Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 19

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Whereas last week seemed to be taking up space, Asterisk War’s eighteenth episode kicked some serious ass. Not just in the action category, either—though that certainly helped. It introduced an immediately likable new girl, was packed with underutilized characters finally getting cool stuff to do, and still managed to re-focus on the main couple of Julis and Ayato, whose final against the robots remains paramount.

First up, the new girl, Sylvie. Sure, she comes literally out of nowhere last week to bail Ayato out, but the more we see her in action, the more she makes sense. She can handle herself, and doesn’t need Ayato to protect her; quite the opposite takes place, as she dispatches a nasty far faster than he could have, especially without Ser=Veresta.

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Then Sylvie, AKA Sylvia Lyyneheym, shows off some more of her apparent omnipotence by helping Ayato locate Flora, using her song to do so. Sylvie is so much more appealing and less cliche-laden, as the idol in Hundred. Her mouth also matches her singing, and the music, while accompanied by English-ish lyrics, is another fine Rasmus Faber earworm.

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Moreover, it’s nice to see Ayato taken aback by a girl for once instead of the other way ’round. Sylvie comes in at a great time when he’s got so many eyes on him, and yet she’s portrayed as not only more powerful than him, but a more popular celebrity as well.

And yet, unlike nearly all the other students outside his immediate circle of friends, she’s neither arrogant nor combative, even friendily so. She’s just a nice, pleasant girl helping out another gifted person who needed help, and someone who could prove a valuable friend to Ayato in the near future.

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Second: the second-stringers finally get to DO something other than fight in Festa battles. Once Ayato gets Flora’s location (on the condition he doesn’t tell anyone Sylvie helped him) he and Julis trust Saya and Kirin to carry out the retrieval operation, as they have to rest for the final that’s only hours away.

Surprisingly, Yabuki joins the two girls and helps break them into the vacant casino, while they have his back when the shadow clone army attacks. Yabuki contributes one more trump card by bringing in Lester MacPhail to keep the clones busy so the girls can advance to the next stage of the dungeon. The four characters form a fresh dynamic, adding variety to the season.

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Indeed, this episode, in which the Phoenix Festa’s fianl match is about to begin with five episodes left, got me thinking: If Julis and Ayato can pull out a win against the Arlequint robots in the next week or two and Saya, Kirin, et al, can secure Flora, there’s definitely potential for a third season. And that notion doesn’t bother me!

Of course, a lot of things still have to happen, chief among them a victory in the final duel. In her dealings with Ayato and the others, Julis has learned Flora and the other orphans weren’t the first and only people she’d come to cherish.

She trusts Saya and Kirin to ge tthe job done, and trusts Ayato to have her back, and is confident they can win even without Ser=Veresta. AR-D and RM-C are equally confident they can win, and quickly becoming fully sentient artificial beings – worthy final opponents for our main couple.

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Kiznaiver – 06

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In the OP, which I consider the most excellent of the season, the Chidori is the final of the seven Kiznaivers to run across the screen before the title splash, giving her a certain prominence. But in both of the OP’s character “roll calls”, the one in the middle is Honoka Maki, and in the second one, there’s a dramatic visual stab (and the presentation of the Trigger logo) when she appears.

This, and some of the mysteries surrounding Maki and the someone she says she “killed”, has had me thinking the whole time that the most significant character story to date would eventually come from her, not Chidori. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place in a powerful flashback where Maki’s friend (and apparent manga partner) Ruri nearly leaps to her death before being pulled back by Maki.

Ruri laughs uncontrollably, doubtless because of the profundity of what had just transpired—Maki may call her stupid, but still saved her when it mattered. But Maki is just stunned. Why did Ruri do that? What if she tries it again when she’s not there?

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Maki is toeing a similar line in the present: she may act all aloof, but she still comes to Kiznaiver get-togethers when invited, even if she leaves early without partaking in somen. Nico tries to follow and be friendly with her, but when she calls herself stupid, Maki can’t help but be reminded of Ruri saying the same thing, gets upset, and runs off. But now that she and the other six Kiznaivers’ hearts are connected, everyone feels her pain, and they can’t just forget it.

While she’s still a far more sterile personality, Noriko also seems a bit lonely as the mayor warns her of increasing difficulties in keeping the experiment under wraps. Her time is running out—perhaps in more ways than one, judging from her in-car self-injection—but she’s committed to delivering results. And hey, it’s not as if she hasn’t made real progress with the Kiznaivers.

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Yuta, still trying to maintain his normal life with his ladies, happens to be shown the same manga Maki created, made immensely popular when readers learned she and Ruri were middle schoolers. I like how Yuta is freaked out by the huge eyes, unimpressed by the hodgepodge of themes, but at the same time feels this is a window into Maki that, along with their new connected hearts, can help him get somewhere with her, in terms of helping to lift some of that pain and gloominess.

Maki, for her part, stubbornly rejects any kind of help, even when Yuta offers it unsolicited when her former editor asks her to sign off on a documentary of “Charles Macking”, her nom de plume.

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The editors ignore her refusal to permit such a project and arrive at school to film her. When the cameras are stuffed in her face and everyone hears she’s Charles de Macking-sensei, she starts to lose it right quick. Fortunately, the other six Kiznaivers are given a mission she’s not aware of to “save her”, and they do—at least temporarily, from the camera crew.

It’s great teamwork, but it does nothing to solve the underlying pain Maki feels. Indeed, she seems to be repulsed by any attempt to help her, perhaps because she feels responsible for Ruri’s death, and thus feels she’s no longer worthy of friends, happiness, or pity.

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Maki’s covered it up with her antisocial personality up to this point, but now her comrades know her game, and they aren’t about to accept her continued self-punishment. But rather than pester her more—she still needs to recover form the shock of that camera confrontation—they decide to try to learn more about Ruri, the person whose death caused Maki to fall into this state whom we know precious litle about, besides the fact she was a little bit of a daredevil.

As for Kacchon, he branches off from the others momentarily to express his disappointment with Nori-chan, most likely for giving them a mission involving Maki without Maki’s knowledge; a mission that saved her in the immediate but if anything made her emotional state worse. Noriko, for her part, is as surprised by Kacchon’s words as he is for saying them. She’s being pressed from both sides. I wonder what will happen, and if and how she’ll change, as conditions grow more desperate.

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Haifuri – 06

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Back at fleet/school command, the big wigs are not only confused and concerned that Musashi was able to defeat a state-of-the-art fleet but, worse, many more student ships have gone AWOL. The remaining loyal ships either require weeks or months to be deployed or are lighter ships like Harikaze.

Meanwhile, Deputy Captain-chan continues to call Captain-chan out for her appalingly innapropriate command behavior. It’s hard to fault her for this since constantly running off the bridge and disregarding the safety and operation of her own ship really is nonsensical. This makes Captain-chan’s already sacerine goody-goody personality pretty un-compelling, if not truly unlikeable. However, since Deputy Captain-Chan literally brings nothing to the table herself, showing neither leadership nor technical abilities, she’s unlikeable too…

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Then everybody takes a bath, then the ship ends up trapped in a mine field, but German-chan doesn’t like nato, and the kitchen staff tries to make German style food for her but fails, but then the girls assigned to clear the mines goof off and get blown up, except they aren’t killed. Then then then, after the credits, the doctor injects herself with antibodies from the Rats.

Maybe German-chan’s nato/german dinner arc was to remind the viewers of our own ignorance of other cultures? Maybe leading into the bath scene with shadowy Japanese politicians effectively talking about penis size was meant to poke fun at the girl-military genre fetish? …but that’s probably giving Hifuri too much credit.

In short, a lot of stuff happens but few events carry consequences or relevance.

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The verdict: as it bothered me last week, I appreciated the school command’s bewilderment at Musashi’s survival. Blaming the electronic guidance of the missiles seems clunky, especially because we know this is somehow caused by the rat-virus, but it’s far better than a ‘Musashi so strong’ circle-jerk alternative.

That aside, the central conspiracy with the rats is problematic. Even with we ignore their ability to infect people AND ELECTRONICS equally, the plot seems to have moved away from an internal government conspiracy for them being there. Sure, a plot about evil men trying to cause a conflict so they could retake the quasi-military back from women is eye-rollingly simplistic, but at least it would have villains and a sense of purpose.

Overall, Hifuri just lacks tension. No one has died yet — even the girls who drove right into a mine — and no decision has carried consequences of even the blandest sort. Sprinkle in the absurd number of characters, and you have a bland bland bland show about a mysterious virus at sea with explosions that can’t hurt anyone.

Its watchable but by the thinnest of technical margins.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 06

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This week Tanaka catches cold from getting soaked several times by the rain, even though he had an umbrella. He thought the rain wasn’t heavy enough to justify opening it, and by the time it was it was too late. He also tries to develop a rain barrier by standing out in the rain, but that doesn’t go so well.

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Shiraishi looks at the rainy day and sees an opportunity for the cliched but still desirable experience of walking with a loved one while sharing an umbrella. When she actually gets her wish, she’s a bit frazzled by how suddenly it happened.

She’s also a bit to excited for Tanaka to get any closer to her, and she’s content she’s as close as she is. Unfortunately, that means half of Tanaka is exposed to the rain, and the next day he comes in with a hoarse throat, a bad cough, and a mask.

Shiraishi sees this as another opportunity to take care of Tanaka, but he doesn’t want her to catch his cold, so asks her to stay away in a manner that could be construed as cold if we didn’t know who was saying it. The thing is, we don’t see Shiraishi again the rest of the episode, so she obeyed his wishes!

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Instead, the second half of the episode is dominated by Echizen, who is an awesome delinquent with a gentle heart and old-fashioned notion of romance. In one of Sick Tanaka’s numerous attempts to communicate wordlessly to save his voice, he is loath to write Echizen’s name in Kanji, and instead writes a note asking if she could change her surname to Ohta or Tanaka.

Echizen sees this as nothing less than a proposal and a demand for her to choose one of the two guys, and she stresses over it immensely. Indeed, she shows her more tender, vulnerable, bashful side, one previously only seen when interacting with Miyano.

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She weighs the pros and cons of marrying Ohta and Tanaka, and almost cuts her long skirt. She worries about being too tall for Tanaka, but then he says he likes her height. She worries about not being able to see Ohta as a man, but then he saves her from tripping and carries her when she falls down the steps.

The fact that Echizen becomes a completely uncoordinated klutz when worrying about these things further deepens her character into something far more than your run-of-the-mill Yankee. But the show smartly doesn’t let the misunderstanding extend beyond this week, as Echizen comes out and explains her bizarre behavior as the result of Tanaka’s note.

Tanaka and Ohta explain he was sick and only suggested the name change because he was too lazy to write “Echizen.” But they both decide it’s easier anyway to simply address her as Miyano does, as “Ecchan,” thereby perpetuating her smittenness.

While Shiraishi+Tanaka and Echizen+Ohta make the most sense, it was fun to see the doors open for other possibilities, even if they were one-sided and the result of a misunderstanding. And I’m never going to complain about the occasional doe-eyed Echizen!

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