Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 20

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I’m gonna level with ya’ll: this was not an exceptionally interesting episode, but it kinda couldn’t help it: Ayato and Julis’ finals match against the puppets was never going to take up only one episode, which means this episode was always going to be only the first of a two or even three-episode final battle.

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From the get-go, our heroes are the underdogs, as they’re just flesh-and-blood humans facing artificial beings, and Ayato still can’t use Ser=Veresta because Flora is still at large. That being said, they’re still tough enough t make Rimsy and Ardy do their special move wher Rimsy gives up all her luxes to make Ardy extra-powerful, at the cost of her own badge.

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Meanwhile, Kirin and Saya get to Flora, and after a couple of hiccups, manage to defeat the shadowy dude who is holding her captive. Kirin takes a wound to the vitals, but her swordsmanship is enough, combined with Saya’s backup firepower. Looks like Ayato and Julis were right to trust in them after all!

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Claudia hijacks the mic from the Phoenix Festa commentators in order to relay to Ayato and Julis the news that Flora has been successfully rescued. This means Ayato can finally wield Ser=Veresta once more, and he and Julis only have one opponent left to defeat, albeit the strongest one they’ve faced yet. Perhaps they can turn the tables now that they’re not hampered by dirty tricks.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 19

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Whereas last week seemed to be taking up space, Asterisk War’s eighteenth episode kicked some serious ass. Not just in the action category, either—though that certainly helped. It introduced an immediately likable new girl, was packed with underutilized characters finally getting cool stuff to do, and still managed to re-focus on the main couple of Julis and Ayato, whose final against the robots remains paramount.

First up, the new girl, Sylvie. Sure, she comes literally out of nowhere last week to bail Ayato out, but the more we see her in action, the more she makes sense. She can handle herself, and doesn’t need Ayato to protect her; quite the opposite takes place, as she dispatches a nasty far faster than he could have, especially without Ser=Veresta.

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Then Sylvie, AKA Sylvia Lyyneheym, shows off some more of her apparent omnipotence by helping Ayato locate Flora, using her song to do so. Sylvie is so much more appealing and less cliche-laden, as the idol in Hundred. Her mouth also matches her singing, and the music, while accompanied by English-ish lyrics, is another fine Rasmus Faber earworm.

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Moreover, it’s nice to see Ayato taken aback by a girl for once instead of the other way ’round. Sylvie comes in at a great time when he’s got so many eyes on him, and yet she’s portrayed as not only more powerful than him, but a more popular celebrity as well.

And yet, unlike nearly all the other students outside his immediate circle of friends, she’s neither arrogant nor combative, even friendily so. She’s just a nice, pleasant girl helping out another gifted person who needed help, and someone who could prove a valuable friend to Ayato in the near future.

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Second: the second-stringers finally get to DO something other than fight in Festa battles. Once Ayato gets Flora’s location (on the condition he doesn’t tell anyone Sylvie helped him) he and Julis trust Saya and Kirin to carry out the retrieval operation, as they have to rest for the final that’s only hours away.

Surprisingly, Yabuki joins the two girls and helps break them into the vacant casino, while they have his back when the shadow clone army attacks. Yabuki contributes one more trump card by bringing in Lester MacPhail to keep the clones busy so the girls can advance to the next stage of the dungeon. The four characters form a fresh dynamic, adding variety to the season.

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Indeed, this episode, in which the Phoenix Festa’s fianl match is about to begin with five episodes left, got me thinking: If Julis and Ayato can pull out a win against the Arlequint robots in the next week or two and Saya, Kirin, et al, can secure Flora, there’s definitely potential for a third season. And that notion doesn’t bother me!

Of course, a lot of things still have to happen, chief among them a victory in the final duel. In her dealings with Ayato and the others, Julis has learned Flora and the other orphans weren’t the first and only people she’d come to cherish.

She trusts Saya and Kirin to ge tthe job done, and trusts Ayato to have her back, and is confident they can win even without Ser=Veresta. AR-D and RM-C are equally confident they can win, and quickly becoming fully sentient artificial beings – worthy final opponents for our main couple.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 18

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This week is—the second semifinal match, the second-to-last of the Phoenix Festa— The winner shall face Allekant’s AL-D and RM-C. The challengers? Ayato and Julis versus the two aces of Galadadworth Academy: Doroteo Lemus and Elliot Forster.

Wait…WHO are these dudes? Never mind; it doesn’t matter.

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That’s right, this match is a gimmie. The show doesn’t even pretend that the outcome is in doubt. If it had, these guys would have been built-up more in past episodes. These guys are comically weaksauce, to the point I hate to think about the chumps who had to lose to them in order for them to advance this far. Sure, Ayato and Julis have a tendency to make even great opponents look silly, but knowing they’d advance to the finals for sure made this whole match a bit perfunctory.

Elliot is very skilled but also very young, and Ayato senses and easily exploits his lightweight resolve, while Julis simply pops off standard attacks of gradually increasing intensity until Doroteo lets himself get roasted inside his suit of armor. Yes, he had a mecha-horse and a long lance, but couldn’t lay a finger on an opponent on foot with a sword.

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Indeed, this is an example of bad seeding. It would have been far more interesting to me if AR-D and RM-C faced off against Ayato and Julis in the semifinal, so that Saya and Kirin could waste these knights and the four friends could face off in the final. What would have been wrong with that?

I don’t know, but for now Saya and Kirin can only stew in the sting of their defeat to an opponent they should never have had to face to begin with (the Festa is clearly rigged to favor Allekant’s puppets), while they search for the kidnapped Flora. Did I mention I don’t much care for Flora, nor do I care for her basically showing up just so that she could get kidnapped?

Well, I don’t, but she’s just a little kid, and clearly important to Julis, so I understand Ayato wanting to go all out to track her down, even meeting all secretively with Irene, who laments she has no hard intel for Ayato (since Dirk never bothered to brief her), but she does manage to narrow his search to Rotlicht with a hunch.

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Meanwhile, Ernesta and Camilla work through the night preparing their puppets for the final with Ayato and Julis. This is the build-up scene (combined with the previous battles and scenes featuring these two) the Galahad guys didn’t get. These are the guys to beat.

In this scene we learn a lot more about these two Allekant scientists, how Camilla’s body was severely damaged in a terrorist attack, and how Ernesta built her half a body, leading Camilla to pledge half her life to Ernesta in return.

We also learn the two have different goals: Camilla wants to develop a universal lux anyone can wield; Ernesta wants no less than to create a new form of sentient artificial life. She’s already on her way, thanks in part to the puppets’ match with Saya and Kirin.

AR-D wants to keep his face scar to remind him of his imperfections; RM-C wants a less embarrasing way to transfer her luxes to AR-D during limit transfer. Ernesta is over the moon by this progress; Camilla is clearly more weary.

As for Ayato, his cover is quickly blown and he gets chased all over Rotlicht by Men In Black, before a gorgeous young woman pops out from behind a column offering safety.

That’s right, it’s yet another girl for Ayato—though at least one who has been foreshadowed not just by the inter-world signage of the show, but by the fact the OP and ED are sung by this girl, the famous idol Sylvia.

I got a kick out of the post-credits preview with an increasingly desperate CG-Claudia trying to impress Ayato with her own singing. Sorry Enfield, I don’t think you’ll feature much next week either!

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