Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 24 (Fin de 2nd Season)

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Asterisk War’s 24th episode wraps up the Liseltania/Assassin mini-arc, then sets up all of the new storylines and characters who will populate a likely third season. In that regard, it’s a combination of a wrap-up and stringing-along episode.

I decided to stick with AW for 24 episodes mostly because I dug the Rasmus Faber soundtrack, and I’ll admit that most of the less squeaky characters have grown on me.

Ayato remains as stubbornly dull as wallpaper paste, but he’s got a decent harem that’s gelled nicely, and there’s clearly more story to tell that will likely be of the same quality as the two cours that preceeded it, so continuing this series will ultimately come down to my schedule and what better shows, if any, air on the same day.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself! There wasn’t even a preview or announcement for a third cour at the end of this episode, so let’s focus on the second season finale. The wrap-up part turned out about as expected: Ayato wakes up, and the group works together to defeat Gustave and his imposing but ultimately not too challenging Hydra.

The battle scenes are appropriately over-the-top, if a bit too stylized for my taste, and call to mind an older, similar show that was usually a lot more balls-out with the combat, Chrome Shelled Regios. (I honestly couldn’t name many major non-cosmetic differences between Leyfon Alseif and Amagiri Ayato, by the way. ;)

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Suffice it to say, Leyf–I-I mean, Ayato does his thing with Ser=Veresta, Saya does her big gun thing, Julis does her Strega flower thing, Kirin does her slick samurai thing, and Claudia does her background political thing, as her Dad was the one who hired Gustave, something he did to protect his daughter but which she never the less is pretty disappointed about.

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Papa Enfield wanted to keep Claudia out of the Gryps Festa, but that ain’t gonna happen, which means instead of fighting in separate two-by-two battles, our core quintet will all be on the same side against teams from the other schools.

Ayato agrees to join them after finally learning what’s become of his sister (though why she has to be nude is never explained) and he’s approached by the latest kooky mad scientist, Hilda Jane Rowlands, who is introduced far too hastily.

Combined with Julis’ continued struggle in getting her best friend Ophelia back, whatever Dirk has planned with Ernesta on his side, all of Claudia’s stuff, and that idol lady who is sure to return, there’s no shortage of material for another cour; possibly two.

While I’m weary of committing to a third season of a show that never knocked by socks off in its second, I will at least give it a look when it airs, if for no other reason, than to hear what ol’ Rasmus cooks up for the OP/ED…

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Kiznaiver – 11

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Noriko and Agata are two individuals whose lives have been dominated by close contact with one another. Agata had seemingly forgotten how much contact until he connected the girl in his dreams to Nori, while Nori herself clearly remembers everything, and how the only one she really needed seemed to be Agata. They were an inseparable pair, until they weren’t. Now, with one episode left they find themselves on potentially opposing ends of the game board.

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Hardly anything in his recent life has ever affected Agata as strongly as seeing his doll-ified friends. But it got him thinking, and he thinks a lot throughout the episode, something he hadn’t done much of before because he was too busy not having emotions and going with the flow.

Now he thinks he understands a little more how Chidori saw him, and why she always protected and defended him, and how much pain he caused her by being the way he was. He calls to thank her and apologize, which Chidori sees as a furtherance of his wider rejection of her.

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The mayor is telling (not asking) Yamada and Urushii that Kizuna is kaput, but wants them to soften the blow of the news. Of course, we know Noriko will not accept any news of that nature: The Kizuna System has been, is, and will continue to be her life. Taking Kizuna is like taking that life away.

The two researchers, able to look back and realize their overeagerness to achieve results for a world that needed them desperately, acknowledge the collateral damage done to Nori as a result, and Yamada is determined to make up for that by granting all of her wishes. Urushii seems to agree. Without knowing it, they’ve become more than minders or underlings to Nori; they’re her friends too.

That realization seems to come to the former Kiznaivers as well—that they’ve been friends for some time now, without knowing it. It’s the reason they were able to get through all their trials so easily, and it’s why even though their pain is no longer connected artificially by Kizuna, they still feel pain in their collective hearts when Agata bears his to them on the rooftop.

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That being said, they’re still incredulous, but when Urushii confirms they’re no longer connected, it’s hard to remain in denial: they have empathy for one another. Kizuna simply gave them the nudge in the right direction. Now these people who believed they could never have proper friends have friends.

But that’s not nearly enough for Noriko. After all, the world is full of conflict and rancor, all because people technically bear the pain in their hearts alone. Six people having the same emotions at once isn’t the same as being literally connected, via Kizuna.

Sensing the end of Kizuna is nigh without action, she gives an address to the entire town, announcing her intention to connect all of them, government and corporate interests be damned. This seems selfish on her part, and even paints her in the light of an antagonist, ready to impose her will on the masses.

But she is nothing more or less than what the system made her, and she’s not ready to give up on her ideal of a perfect happy future…whether anyone else wants it or not.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 11

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You’d think a pool episode would wear Tanaka out, but he can always float listlessly on the surface. When his normally relaxing, ordinary school life is infected by vigorous preparations for the cultural festival, we learn what is truly anathema to him.

In preparation for the bedlam, he tries to perfect his cloaking device, but to no avail: he has to perform some task, and the final ones available to him and Ohta turn out to be the role of haunted house ghosts.

Of course, initially, Tanaka doesn’t scare Shiraishi so much as surprise her when he so nonchalantly flashes her while switching how he wears his funeral robe (fortunately, he was wearing underwear).

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Ohta and Tanaka also have a sweet moment when they look on proudly as Echizen interacts with people other than the two of them and Miyano (though she resents their pride as somewhat mocking).

The haunted house turns out alright too, with a couple of little issues: Rather than a ghost in a well, Tanaka looks more like a leisurely bathing spa patron.

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As for Ohta, he’s far more scared of the house than anyone else, and so he must be replaced as star ghost. Miyano steps in, but ends up charming patrons rather than scaring them with her adorable demon catgirl get-up, even posing for pictures. Hey, it’s not what they were originally going for in a haunted house, but if the customers come away happy, who cares?

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During Tanaka’s break, he sees class 1-E has a Maid Cafe, and as a girl with very similar long black hair runs off to watch the drama club, I was all but convinced Tanaka would be forced into a maid outfit to substitute, with hilarious results. Instead, we got something even better: Echizen in a maid outfit, complete with bubbly welcome.

Of course, she realizes far too late who she’s welcoming, resulting in the longest—and best—comedic pause of the episode, ending with Echizen reverting to her usual brusque nature, demanding Tanaka go home and forget what he saw.

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Tanaka continues his quest for a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the festival, barging in on a kissing couple and coming up against a sign barring roof access. He settles on a cardboard box near the roof door, where he soon falls asleep. Ohta, who lost sight of him during the break from helping everyone who asked, searches desperately for his friend, stopping at nearly every food and sweet stall on the way—this is a cultural festival, after all, one must sample all they can!

When he does find him, Tanaka is so accidentally scary-looking that Ohta clean passes out. All Tanaka can do is sit by him and wait for him to come to, but of course he dozes off in the process. When they both come to, it’s time to clean up and celebrate a festival well done. But Ohta doesn’t forget the ghoul he spotted, and presents Tanaka with consecrated salt to ward it off…even though “it” was Tanaka himself.

Another wonderfully solid and hilarious Tanaka-kun, adding new life to a well-worn anime theme two weeks in a row with its uniquely bizarre and unexpected yet warm and charming comedy. I hope it gets a second season!

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Ushio to Tora – 38

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Despite the title “The End”, this week is not the end; just the beginning of it for Hakumen. The united counterattack is now in full swing, with supernatural and military forces working in concert to make Hakumen’s life increasingly difficult. Even better, the battle is being broadcast to Japan from a news chopper, lessening the fear of those who didn’t evacuate (like Asako and her fam).

I must say, after so much darkness and dread, I was glad to see the mood of the show brightening along with the skies around the battle. The irreverent chatter between Ushio and Tora flies as furiously as the cameos, which, to be honest, are a bit out of control; but are to be expected, as the end, titles aside, is very quickly approaching.

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Hakumen is a little slow on the uptake, and in assessing exactly why things are going so bad, determines that Ushio and Tora are the cause. If they can be smitten once and for all, Hakumen can crush everyone else’s spirits and get back to wreaking havoc. So Hakumen unleashes a Malboro-esque poison cloud, isolating and trapping the duo.

All everyone else can do, from Asako to Mayuko to Hinowa and the Moritsuna siblings, is keep fighing; keep doing their part; and trust Ushio and Tora will be okay.

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And they do do okay. Ushio’s armor is shattered and he comes close to his soul shattering as well, but he’s not like the other wielders who turned into azafuse, and both he and the spear are able to calm themselves, buoyed by the knowledge, and Tora’s confirmation, that Hakumen is not only terrified of his adversaries (for their ability to unite humans and youkai, among other things)—he’s also insanely jealous.

Hatred, pain, fear, and death are the only things Hakumen has ever known, and perhaps believes they’re the only things in the world. But seeing what Ushio and Tora have been able to accomplish; watching all the assembled friends and allies fight with everything they have for their sake; even watching the beast spear reassemble itself to fight again; it’s no surprise the increasingly puny bastard would be a bit envious.

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