Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 01 (First Impressions)

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I claimed this show because its genres included comedy, but what ended up being most comical was how slavishly shows like this hew to an exacting formula of predetermined variables. Dark prologue that sets the stakes, check. Narration full of proprietary jargon like “Invertia” and “Genestella”, check. Drab transfer student who immediately gets into trouble with a stuck-up girl, check. Inadvertent peeping, overkill response, good deeds, boob grabs, checkity check check check.

But hey, this stuff obviously sells, it would be going away anytime soon, and I knew pretty much instantly what I was getting into and still watched through to the end, so let’s table the bigger questions like “should shows like this exist” and dive right in.

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Well, that was an unexpected disrobing! Protag Amagiri Ayato’s introduction to Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt (She’s a real princess, not just a pretend one! Monarchies make a comeback in the future!) is a bit rough, but there are clear transactions that are made.

First, he retrieves her beloved handkerchief in good faith, and when she punishes him for peeping and he proves he can hold his own against the fifth-strongest student at Seidoukan Academy. Then he commits another good deed by saving her from a third-party projectile. It’s understandable Julis would go tsundere on him. He’s helped her out at least twice, but the collateral peeping and touching spoil the goodwill.

Class Prez/Rep Claudia Enfield plays a different game with Ayato than the very direct Julis. She’s more about facades and jokes and lies hiding dark thoughts and schemes, and is very upfront about that. She gets Ayato to reveal he may be here to find out what happened to his big sister Haruka (the bleeding girl in the prologue), but he later sidesteps larger motivations and simply says he’s here to find out what he should do with himself.

He’s clearly a capable fighter judging from his duel with Julis, which makes him a potentially valuable resource for Claudia, whose academy hasn’t been doing well in the interschool competitions of late.

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Finally, Ayato takes his seat beside Julis, in class, and seated just behind him is his roommate and designated friend, Yabuki, whose membership in the newspaper club gives him more leeway in explaining to Ayato what’s going on with Julis, who apparently bears a burden and remains aloof in order to insulate others from that burden.

That doesn’t stop objectively weaker (if physically more imposing) challengers from demanding duels with her, as three-shirt-sizes-too-small Lester MacPhail does. Les is also at Seidoukan for some important reason (I’m guessing family pride or security) but wrongly thinks Julis is just doing this for fun.

So there are a growing number of different dynamics set up here, punctuated with well-tread ecchi elements and told in the almost tiresomely familiar language of Magic Schoolese. It’s serviceably watchable, but offers absolutely nothing new, which means if something more inspiring or creative comes along, then Goodbye Asterisk City.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 45

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ATM! is best described as a show in which a lot of stuff happens. That stuff doesn’t always make sense or have any kind of narrative substance to it, but it does happen. There’s so much crammed into the show, apportioned a few scant minutes at a time, most everyone is bound to find something interesting. And I do, just about every time.

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ATM! throws stuff out there and sees what sticks. The Alien-inspired “facehugger” scene is one of its funnier pop culture references, and it only takes up a few moments.

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Less subtle is the lightsaber ‘duel’ between Tenchi and Momo, with ‘duel’ in quotes because they’re not really fighting; he’s trying to stabilize her physical form…or something.

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Like Washuu’s Alienesque booby trap, there’s an attempt to repurpose well-known icons to fit the bizarre story.

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Meanwhile, we’re meant to root for Washuu, even though she’s kinda guilty of murder on a mass scale…or crimes so diabolical there aren’t even laws in place for them. And in a nod to the show’s penchant for irrationality, Washuu is arrested by basically failing to account for Mihoshi’s utter lack of rationality. Airheads have baffled eggheads since time immemorial!

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That brings us to the big finish: the entire world appears to be halved, or possibly split between two dimensions. Tenchi and Momo are dangling precariously over the fissure, from which spouts peach flower petals. It could just be my depraved mind, but I can’t get over the possibility this is all elaborate symbolism for a ‘girl entering womanhood’, with Momo’s protector Beni being unable to ‘stop nature’.

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