|Good lead characters, stands out compared to most battle school anime, good visuals, solid ending||Somewhat uninteresting side characters, somewhat slow start, Flora's voice...|
Over the past few years it feels like we’ve had a rise in the amount of “battle school” anime out there. Most of which are also harem series. In that sense Gakusen Toshi Asterisk or “The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water” is yet another drop in the ocean of battle school harem series. However, this show unlike some of the others has more strengths that rise it above the rest of the pack. It isn’t an amazing show, but it is a good one. Asterisk manages to use its strengths and carve out its own place.
Not that the show abandons its harem premise or does anything extremely unusual, but the strong point for this show is how the small pieces that make up the show come together extremely well. The harem lead is actually a good character and likable. The main girl of the show is also really likable and has strong motivations and goals that she seeks to accomplish through her own strengths. The major focus of the show is the first big tournament that the leads get involved in and how they battle through it. And in that sense there is some good action along the way and the main pair are actually a good team. It’s not just the female character taking 5 while the lead fights his way through the tournament, they are doing this thing together. That kind of partnership and cooperation does stand out and is one element I really enjoyed about the series.
The setup for the show is pretty straight forward. In the past there was a big disaster that changed the power balance in the world. Another result of that was that people with “powers” called Genestella started popping up. Naturally in order to deal with this the world set up elite schools in order to teach these people how to use their powers. Another side effect of course was people seeking a way to make a profit off of this. And what better way to make money is to pit super powered students against each other in massive tournaments? Well there might have been a better method, but the people of this world decided to go with battle tournaments. I can’t even say that’s really unrealistic. We have the UFC. You think if people didn’t have superpowers we wouldn’t throw them into battles? I think we most definitely would.
Anyways, the main plot is that Ayato Amagiri goes to one of those schools Seidoukan Academy. Part of the reason is to look for his sister who went missing and another is just to basically find a purpose in life. That isn’t a bad thing, think a lot of people can relate to not really having a direction to their life. Ayato is extremely talented, but he doesn’t really have any passions to chase. He eventually runs into the female lead Julis-Alexia von Riessfeld and of course they will eventually team up for the battles ahead.
In the end the story isn’t all that bad. All the characters do have pretty strong motivations for being in this school. A main theme of the show is people having things they want to accomplish. Julis has strong motivations and goals that she seeks to accomplish. And that’s the same for the other girls and characters that Ayato encounters. Both friend and foe have their reasons for being involved in these schools and at these tournaments and to take someone down is literally getting in the way of their goals. Because these tournaments generally have massive grand prizes and promises that a very influential corporation will help the winners accomplish things they seek.
The show takes a bit of time early on to build up the story and get Ayato set up with his harem. After that point though it mostly focuses on a single big tournament and all the action going on behind the scenes. There is certainly a lot going on in this world and a fair amount of corruption. The story doesn’t have too many twists and turns outside of some unusual backstories for a handful of opponents. But I did find myself supporting Ayato and Julis along the way because they were likable characters that I did want to see attain success.
It is a harem series so of course the main characters are mostly harem members and antagonists XD. Still, in that sense Asterisk still stands out because the main characters are good and fit well together. Ayato is actually a pretty likable lead character. He does have the occasional scene of overreacting to embarrassing situations, but that is pretty rare. Most of the time he is a pretty capable lead who has incredible talents, but has major limits on them. To get involved in a fight requires him to both risk going up against those limits and suffer afterwards. So he isn’t getting a free ride based on being a powerful character. But, no doubt he is one of those leads who is actually very strong and knows how to use his strength.
He’s not someone who is liked without any reason nor is this the kind of school where there are basically no guys (there are plenty, they just aren’t main characters). He isn’t some insanely pure person either, he does have some snarkiness to him. He knows how to put pressure on people to avoid a fight when he can. But when he needs to fight he will and most definitely gets pissed at appropriate times.
I will also say that while this show doesn’t have any official romance, there never seems to be much doubt with Ayato’s feelings. While he doesn’t seem ready to make any romantic push, I never got the feeling he’d consider anyone else but the main girl in the end. Through her he found what it was he was supposed to do and he’ll stick with her to the end of this series.
Of course I have to talk about Julis next. First impressions could leave you seeing Julis as yet another hot-head tsundere main girl who also happens to be a fire user. Strangely that seems to be more common than one would think XD. But, honestly it doesn’t take Julis long to separate herself from the pack. She almost never actually loses her temper with Ayato, outside of their first meeting (which does give some basis for being angry) she gets along really well with him. Rather Julis is a pretty rational person who is very goal oriented. She has some very personal goals that she seeks to accomplish and frankly those goals are of the type that you can’t do much but respect her for them. While she is technically the Princess of a country that plays more into the difficulty of her position and her ability to accomplish what she wants to do.
Julis has a strong passion for what she seeks to accomplish and it is that passion that pulls in Ayato. Easy to see how a person without a firm goal would be interested in someone who is so completely focused and determined to accomplish their goals. Rather than being a foolish hot-head (no pun intended) Julis is actually a pretty capable tactician. It’s her powers that actually are some of the most flexible in the show and she uses them in various ways from defenses, to traps, to even giving herself flight capabilities XD. Ayato’s strength has some consequences and weaknesses and Julis has to cover for that at times. She’s someone who will take some hits in order to win and tends to risk herself in order to protect those she cares about. One of the best things in the show I think is Julis and Ayato. Both are good characters who really get their backgrounds fleshed out over the course of the show. You understand why they go so far and also why they make such a good pair.
Of course there are other harem members XD. I will say that this was a rare time in a harem show where the main girl was the most likable girl to me. The first girl to talk about would be Claudia Enfield. She is the student council president of the Academy and a very powerful character in her own right. There isn’t a lot of focus on Claudia in this series though. You can tell the light novels that the show is adapted from planned on picking up more on her story later. The end of the show actually sets up the arc where I expect we’d get a very good understanding of what she is trying to accomplish and why. Still, she is very powerful and clearly willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Having ties with a kind of underground police of the Academy whom I presume take care of the troublesome activities that she can’t officially deal with.
Another haremette is Saya Sasamiya. She is a childhood friend of Ayato who really loves guns. Be they special guns used by Genestella or really any old firearm that she can get her hands on. She’s an unusual one being really bad with directions and often seeming pretty lazy. Though she does get over that initial characterization pretty quickly. Mostly she is the friend Ayato lost contact with as a kid and who is at this Academy to promote her father’s guns. He basically creates gun type Luxes (the weapons that Genestella use that can be guns, swords, axes, etc.) and she is there to show off his specific brand. Saya isn’t hugely important to the plot, but she is a good friend to Ayato when he needs one.
The last haremette is Kirin Toudou. This girl is a swordswoman who actually can compete on Ayato’s level when it comes to swordsmanship alone. She is younger than Ayato and company although when he arrives at the school she is the top ranked Genestella. But she is also a very shy character and easily embarrassed. When she’s not in battle mode and around Ayato she is easily embarrassed. She is a strange mixture of a character. Very capable and powerful, but also seems very hesitant and underrates herself in terms of attractiveness. This despite her having by far the largest chest of the cast. Personally I wish Kirin was a more confident character all the time. I know shyness is a thing and I don’t hate it existing, but Kirin just feels too much like a helpless little animal at times. Contrasts a bit strangely when she does have moments of being a badass. Though I still prefer the show giving her those moments. She is very skilled and should get to show that more often. I think her character does have stronger moments in the second half of the show and the potential to be pretty awesome in future arcs.
The side characters aren’t that memorable to be honest. Other than one who I will talk about more in the sound section (and not for a good reason). The villains are fine, though not the most interesting out there. There is one pair that serve as the mid-point opponents who were handled pretty nicely though. I did care about their situation as it was revealed. As a whole though this is a show very much carried by the main characters. Though the person I expect is the main villain of the show could be a pretty good character if he gets some more focus in a future season.
I would say Asterisk is solid, but not spectacular in terms of its visuals. The show looks nice enough during fights and the animation is ok in terms of how fluid it is. The show is just very average in that sense. It doesn’t stand out in a bad way though and that’s a fair point to make. There are shows that look pretty bad out there and at least this isn’t one of those. They do pick things up pretty well during the tournament fights and really if you stick with the show the tournaments are going to be a main focus. The powers look pretty nice and one should remain entertained watching the action in this show. I don’t think anyone watching will have a major complaint. It just won’t be the show you point to when you talk about some amazing animation or visuals.
There is good and bad to be put in this section. On the positive side the first ED is probably one of the best of the past few seasons. I’m not sure if it is the best since there is good competition out there, but it was good. The ED is “Waiting for the rain” by Maaya Sakamoto. It’s funny that someone said this ED might be too good for this show and that might be true. But it was still a really good ED. It is very Julis focused with some good looking visuals and the song is really quite nice. One interesting aspect is that it is sung in English so you can follow along with the lyrics just fine and get the symbolism. Certainly feels like a kind of Julis love song. The visuals, song, and music all come together really well. It’s an ED that should be seen even if you don’t care to watch the show.
And while the first ED was a highlight moment (the other songs were good) I have to point to the negative that is one of the voices cast for this show. Thank goodness it isn’t a main character, but the voice for Flora Klemm is utterly horrible. I have not heard a voice that utterly grating in years. I haven’t heard much work done by her VA (Chitose Morinaga), but I can’t imagine she always sounds like this. And it wasn’t just me. Just about anyone I heard talking about this character literally wanted her to disappear because of how utterly annoying her voice was. It is the kind of squeaky, grating, annoying voice people who don’t like anime think Japanese voices sound like. The rest of the cast is fine and well done, but this one voice was horrible.
In the end I would say that Asterisk is a good show that manages to stand out from all the other battle school harems thanks to the small parts. The characters work well together, the team aspect to the tournaments (in pairs and later larger groups) allows for some team work that we don’t often get in action shows that like to keep things very 1v1 or 1v a group. Ayato is most definitely the lead and a very powerful character, but he’s not doing everything alone out there. Ayato and Julis are two centerpieces that support the show, though there are some likable characters in the main group as well.
I don’t know if Asterisk will get another season. It did get 24 episodes over the course of 2 seasons and that isn’t bad for a light novel adaptation. I would certainly like another season and I respect the show for ending in a way that leaves that open. The series sets up the next arc without going anime-original. At least by the end of the series you know where the story is going and have a good understanding of the situation for Julis as the last few episodes cover her situation in more detail.
I’ll certainly miss having Asterisk around. It wasn’t an “A” level show, but it was definitely in the “B” level. Good enough that you should check it out. The first few episodes might feel pretty standard, but it does certainly pick up after that point. I officially say goodbye to Asterisk and move on to whatever is next.
Tags: Gakusen Toshi Asterisk, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 2nd Season, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Anime, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Anime Blog, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Blog, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Review, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Screenshots, The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water, The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water Blog, The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water Review
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