Plus, the rundown on this season’s school battle harems!
Firstly, marathoning these episodes has quickly revealed to me that the CR subs for Asterisk has a huge issue with consistency in its terminology. I have no idea how the fansubs do it, but the CR ones seem to change all the time, and for no particular reason. I hugely prefer ‘Allekant’ to ‘Arlequint’ for example, not least of all because it’s the spelling used in the LNs. ‘Garrardworth’ is way smoother than ‘Galahadworth’. ‘Queen Vale’ has also changed to ‘Queen Vail’ and used to be ‘Queen Veil’. The novels also use ‘Gryps’ and ‘Lindvolus’ for the other two Festas (a team and individual battle respectively) and I have no idea how CR managed to pull some of the translations they did out of their asses. Why not change ‘Julis’ to ‘Yoolease’ while you’re at it?
And secondly, I love how Saya ended up hijacking Claudia’s CG segments at the end of each episode. They even lampshaded events by saying stuff like ‘Ayato got an easy win!’ or ‘Remember that Lester is still a Page One!’
How easy was it to guess that Lester wasn’t the perpetrator? He was clearly too obvious a suspect, but then again it’s not like we expect the most gripping of plot twists from a school battle harem. Lester is a bit of an asshole, but he has his own honour and his own set of morals. He wants to destroy Julis, but only by his own strength and in an official match – that’s why he was so stubborn about getting Julis to accept his request for a duel, and that’s why he got so angry when Ayato suggested he broke protocol and cowardly attacked Julis. I suppose it was hard to suspect that dorky-looking henchman either way, given how insignificant he was and ended up being – this first arc was primarily designed to introduce the setting, as well as the sorts of powers and restrictions Ayato has.
In comparison to Ikki and Takeru (with Lapis) Ayato probably is the worst off of this season’s three protagonists in his ‘default’ sealed state. He can barely avoid attacks, and is pretty much a goner once his time limit passes as he can’t move entirely. Ikki and Takeru can still fight perfectly well without using Itto Shura or Soumatou, and they act more like trump cards instead of being virtually required for – and Soumatou is not as taxing in the short-run anyway (but if we’re talking about Takeru without Lapis, he’s useless). Here is where money factors in, though. The final fight of this arc wasn’t even that gripping, but when Ayato used a technique from his Amagiri Shinmei-ryu, A-1 actually bothered to animate each of the individual nine strikes. The difference between that and Yamata no Orochi from the first arc in AntiMagic was that in the latter, all they showed were multiple cuts on a black screen before the enemy was killed.
Ayato is probably also the biggest pansy of the three, in terms of voice (although it does get surprisingly manly when he’s serious) and how he responds to his harem throwing himself at him. Takeru reassures Ouka that him accidentally groping her is okay because he likes flat chests instead (and true to his word, he doesn’t stop staring at a naked Mari) while Ikki is by default a better romantic than Ayato by virtue of being in an actual relationship. Ayato was disappointing when Claudia made moves on him. I’m not even that much of a Claudia fan, and I thought his banter game was terribly poor. I also always found his ‘protecting Julis is my purpose’ motivation to be a little weird, especially as they merely met each other a few days ago, but I guess it’s a prelude to him realizing he loves her or something.
What I did like about the arc was that it set the scene well for the future, with a bit of foreshadowing for the Integrated Enterprise Foundation and the friends Julis made at the orphanage (including her white-haired best friend, who is now the Rank #1 at Le Wolfe). Unlike in Rakudai, the other schools participating in the Phoenix Festa are not going to have minimal appearances – a whole chunk of the story focuses on the politics between the six schools in Asterisk, and the various agendas they all have. Allekant and Le Wolfe are the focus of this season, and the second cour will introduce Queen Vale, World Dragon and Garrardworth (although you only properly get to know them in Volume 7, which is beyond the bounds of this adaptation). I actually thought Ernesta was voiced by Yuuki Aoi when she appeared post-credits, so I got all excited until I went and checked. Akasaki Chinatsu is diversifying her voice range, it seems.
Kirin is cute! Cute! But I have to admit that, of the two lolis in the main cast I do prefer Saya. And Ernesta ended up being quite fun too. As an arc, it ended up being less about Kirin and more about Allekant continuing to mess around with Seidoukan in an attempt to derail them before the Phoenix. I thought the anime managed to summarize the world-building aspects really well, aided of course by the fact that they had a lot of breathing room to work with. Allekant is made up of various factions, with the largest one assuming the status of the school’s ‘representative’ to the rest of Asterisk. It was also implied (but not stated outright, unlike in the light novels) that the Student Council President of Allekant is merely a figurehead, unlike the other five who are there on their on merits. The true leadership of Allekant lies with the factions, the largest of which is currently Ferrovius.
I’m glad they kept in the Rikka Garden Council meeting as the opening scene of the arc, the politics was a pretty interesting read. I remember the novels stressing how scary Dirk was (voiced by based Sugita) although the image of him I had in my head was a little different – all this time I expected him to be an extremely scary midget. Ernest Fairclough of Garrardworth was perfect though. The meeting between all the SCPs is supposed to be a collaborative, friendly affair, but in reality it’s a series of politically charged talks with shit-flinging occurring whenever possible. By no means are they ‘friends’ – all of them have their own secret police, for example (Shadow Stars is the one at Seidoukan, of which Yabuki is a member) and Allekant had a price to pay to shut Seidoukan up for the incident in the first arc.
It was surprising that they didn’t go into more detail about artificial intelligences in the Phoenix – they hinted at it, with Ernesta and Camilla’s two autonomous robots appearing ominously in one scene, but other than that the only references to AI were through the odd slime creatures sent out by Tenorio (unlike Kirin, I don’t find them cute at all). Both the ‘fight’ against the slime dragon and the final duel between Ayato and Kirin felt anti-climactic to me – the novels made them both sound very flashy, and the Kirin one in particular really played down the ‘Conjoined Cranes’ technique of the Toudou-style. It also felt like they glossed over Ayato becoming Rank #1 at Seidoukan – the very fact that ranks could change in such a volatile fashion should have been highlighted a bit more. I think in general, the novels tried to emphasize how strong and dangerous Kirin was, while the anime reduced her to a cute oppai loli. Not the smartest decision, but well… I guess even A-1 aren’t immune to the tendency of falling back on fanservice.
If the last arc was an Allekant one, then this was definitely a Le Wolfe one. I found myself enjoying it a lot more than the other two, possibly because the Phoenix actually started in these last four episodes. Ayato managed to pretend that his seal-breaking was a ‘performance’ up until the very last episode, and we were introduced to future game players like Madiath Mesa, who is sure to be a Dirk-level pain in the ass in later plot developments. He essentially joined the top brass of the IEF without having his emotions suppressed, meaning that his actions are potentially taken for his own self-interest instead of being for the benefit of the IEF as a whole.
The copious amounts of Irene being cool also helped. I have to say, they made her a lot more moe than I expected – I know she’s all soft for Priscilla, but she looks outright comfy when not being possessed by Gravi-Sheath. That dinner scene in Episode 11 was particularly cute. Much like how Kirin’s addition to the cast was accompanied by more exposition for Allekant, we learnt a lot more about Le Wolfe and its SCP, Dirk. What the anime sadly failed to mention was that he isn’t a high-ranking Genestella in Le Wolfe – he’s the only SCP to not be in whatever the Le Wolfe equivalent of Seidoukan’s Page One is. And yet, he’s managed to rein in more of Le Wolfe than any other SCP before him, primarily through manipulation and making people like Irene indebted to him. Now that he’s the SCP, he can stop people targeting him by having the Black Cats (Le Wolfe’s secret police, their version of the Shadow Stars) protect him. Dirk is a scary guy, and one of my favourite supporting characters – I’m not sure how well the anime portrayed him as someone dangerous, as opposed to someone eternally pissed off. His clutzy secretary doesn’t help (I think her tarots are always 100% wrong or something, so he keeps her around for reverse predictions).
As for today’s episode, it did pretty well for itself as a mini-finale. It was always quite impressive that Irene was basically fighting two-on-one fights every round, although Priscilla does help out by acting as a walking blood donor. It’s also just the nature of the Phoenix. The final match-up involved A-1 triumphantly making money rain down from the sky and asserting its dominance, proving that in modern society, deep pockets really do win. It really was wonderfully animated though. The close combat between Irene and Ayato, the fire magic by Julis, the final Gurren Lagann-style animation as Ayato smashed Gravi-Sheath to bits – it was all great. It felt like the first real match in the series with high stakes, where Ayato and Julis were genuinely in danger of losing because their opponent was truly tough – and by necessity, that made it the best fight scene in the series so far.
It was good. I liked Asterisk, this adaptation was a fair representation of how I felt about it after I first finished reading the novels. And today’s finale set stuff up well for the future – a plot-line involving Haruka, and proper introductions by World Dragon, Garrardworth and Queen Vale’s SCP, Sylvia. It didn’t have the most original plot, as many were all too happy to point out at the start of the season, but neither was it boring. It had other weaknesses too, such as its character cast (relatively, anyway) and lack of proper tension. But as it’s a split-cour, this shouldn’t be taken to represent a finale, because after all it’s not a finale – it’ll be back in Spring 2016, after A-1 mess around with Boku Dake ga Inai Machi and Hai to Gensou no Grimgar. In other words, Asterisk is pacing itself to keep its character development and plot progress evenly split across two cours.
I’ve already beaten this poor horse to death in my AntiMagic posts, but if you haven’t read them due to not watching the show (maybe you read them anyway, just to laugh at how bad it ended up being) the Asterisk v AntiMagic v Rakudai debate is pretty much this season’s tripartite school battle harem war. As someone who has, at this point, watched all three, I can say that all were amusing enough, and worth your time if you like this sort of thing. But despite being a very vocal supporter of the AntiMagic source novels, I have to admit that the debate very quickly became just Asterisk v Rakudai.
A wonderful analogy I came across is that of a Cold War between the three school battle harems. Asterisk is the USA: it is an A-1 show propped up by Aniplex and filled with lightsabers and holograms, and the USA is a capitalist nation. Rakudai is the USSR: it is a Silver Link show with less money, and the USSR was a communist nation. AntiMagic should have been China, or the PRC, but ended up being North Korea.
In fact, this analogy is an eerie mirror of world history. Asterisk and Rakudai, like the USA and USSR, are the two main forces – same but different. AntiMagic’s source novels represent China – they get better after Volume 5, and China eventually becomes a strong competitor in the Cold War. China outlasted the USSR and became the new rival to the USA, and AntiMagic could have been a contender to Asterisk had it had two cours. Meanwhile, the USA outlasted the USSR, much like how Asterisk got two cours to Rakudai’s one – the latter isn’t ever going to make it past the preliminaries, while we’re going straight to the end of the Phoenix with Asterisk. North Korea is what AntiMagic and its Silver Link B-team ended up being – a disliked nation supported by China for practical reasons.
In summary then, and by all means disagree with me and tell me why:
Overall (Adaptation): Asterisk > Rakudai > AntiMagic
Overall (Source Material): AntiMagic > Rakudai > Asterisk
Animation: Asterisk > Rakudai > AntiMagic
Pacing: Asterisk > Rakudai > AntiMagic
Voice Cast: AntiMagic > Asterisk > Rakudai
OST: AntiMagic > Rakudai > Asterisk
Fight Scenes: Rakudai > Asterisk > AntiMagic
OP: Brave-New World > Identity > Embrace Blade
ED: I’m Waiting for the Rain/Miss ‘I Don’t Do Character Songs, Thank You’ > Itou Kanae > Ali Project
Director: Ono Manabu > Oonuma Shin > Literally Who?
Main Girl: Julis > Ouka > Stella
Haremette: Mari > Shizuku > Kirin
Best Girl: Lapis > Ernesta > Tohka
Best Boy: Hayato > Dirk > Kuraudo
Best Sword: Lapis > Ser-Veresta > Intetsu
Main Character: Ikki > Takeru > Ayato
Power-Up: Itto Shura > Soumatou > Zenryoku Zenkai
tl;dr As Hotarun would say, ‘real money talks’