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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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 23

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In the alleged second-to-last episode of Asterisk War (at least of its second season), Julis storms out of a lot of rooms. She feels overprotected and unconcerned with threats like Gustave Marlowe, confident she and her friends can take care of themselves.

However, whether she likes it or not, her Festa victory has skyrocketed her “value” to the IEF. When Jolbert asks if she’ll at least consent to becoming engaged to Ayato (so the IEF won’t marry her off to someone worse), and asks her not to participate in Gryps Festa (lest IEF put her on the throne, where she’ll suffer in frustration and futility).

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Meanwhile, Claudia continues her trend of talking in dark rooms, this time to Yabuki, who’s involved in a lot more than we ever get to see. While it sometimes results in things getting fairly jumbled up, I do appreciate that Ayato and Julis aren’t in the center of everything, and like us, aren’t aware of everything going on just beyond their periphery.

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Julis goes to her orphanage to cool down, and Sister Therese and the nuns seem like warm and pleasant folk. But when Julis’ long-lost friend comes up, she has to storm off again, only to find that friend—or whatever it is she’s become—driving past in a limo.

First of all, coincidence much? Secondly, shouldn’t a fancy limo like that have tinting that would keep people from seeing who’s inside? Telephones project little “Sound Only” holograms in the air; you’d think this world would have window tinting down.

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With that somewhat sudden and clunky coincidence, Julis runs after the limo, ending up in the snowy mountains, and Ayato follows her because, well, what else is he going to do? She manages to find her quarry: a bored-yet-imperious white-haired girl named Ophelia, who quickly demonstrates that neither Julis or Ayato are any match for her.

Then Gustave, the assassin from last week, shows up, asks Ophelia if he can kill the two, Dirk calls and summons her home, and she splits, leaving a winded Ayato to juggle protecting an out-cold Julis and fighting not just a two-headed dog, but a three-headed dog as well! Talk about a weird, random predicament.

Claudia ends up rescuing Ayato and Julis and forcing Gustave to withdraw, but the battle lines have been drawn. Gustave will be back, and no doubt Julis will keep going after her former friend…if that’s indeed who she is. It’s looking more and more like we’re getting a third set of twelve eps (at least): there are simply too many balls in the air to catch them all next week.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 13

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Asterisk doesn’t waste too much time getting back into the swing of things: Ayato and Julis’ next win puts them in the quarterfinals. Of course, now Ayato’s secret isn’t a secret anymore; both the physical strain of his trump card and its time limit are common knowledge among the rival schools, including Jie Long, the one that fields their latest pair of opponents, Luo and Song.

Jie Long’s pint-sized prez is excited about Ayato despite learning his potential weaknesses, to the point she warns her two students, the arrogant, smirking Li twins, that Luo and Song may not make it to the next round.

For what it’s worth, Luo and Song are neither arrogant nor smirking, but honorable fighters who lament before the match begins that they can’t fight Ayato at 100%.

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The primary draw of this show (unlike RKC, which had a far better central romance) is the matches, and this latest one doesn’t disappoint, with Julis cleveing the stage in half to split Luo and Song apart so they can’t collaborate on attacks or gang up on Ayato.

It’s still a tough fight, however, so Julis executes stage two of her strategy (the firewall was stage one): suddenly switching places with Ayato without warning, throwing the opponents timing off.

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Ayato and Julis strike fast and defeat Song and Luo, who are gracious in defeat but are still compelled to warn them later that the same tricks won’t work on the Li twins, Shenyun and Shenhua.

Song and Luo respect that Ayato and Julis treat their opponents as equals, but the Li twinslook down on everyone and pull out all the dirty tricks they can to stay a step ahead. It’s no surprise that Luo and Song are from the school of wood—rigid and unbending—while the Li twins are from the school of water—flexible and slippery.

Ayato and Julis’ next match will be one of only three matches left to decide the winner. With so many episodes, I, like Julis, wonder what Ayato wants to get out of this, though she appreciates him fighting for her. His sister, for instance, is someone who’s been on the sidelines/in the shadows all this time, and is likely not really dead, so I would think she’ll come into play at some point this season.

As for the introduction of Flora…I wasn’t aware the show was starved for another cute moe character, but…sigh…here we are. That being said, like the battle and Ayato and Julis’ increasingly mature relationship, the Rasmus Faber soundtrack—including the pumping new OP and ED—continues to impress.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 12 (Fin)

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AW eschews its OP to allow for some final moments between the Urzaiz sisters and the pair of Ayato and Julis before the big battle, and they were appreciated. This is the final episode for some time, so rushing right into the battle would have seemed too rote. No, this is more than a good-guys/bad-guys battle. Both sides have honorable reasons to fight, and all four are characters I’ve come to like.

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But once those moments are over, AW gets right down to business with a long and epic battle packed with powerful moves and counter-moves. And yet it’s a very personal fight, between pairs of people who could otherwise be friends but for the fact they’re in the way of each others’ goals. I particularly liked Irene shooting down Ayato wondering out loud if she’s “doing this the right way”, i.e. draining her sister dry to keep up.

Ayato and Julis broke bread with these two. They heard the sisters’ story, so Ayato knows why Irene is doing this, and why Priscilla is letting her, and she doesn’t want to hear him questioning her now. This is for all the marbles; no time for half-measures.

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But it becomes clear that Irene’s earnest and pure desire to protect her sister at all costs is being exploited by her Ogre Lux Gravi-sheath, and as the battle progresses it transforms her more and more into an overpowered demon. And yet, a measure of the real Irene remains, trying to hold back so she doesn’t harm the one person she never wants harm to come to. She just needs a little help.

She gets it as the battle comes to a furious climax, with Ayato pulling out all the stops with his dwindling time with Ser Veresta. He wrests Gravi-sheath from the berserk Irene and shatters it, winning the battle. Before being defeated, Irene grasped at the light of his powering up, as if yearning for a source of power less corrupting than the sheath. Well, she won’t have to worry about that now!

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It’s a brilliant victory for Ayato, but it incurs a cost as well. He may not have to suck his sisters’ blood, but the seal his own sister placed on him is activated before he’s able to leave the arena. The cameras capture what happens when he fights for more than five minutes, and all the rival schools lick their chops at the opportunity to fight him. Even knowing this vulnerability, they realize it still won’t be an easy fight…but they’re glad for the opportunity for a proper challenge…and those challenges will come next season.

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By the time Priscilla wakes up, Irene is totally over losing the sheath—shit happens, right? No point crying over spilled milk (or shatted Ogre Luxes). Pris is just glad the weapon that made her sister scary is gone, and Dirk content not to reprimand Irene, though he won’t be paying her debt down any since she lost. That doesn’t matter to Priscilla: from now on, she’s not just going to hang back while her sister protects her; she’s going to become stronger and fight by her side. I hope we get to see that next season, too.

As for Ayato and Julis, when Ayato, barely able to move, still insists he’ll keep his promise to have her back, Julis takes his face in her hands and tells him she’ll have his back too. Like the Urzaiz sisters, the two of them are stronger when both are pulling their weight, and I have no doubt in Julis’ capability to pull hard. Unfortunately their would-be kiss is interrupted when Saya, Kirin, and Claudia enter, but hey, when you have a harem, you gotta make sure the doors are locked!

Finally, in the post-credits teaser (and the show wisely stuck to its “Waiting for the Rain” ED, the best of the Fall), a man picks up Haruka’s bloodied glasses, saying she’s made him fall behind on his plans so far, but now…IT’S TIME. For what, we’ll just have to tune in next season and find out. If it’s lifting the seal she placed on Ayato, well, Ayato may be in for more suffering. He’s never had more people gunning for him, but he’s also never had more people who have his back.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 11

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This week is bookended by scenes between Ayato and the girl in his “harem” (at least the harem expressed in the ED) that he perhaps pays the least attention to and has the least interactions with. Claudia seems to savor her brief moments with him, even as they’re interrupted by the other girls. When he has to go to find a lost Saya (who really should have satnav on her phone), he promises to atone for skipping out on Claudia.

But for the second straight week, on his intended path to Saya and Kirin, he encounters the Urzaiz sisters. This time, Priscilla is on the run from some thugs (of course) and Ayato takes her to a rooftop. He saves her so quickly, she forgets to call off her sister, whom she told she was being attacked, and so comes in ready to rumble with whoever happens to be beside Pris.

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Again, however, Priscilla is able to calm Irene, and offers Ayato an invitation to dinner as thanks for his help and for his trouble. Irene angrily complains to the stodgy Le Wolfe’s Dirk Whasisname, who later makes sure via tarot-reading from his aide Corona that the Urzaizs will indeed prevail in the coming battle.

Julis very successfully includes herself in Pris’ invitation, but that turns out to be no problem at all, since neither Pris or Irene are interested in seducing her Ayato, nor are they using the dinner as a ploy to somehow gain intel on their coming matchup. It’s just…a dinner party. And that’s fine!

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Irene even wears a shirt for the occasion! She doesn’t get up, though, and welcomes her guests with a nonchalant “yo”, drawing the ire of her far more mannerly sister. The ice is broken when the food arrives, as Irene loves food, loves Pris, and genuinely appreciates how good a cook her sister is.

Dinner conversation takes a darkish turn when Irene mentions the casino, her primary source of revenue to keep their fam of two afloat. Ayato assumes Festa winnings would be enough, but Dirk garnishes those earnings from her, slowly repaying a huge debt she incurred from him in a time of dire need.

Beholden both to a callous loan shark willing to squeeze her for everything she’s worth, and an Ogre Lux, Gravi-sheath, that transforms her into something even Priscilla fears, if she’s honest, this episode did a nice efficient job of humanizing Ayato and Julis’ next opponents.

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Irene isn’t coy about the mission Dirk has given her, which isn’t to win the Phoenix Festa, but simply to destroy Ayato. He wants to do this sooner rather than later, since he once knew someone else who wielded Ser Veresta. Since the rest of his info on his big sister came from Claudia, I imagine that’s why he wished to meet with her so late at night.

But because he comes on such short notice, Claudia nods off while waiting for him, and her dreams are how her Ogre Lux Pandora take hold of her: she’s experienced death 1,200 times since taking up the weapon, and always a different way. I knew Ayato neglected her, but to know she also suffers this much due to her Ogre Lux – she has even more of my sympathy. Being voiced by Touyama Nao helps, too.

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Claudia only tells Ayato all this because he agrees to be part of her team in the upcoming Gryps Festa. She also gets into how Ogre Luxs, like people, cover the full spectrum of personality traits good to bad.  And one of the worst is Gravi-sheath, which turns Irene into a vicious vampire.

Things seem to be getting worse for her, but what can Irene do? She needs to repay Dirk, and doesn’t believe she can do it without her Lux, even with Pris by her side. In a very nice parting montage that transitions into the ED (which I never ever tire of; it’s so beautiful) we see what’s at stake, from Claudia to Julis and a worried Priscilla to an Irene possessed. Will she have to destroy Ayato, or will another way emerge?

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