Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 14

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I saved this episode for last today because (a.) I wanted to check out the Spring shows premiering today and (b.) with a big battle last week I had a feeling this was going to be a rest episode, and so it was. But it’s because AW has thirteen episodes behind its belt that it can do quieter second episodes like this that focus not so much on the upcoming battle with the Li twins, but on characters and longer-term plotlines.

But man, they really give Flora the floor early on this week, and her sqeaky voice is, to be frank, really frikking annoying. Seriously, if an anime needs a kid voice, they should really just hire Kuno Misaki, who sounds much more like a genuine kid; Flora’s seiyu is just doing a baby voice, and it’s baaad.

That being said, I liked the running idea of Julis’ mischievous brother using Flora as his instrument to indirectly embarrass the princess. As for Flora’s photo of Julis washing her hair, that’s just her own treasured memory…just not one suitable for Ayato to see! All the girls’ knowing looks toward Ayato when Flora brought up “Julis’ rivals” was also funny.

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Just a couple episodes ago, Ayato and Julis were locked in near-mortal combat with the Urzaiz sisters, but they came away from the battle as friends, which is why I so enjoyed Ayato’s nighttime Skype session with Priscilla and Irene. Irene in particular is one very adorable tomboy when she thanks Ayato for saving her life.

Naturally, Ayato says it’s no biggie…but it is, which is why not only is Priscilla want to cook dinner for him again, but Irene is willing to give Ayato all the intelligence he wants regarding her school’s president, Dirk “The Tyrant” Eberwein, including his control over Le Wolfe’s intel org Grimalkin.

In the morning, Ayato’s roommate returns after a long absence (seriously, I barely remember the guy), gives Ayato some advice on the Taoist Li Twins, and even suggests an out-of-the-way cafe for Ayato and Julis to go on their date, though Julis is emphatic that it’s Flora, not her, who requested the get-together.

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Flora presumably has something important she has to ask Ayato, but first Julis spoils her with a big meal and an even bigger parfait, showing her softer, kid-loving side (she’d make a great mom!).

Of course, not only does Flora inadvertently organize an indirect kiss between Ayato and Julis (which only Julis blushes about) but her ‘important questions’ were provided by Julis’ brother, and start with how far she’s gone with Ayato so far.

The fun is broken up by Korona, yet another new doll-like character with a high voice (though less annoying than Flora’s).

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Korona is Dirk’s secretary, and she leads Ayato and Julis (who won’t let Ayato go alone…probably a good call) to a custom Rolls-Royce Phantom limo where Dirk is waiting for them. It comes a slight surprise that Ayato and Dirk have never met, even though the latter has been plotting against the former and his school for some time.

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Too many times an anime cheaps out on car models, but in this case, AW got themselves a bitchin’ CGI Roller, and they aren’t shy about showing it off from several angles both in the sunset and in a tunnel. During the mobile meeting, Dirk takes the measure of Ayato and Julis and agrees to answer a question Ayato has if he’ll return the favor.

With a deal in place, Ayato asks what Dirk knows about his sister Haruka. Dirk knows precious little, but far more than Ayato: the last time he saw Haruka, she was an entrant in a seedy underground fight club for super-rich patrons called the Eclipse Festa, organized by those disillusioned with the ‘kid-glove’ nature of the official festas, but shut down years ago.

Dirk watched Haruka lose her match, but believes she survived (matches ending in a death or two weren’t uncommon). This gives Ayato simultaneous relief and pause. His sister may still be alive, but what state is she in? Dirk has no more answers; only his question, which relates to Madiath Mesa, who Ayato knows as Chairman of the Festa Steering Committee.

With that, Dirk drops Ayato and Julis off, after which Korona mentions Flora to Dirk, who is intrigued, likely because she can be exploited as a liability to Julis if and when the need arises to have leverage over her. Always churning, the Tyrant’s mind.

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Kill la Kill – 07

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When students start starting obscure new clubs to go after Ryuuko, she forms a Fight Club, naming Mako president when she sees the level of paperwork involved. As Ryuuko piles up victories, the club rises in stature according to Satsuki’s merit-based system, and Mako’s family moves from the slums to the middle-class neighborhood and eventually, to their own manor and the lap of super-luxury. The Mankanshokus start to drift apart.

When Mako sees how their newfound wealth is corrupting the family, she resigns from the club. Satsuki awards Mako a two-star goku uniform and orders her to fight Ryuuko. Mako obliges, beating Ryuuko to a pulp, but at the last moment pulls back the killing blow, aiming for the ground instead. She and her family beg Ryuuko for forgiveness, and they return to the slums. Satsuki admits to her elites that she allowed Ryuuko’s club so she could identify which weak teams to purge in the next elections.

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Every time the Mankanshoku’s appear on the screen, it’s like shotgunning a can of the late, lamented SURGE cola; they’re a jolt of energy and a ton of fun to watch as they go about their lives, a veritable tornado of love-tinged activity that Ryuuko’s very much glad she’s in the middle of, after a lonely childhood. It’s even better when we watch them inspect their new middle-class digs with mirthful amazement; thanks to Ryuuko, their quality of life has improved. And mind you, they’re not gaming Satsuki’s system; they’re playing by the rules…and winning.

But then Ryuuko wins more; Mako gets shrewder and more ambitious; the family moves to an opulent mansion and everyone has separate evening plans, and the family cohesion Ryuko treasured melts away in a cauldron of avarice. Now Ryuuko eats alone again. And there is never enough champagne or Godiva chocolate. Mako is, to borrow a Gainax title, Aiming for the Top!, so when Ryuuko gets in the way, she’s threatening Mako’s status and her family’s, and becomes the enemy. It’s an audacious turn of events—Ryuuko forced to fight her best friend, who happily dons a bad-ass two-star goku and goes to town.

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But the situation is made perfectly plausible by all that preceded it. Whether you’re born into wealth or have it heaped upon you like Mako’s family, it can very easily make you its slave. That’s what Satsuki was hoping for: another family ensnared in her system built upon greed and obedience through fear of losing it all. She didn’t get that, but the system still stands, and even worse, thanks to Ryuuko and Mako, Satsuki knows exactly what to do to make the forces protecting that system even stronger. So while Ryuuko and the Mankanshokus are cool again, Ryuuko’s future trials are only going to get tougher.

Like Mako’s family (briefly), this episode had it all. It grabbed and held our interest. It made Ryuuko the architect of her own near-downfall through a seemingly harmless choice. It rocketed us along with the family during their meteoric rise, not skimping on the details of the ritzier life they gain. It slowed them way down when they grew rich and stuffy. Perhaps most impressive was Mako’s transformation from kooky comic relief sidekick to serious foe who doesn’t hesitate to turn on Ryuuko despite all they’d been through. It was a veritable windfall of magnificence, and our favorite Kill la Kill to date.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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