it, L-Types are the studious types who don’t have time to date or think about love! Books are always their first love!

Jun feels like the joker and comic relief of the series because of his bad luck tendency to have, uhm, bad luck. And this guy can still last to the end. Because he is one of the main supporting characters and you need a joker like him because everybody else isn’t funny material. I mean, you see Mumei and Koui, do you expect to see them as idiots? Mumei maybe but not big time. Hot guy Shuu? This brooding guy? Don’t be kidding me. Haku? Such a pretty girl helming the joker role? No way. Anri? What? Her? So who else is there when you have a loser guy whose girlfriend is a beetle bug and doesn’t learn when Koui outright rejects him all the time. This is one of those moments perseverance isn’t helping.

Oh, I forgot about Ou but she may be the typical cliché character. You know, the kind of single teacher who is already in her 30s complaining about no men would ever want her and being single. Why do women like her always rant and complain about that when they are drunk? Other than that, she feels like a ‘host’ before a test starts because she’ll be ranting away about something (usually about herself). So is she trying to liven up the mood and relief stress? The awkwardness only makes it more stressful. Then turning her into some sort of a final episode antagonist feels like a typical baddie cliché but with all the crap we have seen so far and the ‘reset’ at the end, I don’t think anybody gives a damn anymore.

Shuu and Anri are the mysterious ones. Because I don’t understand what the heck Shuu’s role is for except that he is most likely to be yaoi and BL fodder for fujoshi fans who can’t stop fantasizing about Mumei x Shuu pairing. Sorry Jun. Nobody even wants to pair with you. Maybe that is why Koui didn’t like Mumei to be with Haku. Because she would rather see him with another guy like Shuu! Holy sh*t! This series has really messed up love situations. One-sided crushes to yaoi and even some lesbianism from Haku for Koui! Even studious girls have their own dark secrets. I can’t put my finger if Shuu is on Mumei’s side or not. Predominantly he is but that time they were fighting and Mumei lost screwed with my mind and I am still lost ever since.

But not as bad as Anri because she suddenly makes her appearance. More accurately, I don’t know how she becomes part of the main character circle and by halfway through the series, she is already part of the gang without even us knowing how. Heck, we don’t even know if she is the L-Type or C-Type because it looks like she can swing both ways. But I have a feeling she might be the C-Type because she has some sort of special ability. Because you only see C-Types having such special moves. I mean, if you’re the L-Type, why even have special abilities, right? So I don’t really know what her character is for except to observe which of the guys can become that special graduate. Like I care at this point.

I know it is part of the plot of the series but I can’t help but think if all these cheaters spend their time in perfecting their cheating techniques, shouldn’t they have spent their time in trying to study? Sure, they might know more about themselves and are no good in books but by doing this kind of cheating method is already telling us and setting up themselves that they will be failures. Because otherwise if you think you are smart, you certainly won’t need to rely on this cheating method at all. So it is like they are here in this school just to fool around and try to beat the system without getting caught. Oh yeah. It is not a crime if you don’t get caught.

Making it more ridiculous are the different environment and settings the students have to take under. Sometimes I feel if this academy wants to kill its students because taking tests on an airplane or on a rapid river poses great danger and risk to the students’ lives. The stress of the question is already going to kill some of them mentally and now you want to physically kill them? How the f*ck can those L-Types concentrate without even breaking a sweat?! So good that nothing could distract them? And sometimes I feel these extreme situations are like to weed out who are the C-Types because they are the only ones adept enough to traverse the battlefield. Is this what early cheaters have made examiners along the way to come up with such dangerous ideas just to try and stem cheating? Didn’t work. Just like how trying to ban guns would reduce gun violence, right?!

When you have cheaters with seemingly ‘brilliant’ and ‘unique’ cheats to try and give themselves the advantage, it is all the more reason to add to the action comedy bits. Many of the cheats or fighting methods if you may call some of them are just plain exaggeration and nonsensical. I believe it is silly and meant for you to laugh but nobody takes exams for a joke, right? The battlefield might be some sort of wired kung fu action with everything flying around like that. And of course Mumei’s Shokatsu Technique there are a bunch of variety of them but I can’t even remember them because I think they are only used once and despite their super great exaggerative effect, they feel somewhat the same. They defeat their opponents. If not, it wasn’t the right technique. Try again till you win.

If you are wondering why there are a few Chinese elements inside this series, the show is adapted and based from a Chinese novel. This means the original Chinese names of the characters from the novel are used and closely pronounced as its original Chinese words. Also, this anime is produced by a Shanghai based company, Haoliners Animation League. Recently they have been making waves with a handful of animes such as To Be Hero, Chu Feng, Hitori No Shita: The Outcast and the Reikenzan series. As To Be Hero is the only other series I watched under them, let me say that Cheating Craft’s artwork definitely trumps the aforementioned. We have very nice and beautiful anime looking characters and some infused with Chinese influence as compared to To Be Hero’s crappy animation. Because of this inversion, personally To Be Hero had a better and funnier story (despite it is also crap but at least it is damn funny) compared to Cheating Craft who seems to be trying to make up for it and distract you with its art.

The voice acting uses all Japanese casts. Well, duh. It is rather okay with me only recognizing Rie Kugimiya as Koui. But since she isn’t what I expected to be her stereotypical tsundere role, I guess that is why I think it didn’t help a bit to save this anime. Then there is Yoko Hikasa as Anri but I didn’t really realize it was her till I reached almost the end of the series. And even that was just stumbling upon her name by accident. The rest of the other casts are Tomohiro Yamaguchi as Mumei (Kouki Mimura in Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Reina Ueda as Haku (Mira in Dimension W), Junya Ikeda as Jun (Jou Kido in Digimon Adventure Tri), Daisuke Namikawa as Shuu (Rock in Black Lagoon) and Kotono Mitsuishi as Ou (Boa Hancock in One Piece). The opening and ending themes feel like idol rock pop, Kasoku Suru Trial by Kamen Joshi and Welcome Future by Aina Kusuda respectively. Nothing spectacular to me.

Overall, and average story turning mediocre and characters that don’t really impress you makes you want to believe that the school should just fail everybody and expel all. Bring down the damn system of grades determining everything! Yeah, if that happens, nobody is going to work hard anymore. And as in every episode as a reminder, I will again remind you that you do not watch this show to find inspiration to cheat. You only watch this to be entertained and not take everything seriously. Though, you have got to have low standards of meritocracy if you really want to pass this mediocrity. And also another reminder, just like how winners don’t do drugs, if you are still bent on cheating, just remember this: Cheaters do not win. They just end up in first place! That itself is just a number, not an achievement.

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