Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 22

gak221

Not long after a casual discussion with Julis over their Winter vacation plans, Ayato, Saya, Claudia and Kirin are whisked away to her home country of Lieseltania, first aboard a private jet, then a Rolls-Royce limo through a jubilant victory parade, and finally given rooms at a humongous palace.

There they meet Julis’ brother, King Jolbert, and his wife Maria, who plan to hold a banquet in their honor to thank them for helping his sister. The cold open actually handles the breathlessness of such a sequence of events quite well. It also shows how relatively down-to-earth Julis is, despite her regal home situation

gak222

Of course, this is only another venue in which to rub in Saya and Claudia’s faces the fact that Ayato belongs to Julis first and foremost. Saya swallows her pride and commits herself to staying by Ayato’s side if ever he needs aid, without getting into any kind of romantic talk that might end up with her rejected.

Similarly, Claudia seeks to unite both Ayato and the others on her team in the upcoming Gryps Festa, which will be no picnic, judging from all the names they throw around.

gak223

Asterisk War has never been all that interesting in terms of cloudy politics, but we get a lot more of that at the banquet, when after explaining that her country is a puppet state and her brother a cooperative puppet, she points out all the ladies around him who are his lovers…and also spies.

Jolbert is almost a grown-up version of Ayato, perfectly comfortable juggling women without a care in the world. Ayato does care, and he’s a little overwhelmed by the evening dress of his girls, who also all want to hang on his arm but aren’t quite sure how, so they simply glom onto him.

gak224

Finally, things take a little turn for the ridiculous, as a battle springs up in the middle of what had been a very peaceful episode. Some butler dude with a bionic eye summons a giant chimera of all things. Fortunately, Saya has a weapon stashed under her dress, Julis can use her strega powers without a lux, and Ayato is perfectly capable of bringing the beast down with his martial arts.

It seems this was a warning more than anything else, though butler guy seemed to have hoped the chimera would have polished Ayato off. He doesn’t want him joining Claudia’s team, but something tells me Ayato is going to anyway, and he’ll deal with the challenges that result with the rest of his team.

16rating_7

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 21

gak211

Well now, the final battle between Amagiri/Julis and AR-D didn’t last as long as I thought: in fact, it gets wrapped up in the first ten minutes! Of course, I never believed for a second Amagiri and Julis were going to lose to an autonomous Gundam knockoff, and the resulting foregone-conclusion feeling diluted the joy of victory, but no matter: it was a suitably intense final, with Julis helping Amagiri transform Ser=Versta into the form best suited for him.

gak212

Once he has his new, smaller, lighter, faster sword, it’s Game Over for AR-D, who is gracious in defeat. Amagiri and Julis get their trophy, heaps of applause, and the adoration of all…except for those lurking in the shadows.

gak213

While Amagiri and Julis soak in the victory, thank their friends, celebrate, flirt a little, and wonder what’s next, Dirk the Tyrant is busy trying to recruit Ernesta (and possibly succeeds by withholding vital raw materials for her research). Yabuki tries to take out the former Grimalkin agent Werner in a sewer, but fails.

gak214

Finally, a police investigation finds no evidence Dirk or Le Wolfe were involved in Flora’s kidnapping, frustrating Julis, who wants justice. But it’s clear while our hero and his ladies fight the good fight the right way, they are surrounded by cockroaches scheming and corrupting behind their backs.

Chief among those scumbags is Asterisk Steering Committee Chairman Mesa, who tells Julis lies about the investigation (in truth, he’s allied with Dirk, if not working for him) and more despicably, tells Amagiri lies about starting a search for his sister Haruka.

All this poor kid has wanted since the start is to see his sister alive and well, and he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations (except perhaps his own and Julis’) in getting to a place where he can actually make the request, and yet he still has to deal with all this backroom political bullshit and a perv keeping Haruka stashed away naked in a stasis tube.

If you ask me, they all need a taste of Amagiri’s newly-optimized blade. I wonder how he and Julis will play this in the next three episodes, and if a reunion with Haruka will be deferred for a third season (which would be kinda lame).

16rating_7

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 13

aw131

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%.

aw132

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.

aw133

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.

16rating_8

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 12 (Fin)

aw121

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.

aw122

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.

aw123

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!

aw124

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.

aw125

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.

9_ses

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 11

aw111

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.

aw112

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!

aw113

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.

aw114

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.

aw115

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?

8_ses

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 10

aw101

Ernesta keeps from Aldy that Rimsy is his limiter, indicating we haven’t seen the limits of his power yet. And while Ayato and Julis walk to Saya and Kirin’s match, they encounter Irene Urzaiz whaling on some nobodies before she turns her attention to Ayato. Her very polite sister Priscilla bails him out this time, but message received: Ayato has yet another powerful opponent gunning for him.

aw102

While I’m sure Saya and Kirin are looking forward to a fight with Allekant’s puppets, this week’s opponents are no sweat, and Ayato and Julis don’t even arrive until the match is long over, when they walk in on a nude Saya is trying in vain to grab a nude Kirin’s boobs.

After another ridiculously quick and easy match against two dolls from Queenvail, Julis (who defeated “Non-Sugar” all by herself) suggests she and Ayato have lunch, then presents the sandwiches she made, then hints at Ayato to reward her fairly by patting her head too, something Ayato didn’t know she wanted.

It’s a cute little scene that underscores how far behind Stella and Ikki these two are in the romance department. Then again every couple has their own pace and rhythms.

aw103

They’re also merely spectators for this week’s main event between Lester and Irene, who we see in action for the first time. Lester and his partner try using the same tired old strategy against Irene: keep moving and wait for her gas-guzzling Ogre Lux to drain her dry.

But that fails when she uses gravity magic that renders Randy unconscious, then sucks the blood of her partner Priscilla to regenerate her power and assault Lester into submission. A Vampire Girl with gravity magic? Pretty sweet combo right there that’s sure to cause headaches for our wonder duo.

7_ses

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 09

aw91

Okay, no more messing around: the long-awaited Phoenix Festa is finally upon us; that is, after the introduction of Irene Urzaiz, a student so badass she’s in school prison. The head of the “Steering Committee” also announces the controversial decision to allow contestants to field alternates (AKA puppets), bringing a grin to Ernesta’s face.

Before Ayato and Julis’ first match, a light lunch is indicated, which is provided in the form of various over-sized rice balls made by Kirin with Saya’s help. Saya is able to glom onto Ayato briefly, and even get her head patted by Ayato like Kirin. Julis, however, does not request to have her head patted, and lets the silver and blue have their fun.

aw92

When lunch is over, it’s Showtime, and Julis has Ayato all to herself. I liked how confidently Julis, used to distant adoration, strutted out to the arena, while Ayato was a lot more nervous, and how she actually flaunted that confidence by acknowledging the cheering masses. She is a famous princess, after all.

Going in, Ayato is hyped as the only Rank #1 fighter in the Festa, and he decides to waste no time demonstrating that, breaking out Ser Veresta and putting on a little show of powering up before dispatching the two opponents (who weren’t even introduced) all by himself, with one swipe.

aw93

But it’s not just a convincing win; everything went according to plan. Ayato’s chains were presented as showmanship rather than a hindrance to his abilities, and his battle time limit was kept secret by keeping the battle short, with the assumption that Julis would step in once he can no longer fight.

Julis also makes sure Ayato knows to be evasive to the press lest they give anything away. This isn’t Julis’ first rodeo; she knows ignorance is their best weapon, while any info their opponents glean is ammunition against them.

That brings us to the next battle, one between two Le Wolfe brothers who each look at least 35 years of age (Why?) and the two combat puppets built by Allekant’s Ernesta and Camilla, a male-female pair named “Aldy” and “Rimsy”, whose dynamic and banter resembles that of their human creators.

aw94

Le Wolfe dudes flash their skills with wind magic and marksmanship, but even with one minute period in which the puppets don’t attack, they can’t put a dent in ’em. The minute is up, and it’s Game Over for the over-aged brothers, as expected.

Those puppets will definitely potentially pose a challenge to our Seidokan pals; I’m thinking Kirin and Saya will face them at some point, while Irene Urzaiz is gunning for Ayato, with orders not to necessarily win her match, but simply to destroy him.

In any case, we’ll see if the show takes us to those faced, named challengers or if Ayato & Co. will have to carve their way through more nobodies before they reach the “bosses.”

8_ses

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 08

aw81

Saya and Kirin begin training as Festa tag partners, and it doesn’t go so well at first. While both are formidable on their own, when it comes time to work together, they’re not in sync. Saya concludes it’s due to the lack of a strong bond between them, so before any more training, she suggests the two of them socialize, something neither she nor Kirin has much experience with.

aw82

But while they start out sitting rather far away from each other on a bench, they gradually come both metaphorically and physically closer together on that bench, as Saya shows Kirin’s passion for rare weapons (following her down a dark alley full of unsavory gentlemen to get to the shop), and in turn, Saya gives Kirin a swimming lesson, something that’s a bit of a sore subject.

aw83

When Kirin somewhat idiotically slams into the lounging Violet Weisburg, she gets mocked for her lack of swimming ability. With little experience defending her pride, Saya steps in to do it on her behalf. The bold, confident, micro bikini-wearing, 35th-ranked strega Violet (a game Tamura Yukari) is quick to accept an unofficial off-campus duel with the unranked Saya, but Saya hands her ass to her with an enormous railgun.

aw84

As a result of their day of socialization and education about one another, the next time Saya and Kirin train, they’re a lot better; even better than the golden couple of Ayato and Julis. And it all came down to getting to know and respect one another on more than a superficial level. Now they’re not just partners, but friends on first-name terms.

This was a pleasant little episode that didn’t try to do too much on the eve of the Phoenix Festa. It merely strengthened the bonds of two harem members, paving the way for them go far in their competition block. But if Saya wants to face off against Ayato and Julis, and prove to both Julis and Ernesta that she, and her father’s weapons, are the best, it will be a long climb through the brackets.

7_ses