The Nardio Review
Is No Dropping Out – Back to School at 35 Worth Your Time?
What Should I Watch it On?
The only place you can legally watch this is on Crunchyroll.
What Did You Think Without Spoiling It?
I really, really wanted to like No Dropping Out – Back to School at 35. The lead was likable and they got so much right. Unfortunately, they got so, so much wrong. I just can’t recommend it.
Why it Works?
No Dropping Out covers a lot of themes, but the main one is bullying in high school due to the “School Caste System.” From the very beginning we see that students are treated differently and the teachers themselves are indifferent to what is happening. The kids up top get away with treating the “middle” and “lower” caste classmates like crap and in turn they’re too afraid to speak up lest they become the next target. It’s an all too common occurrence in almost any school and the show does great job showing the different forms bullying takes from forcing a “friend” to pay for everything and shoplift to dumping a bucket of water of their head. I think No Dropping Out covers this difficult theme very well and really delves into how it affects these kids lives and their self-confidence. It also does a great job showcasing this idea of herd mentality. After all, how else can only seven kids control the other twenty? All of this starts changing though once Baba Ayako (played by the gorgeous and talented Yonekura Ryuko), a 35 year old high school dropout, enters Kunikida High School. While initially ostracized for her age and her attempts to help, eventually her presence forces the students to change.
Yonekura does a great job portraying all the different sides of Baba and every scene with her in it shines. I love that she’s a tough woman who (generally) speaks her mind and doesn’t put up with crap. It’s refreshing to see a lead woman who manages to be strong but soft at the same time. It adds a nice depth to the character. Many of the other classmates do a great job portraying the hardships the face due to bullying as well as in their personal lives. The drama and intense emotions of high school really came through loud and clear. There are moments of brilliance here and a lot of times where I could really understand the why behind people’s actions.
Why it Fails?
Sadly, there are also a ton of misses in the show. For one, the teachers are completely inept and seem to have no idea what is going on in their class. Sure, sometimes the bullying isn’t overt, but the fact they allowed the School Caste Ranking site to remain up, didn’t speak up when they did see bullying happen and/or simply watched from afar when it happened was beyond frustrating. On top of that, so many of the teachers had a horrible case of over acting. So much so that it just kind of took away from the impact of some really great and dramatic scenes. I would find myself sighing in exasperation anytime the scene would switch to the teacher’s lounge. I especially disliked the homeroom teacher Koizumi. He was completely useless and allowed the “Top” class to bully other students right in front of him. Sure, maybe he changed at the end, but the change itself seemed convenient and abrupt.
Besides that, I also really disliked Masamitsu – the main antagonist of the show. Yeah, yeah I’m not supposed to like him, but he had no redeeming qualities and he just go to the point where he just became a caricature of an evil person. The show did such a good job exploring the other “mean” girls I wanted similar treatment for the mean boys. Instead their backstory is just tacked on and everyone forgives them at the end? And what about Akutsu? While some aspects of his actions might be understandable, he still got off pretty light considering all of the things he did and all of the ways it could have gone horribly wrong. Also each character kind of gets a focus episode, but besides the main four friends of Baba, they all kind of go back to the way they were in the following episodes, undermining all of the character development they just went through. Sure maybe there’s a slight change, but overall they either disappear into the background or they carry on they way the were.
Also, I really hated the “Witch Trials.” I actually found it unbelievable that Baba would allow things to go the way they did with Masamitsu interrupting at every opportunity and making leading statements. Also, the fact that Koizumi did nothing but watch when he noticed what was going on. WTF? Another episode I hated was the one that focused on the history teacher. After everything, things go back to the status quo. It just made the events that transpired pointless.
Ultimately, while there’s a lot of good here, it’s just overshadowed by the over acting, some poor character development and unbelievable situations. The problem is, these problems aren’t one-offs. It’s a continuous presence throughout the whole show and that’s what keeps me from recommending it.
- 11 Episodes
- Stream on Crunchyroll