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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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 17

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Long story short: Saya and Kirin do not defeat the two Allekant robots Aldy and Rimsy. However, they do put up far more of a fight than any fighters who had challenged them up to that point. That is to say, the robots actually had to fight, rather than just sit back, wait for their opponent to tire, and crush them.

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Make no mistake: Saya and Kirin are crushed. It’s almost cruel after how hard they fight and keep getting back up, but they just don’t have the offensive power to overcome the robots. It makes one wonder why the hell robots can replace humans in the Festa, but it also will make it that much more satisfying when Ayato and Julis defeat them in the final.

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Of course, Ayato and Julis still have to face (I think) the duo from Sir Galahadworth or whatever it’s called, but assuming they win that fight, it may be without Ser Veresta. That’s because someone (cough-cough-DIRK) has taken Flora hostage, and won’t set her free until Ser Veresta has been sealed, which could be a permanent arrangement.

It’s more dirty tricks perpetrated in the shadows, and it’s a shame Flora had to show up at all, only to become a hostage that puts the main duo in a spot, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.but I hope Saya and Kirin, fresh off their devastating loss, can rescue her without Ayato having to sacrifice his Lux.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 05

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Asterisk War more or less regressed to the mean this week, starting off with an interminable bickering match between the leaders of five of the six schools in Rikka. We get some nice Ayato and Julis time, but it’s all too brief, and replaced by an influx of Allkant interlopers, apparently arranged by Claudia as payment for Allekant’s role in furnishing Silas’ robots.

The designer of those robots is Ernesta Kuhne, who is way over the top and over-rambunctious in all the wrong ways. I usually like Akasaki Chinatsu’s energy, but here she’s just extraneous.

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Call me spoiled by the last two episodes, in which Julis did indeed “monopolize” Ayato, to the benefit of the show, I might add. This Julis who butts heads with Saya (absent the last two weeks) just isn’t as interesting. It’s like another girl shows up and a switch is flipped. Fortunately, Lester is with me on this, and slinks away rather than witness any more fighting over Ayato.

That brings us to the introduction of a new main member of Ayato’s harem, judging from the promo art: the petite silver-haired Toudou Kirin. Their first encounter was a bump-and-peek in the hall, but when Ayato sees an adult in a suit strike her, he chivalrously steps in to intervene.

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This doesn’t go well for him, as when he asks the awful man (her uncle) to never hit her again, he agrees, IF he wins a duel. And in that duel, he’ll be fighting…Kirin, his niece. This puts Kirin in the odd position of not having her uncle beat on her if she loses, but losing isn’t an option for her, where every duel in her resume is scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb.

Ayato still has to deal with a limit to how long he can fight with Ser Veresta before he runs out of gas, and the fact that he doesn’t want to hurt Kirin—that’s the whole reason he got involved with her and her uncle in the first place! So it’s a defensive duel in which the clock runs out, Kirin wins, and Ayato is a bit dazed and confused.

What he just did was duel with the top student at his academy, one of the more then twenty students in Rikka Julis said were her equal or better. And while he can’t really be blamed for trying to stop abuse happening right in front of him, he did do exactly what Julis told him not to: get into another pointless public duel that reveals his strengths and weaknesses to all. So yeah, not exactly helping himself out.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 04

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Aha…so the man behind the attacks on Festa participants was…SILAS NORMAN. Wait, who? Julis’ opponent turns out to be Lester’s bowl-cut toady, with Lester himself unaware of the cowardly tactics Silas was implementing (Les is the sort to challenge his opponents face-to-face).

But I’m still grasping for reasons to care about Silas, or why he continually thinks he has the upper hand against Julis and Lester and that they’re DOOMED before his army of slow, lame golems. It’s like Crabbe or Goyle fighting Harry Potter instead of Malfoy, with substandard magic: nothing much other than shrug-worthy.

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He does have on thing on his side: numbers (and the fact Julis tends to block her own field of vision with her huge fiery spells, which…is actually a good point). So when her leg is grazed by a bullet the golems are able to bum rush her. Then Silas reveals he’s a sadist who wanted to “take his time” with Julis, because of course he is and does.

But before he can strike the decisive blow, Julis’ night in school uniform swoops in, halves the golems holding her down, and takes her aside. They then proceed to have a nice casual little chat together while Silas and his golems patiently wait. Again, Silas never struck me as anything resembling a credible threat (the episode refuses to respect him; why should I?), so this isn’t that strange.

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While Julis is initially upset Ayato came and put himself in danger for her sake, he tells her why: being by her side is the purpose he’s chosen, even if he has to do boring stuff like mop up Silas’ sad golem army, which is so easy with the Ser Veresta that he can do it while carrying Julis around.

The reveal that the army is structure like a chess game (Oooh, chess!) adds absolutely nothing to the tension; only the opportunity for Ayato to say “Checkmate!” at some point.

But he doesn’t! Instead, he says “Ripping apart the five viscera and severing the four limbs…Amagiri Shinmei-style, Second Sword: Nine-Fanged Sword!”…Not as cool. Plus, ya said “sword” twice there, brah.

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When Silas limps away on his last functioning golem, Ayato prepares to put Julis down and go after him, but Julis has a better idea: cast a flying spell and pilot Ayato to Silas up in the sky. Finally, after beaing nearly defeated way too easily by Silas, Julis gets to do something besides hang around in Ayato’s arm while he does all the fighting.

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He delivers one more blow, halving Silas’ lifeboat and sending him plummeting to the streets to be arrested by Claudia. (Lester is never seen again, for the record). But Ayato and Julis can’t enjoy the lovely sunset or their victory for long, because an imprisonment spell restraining Ayato’s powers takes effect, making him pass out. It was a spell cast by his sister, perhaps in order to protect him from himself.

He then wakes up in the lap of Julis, who is totally okay with having his head in her lap. What ultimately saves this episode from sixdom is the fact that the whole battle with Silas was a kind of audition for Ayato, to prove to Julis once more that even if she thinks she can go it alone, he’s going to be there for her. It wasn’t the toughest battle, but then again, Julis did end up restrained and almost taken out.

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So when Ayato requests to be her partner in the Festa, she eventually agrees, trying and failing to hide her blushing happiness the whole time. It’s all very nice. But more importantly, these two lovebirds are still chess pieces for someone, and that someone is Claudia.

While I don’t think she’s evil or anything, she is ruthless in getting her way, which means ensuring Ayato and Julis become a powerful pair who will go far in the Festa, as well as handing a viciously bloodied Silas off  to her “Shadow Stars” for further interrogation (i.e. torture). I almost feel bad for poor old Silas OH WAIT NO I DON’T.

Finally, Silas was only ever a pawn himself, for the rival school Allekant, a confident, scheming representative of which we meet for the first time, watching Claudia on surveillance video. Clearly, Silas wasn’t her only piece on the board.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 03

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Don’t look now, but despite the lack of asterisks or wars, The Asterisk War is not only eminently watchable, but getting better with each passing episode. We pick up at Ayato’s evening rendezvous with Claudia in her sumptuous Page One chambers. But it’s nothing so course as a liason, nor has Claudia tricked Ayato; she has a job for him. There’s someone out there injuring Festa participants, and Julis is their next target. Because he’s developed such a good rapport with her, Claudia is depending on him to keep an eye on her, should she come under ambush.

Speaking of ambushes, Claudia offers a sexy reward for his service, but which also serves her own desire to see the look on Ayato’s face when she offers it. Claudia was probably expecting Ayato to flee from her advanced advances, as the young lad probably doesn’t know the first thing to do with such a beauty as herself. Yet in her comments about him not paying attention to her (or at least the attention she wants) there’s a tinge of jealousy. She wishes she had a guy who cares about her the way Ayato seems to care about Julis.

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The next morning, Ayato does know what to do when he sees Julis’ out-on-the-town clothes, which she claims she just “threw together”: compliment them. Good Ayato! They proceed to have a lovely date that gives the two a chance to bond more, and for Ayato to prove he’s as tough as Julis thought (staring down the still-ridiculous Lester at “WCDONAID”) but also labeling him “unfathomable.” Um, I think that’s Ayato’s line for you, highness!

What the date mercifully lacks is unfortunate trip-and-fall accidental groping silliness, or overt tsunderity on Julis’ part (no running away in tears or embarrassment, either). Instead, there’s a lot of smiles shared between the two, suggesting Julis isn’t so quick to deny actually she’s enjoying herself on this mission to repay her debt, and Ayato is obviously not going to complain about hanging out with a beautiful princess. She even wipes ketchup off his face without blushing.

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The highlight of the date has to be at the end, when they witness a rival school brawl that the sharp Julis quickly sees is actually another ambush. Her line about going to “grilling them for answers” and Ayato’s game reply, “keep it to medium rare or so” is a wonderfully dorky buddy action movie exchange, but it shows how far the two have come in just a few days of interaction.

Julis deals with the thugs without any trouble, but spots cloaked figures in the woods and goes after them, alone. Ayato, naturally, follows her, becomes another one of their targets, but eventually forces their retreat without a head-on confrontation, with the parties obviously loath to reveal who they are. Ayato is fine except for a ripped shirt, but Julis thought his participation in the chase was “a bit careless.” Again, that’s Ayato’s line!

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That night, it’s Julis’ turn to invite Ayato to sneak into her chambers from the window, and when she tells him they’re going to “get it over with” and orders him to “remove his clothes”, well, Ayato’s mind understandably races. No worries, Julis simply wants to mend his shirt with her sewing skills. Get your head out of the gutter, Ayato!

Then there’s this very nice scene with Ayato patiently waiting as Julis sews away, and he notices a photo of her with her friends from her home country. Julis then gives away more of her backstory then she probably thought she would that night, explaining to Ayato how she was once a palace-escaping tomboy who ended up in trouble in a dark alley. She was saved by a group of other young girls (girl power) who lived at a nun-run orphanage (more girl power). She became fast friends with the girls, without telling them who she really was (though not ruling out that the nuns knew).

The orphanage has since fallen on hard times, and since she’s unable to secure funds for a “money-losing welfare program” with her name (her royal family is only a puppet regime of the Integrated Empire), she’ll make the necessary money with her own power, in this “vulgar, insignificant city” that also happens to be the one place anyone can get what they desire.

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Claudia is here to restore the academy to greatness. Julis is here to save her friends’ orphanage. So…what’s Ayato here to do? He hasn’t been quite sure of that…until the end of the episode, when he says “good morning” to Julis, but she’s distracted by a suspicious letter and soon runs off on her own again. With her debt to him officially repaid, has she reverted to treating him aloofly like everyone else, not wanting a friend?

Claudia doesn’t think so; on the contrary. Julis is leaving Ayato out of whatever she’s running to not because she doesn’t trust him, but because she’s trying to “protect what’s in her hands.” Ayato can now count himself as one of those things. But he gets a say too, and it finally occurs to him why he’s here: to protect her right back.

Claudia tosses him Ser Veresta and he rushes out after Julis. She’ll probably protest his presence, but she can’t simply lock up otherwise capable people she cares about for their protection, when they can be of much more help by her side. Like post-credits CGI Claudia, I’m looking forward to seeing how far Ayato and the Ser Veresta go.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 02

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Asterisk War took a page from its cross-town rival Rakudai Kishi by wasting no time infusing its characters with more depth and nuance. That included another piece of Ayato’s past puzzle with his big sister telling him to temper his immense power and vowing to protect him, and reaching Détente with Princess Julis, whose sharp edges are smoothed considerably this week. 

While haughty and dismissive in the first episode, here she’s reasonable and not totally opposed to friendship with Ayato, who after all just saved her from an unwanted confrontation with Lester (who, alas, remains a meatheaded moron).

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Julis also—seemingly reluctantly, but actually not—agrees to take Ayato on a tour to repay her debt to him, as well as show him around the city. She even replies to his Good Morning in class, which surprises the rest of the class.

Julis is on Ayato’s immediate right, but he learns to his left is Sasamiya Saya, his childhood friend and daughter of a weapons inventor. And what a great school: not only can students pull guns on other students without anyone blinking, but teachers can hit students for being late due to oversleep! Fantasy indeed.

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And it’s in this classroom that it’s confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that yup, this is going to be a harem. Saya senses Julis’ conflicted will and offers to show Ayato around for her, but of course Julis actually does want to show him around, so the two start clashing immediately. The Asuka/Rei resemblance of the two, both visually and personality-wise, did not go unnoticed.

Then Claudia and her boobs show up, and Julis and Saya instantly form a smaller-boobed alliance, refusing to give Ayato up and deciding it better for the two of them to show him around together. Claudia withdraws, promising she’ll get Ayato to herself eventually. How nice it is to be wanted!

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When she gets Julis to admit she was in a duel with Ayato,  Saya is dubious, because even someone of Julis’ level would have their ass handed to them by the Ayato she knows. This is a nice callback to the flashback in the cold open, in which Ayato easily defeats a bunch of bigger, older students for his sister’s sake, but goes too far.

Julis resents Saya claiming the two of them are on an equal level, and a duel between them almost breaks out until there’s another glowing-arrow attempt on Julis’ life, and the two work together to blast the masked culprits, with Saya revealing her ginormous weapon.

And because the culprits were hiding in a fountain, and the fountain is destroyed, the girls get soaked to the bone, revealing their bra, or in Saya’s case, lack of bra, just as Ayato returns. Fortunately, he receives no physical punishment, as he’s able to avert his eyes in time.

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Cut to the next day, when Ayato joins Saya at the Ogre Lux facility to find the weapon best suited for him. Ayato has his eyes on Ser Veresta, which was apparently his sister’s Lux, which Lester also happens to be interested in. However, the sword immediately rejects Les, who gets no higher than a 32% compatibility rating that drops into negative territory when he tries to force the issue.

All the while, Ayato is startled by the feeling of chains tightening all around him. Ser Veresta has its eyes on him, proceeds to come at him with deadly intent. And thankfully, they got something other than canned Star Wars lightsaber sounds for Veresta.

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After dancing with it for a while, Ayato stands firm and waits for it to shoot at him from behind, whereupon he grabs it and thrusts it into the ground, taming it and earning a 97% compatibility rating in the process. Claudia is duly impressed, but not altogether surprised, as she was hoping Ayato would be useful to her plans to restore the Seidokan to greatness.

She seemingly rewards Ayato by inviting him to her apartments later that night, and naturally, Ayato comes in through the window just as Claudia is getting out of the shower. Far from outraged, Claudia seems charmed by Ayato’s choice and time of entry.

Speaking of charmed, the theme song that plays the episode out was the biggest surprise of all this week: a hauntingly beautiful piece called “Waiting for the rain”, composed by Swede Rasmus Faber with captivating vocals by Sakamoto Maaya. This wasn’t a bad episode, but I’d be tempted to keep watching Asterisk War just to see and hear its wonderful ED!

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