Sunday, January 17, 2016

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Review

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk Review

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the first season of Gakusen Toshi Asterisk. If you wish not to know some plot details, or simply don't wish to find out what happens in the series, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched the show. Or you know, you can continue to read, since you don't care about spoilers.

Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:

Besides fanservice and reverse harem anime, animes that are based off of light novels tend to get a bad reputation. And it's unfortunately easy to see why. A lot of these light novels have elements in them that have been used elsewhere, and possibly better. It's hard to pinpoint why these shows became really popular, but my guess is with Infinite Stratos.

When some of these shows come along, I automatically will either give it a chance or dismiss it without a second glance. Some of them turn out to be really good without it having to rely on its cliches every time (Bladedance of the Elementalers in my opinion) and others turn out to be very subpar or just plain bird s**t (Absolute Duo, Sky Wizards Academy). Though some are waiting to be seen by me, I'm still wondering to see if there will be any out there to surprise me. A show that could easily do what Bladedance did but better.

At first, I was a little skeptical to watch Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (or as I like to call it sometimes, Asterisk) due to the fact that these types of shows aren't well received, but when I saw the seiyuu cast, I was immediately impressed with the mix of newer and older talent that they managed to get, with some I've heard a lot from, and others not at all. So, I was hoping that this show would be able to push itself and manage to impress. Did it do its job?

I'm really glad to say that it did. As of now, this is my favorite show out of this particular sub-genre we typically see in anime. It's slightly better than Bladedance too, as Asterisk manages to have more likable and developed main characters. The series is also really interesting story-wise with all of the cliches that are bound to pop up, but the show's smart enough to not only rely on those. A couple of nitpicks were found here and there, but overall, this series was very good. Hopefully we are able to see more of these shows that aren't too generic and have some decent qualities.

Story time with Dazz is about to start!


In an alternate 20th century, a meteor storm called Invertia struck the Earth. It left behind destruction, with several cities around the world graced with its impact. However, an element within the meteor was discovered, known as mana. This allowed for humans to be born with special abilities, known as Genestella. The Genestella compete against each other at the Festas, a competition between schools in the city of Rikka, given the nickname Asterisk. A new transfer student to the school Seidokan Academy, Ayato Amagiri, arrives in hopes of finding his lost sister, but gets more than he expects.

After seeing a handkerchief fall out of a window, he decides to go into the room where it fell from, only to find the person getting dressed into her school uniform. Her name is Julis-Alexis von Riessfelt (keeping up with the extravagant names I see, LN writers), and has to duel her, even though she still thanked him for returning the handkerchief to her. Since, you know, he saw her almost naked.

Their duel gets interrupted when a spear of light comes down, and Ayato shields Julis in order for her not to get hit by it. He then gets told about the school's history with the Festas by Claudia, the student council president who invited Ayato to the school, and who may have an obvious crush on him.

After setting his sights on protecting Julis from the person out to get her, and agreeing upon being her partner for the Festas, it's time for a couple of other issues to sort out, such as Kirin, the school's number 1, who's being pressured by her uncle to never lose in order to get her father out of jail, and Allekant causing some ruffled feathers in testing out our lead's power. When the Phoenix Festa approaches with some interesting competition, will Julis and Ayato come out on top?

Overall, I thought the story for Asterisk was pretty nice. Each of the arcs are paced well (with about 3-4 episodes devoted to each arc), and I enjoyed most of the battles that this anime offered. Of course, much like other LN based shows, some of the background development of the school or the Genestella aren't really explored as well as I would like, but for this series, I could ignore that a little bit more.

The main prop I give to this show is trying their hardest to make sure everything isn't cliche, even though there will be something inevitable that will pop up. There's no boob groping, no countless situations where it's expected to show off skin, no "You pervert!" every 5 minutes, and there's no misunderstandings. Of course, there's a little bit of jealousy, but some of that was actually comical, at least to me.

Let's talk about the characters now:


At first glance, most of these characters would be easily discarded based on common stereotypes. Such as the overpowered special snowflake MC, the tsundere, a girl with big breasts, etc. But in a way, some development is given to these characters throughout the show that gives them some depth that balances that particular character out. Not all of our main characters get this, but most of them do. A plus!

Ayato will be up first:

Hello Stereotypical Main Male Character who we all know and love to death! However, Ayato kind of manages to escape that by a hair. He transfers to Seidokan Academy in order to find out more about his older sister Haruka's disappearance a few years ago, and to figure out his own purpose. Though Ayato for the most part can be kind of dense, he has a serious side that comes out during battles. And it's pretty awesome to see.

He later realizes that its his duty to help protect Julis (though she can easily do fighting on our own), and partners up with her to compete in the Phoenix Festa. He posses an extraordinary amount of power, which is revealed in his handling of the Ser Vesta (possibly the one his sister used). However, he can only show off his power for a limit of 5 minutes before it becomes shackled, which causes a lot of pain.

I have to say Ayato reminds me of Kamito here. Though with less misunderstandings and the girls all trying to seduce him (besides Claudia), Ayato manages to remain strong-headed, and his relationship with Julis is pretty cute. Even though I felt a good connection with the other main girls, it's easily felt the most with Julis. Also, Ayato can easily be kickass when he wants to be, which is an added bonus.

Now it's Julis's turn:

Out of the tsunderes I've seen in anime, Julis isn't one of the more typical ones I'd expect to see. She isn't always going "You leech!" and trying to find ways to make Ayato hers. She's not all grumpy 24/7. Plus, she's hilarious when she gets all flustered.

Julis is Rank #5 at Seidokan, and wields the weapon Aspera Spina. She has the power to control fire, and is known as a Strega (which means witch) because of that. She can be very cold to most people, but manages to warm up to Ayato after getting shielded from the arrow and for the handkerchief. Out of her and Ayato, she is the strategist, though easily joins in a battle if needed to do so. She is also a princess from the small country of Lieseltania in Europe (which I'm pretty sure is fictional)

Her main reason for fighting is to earn money for an orphanage she used to visit when she was young. She would always run off from her home, and was saved by a group from there when a group of thugs approached her. Her handkerchief is also a memento from there, and one she deeply treasures.

Overall, I really liked Julis. I like how she's fighting for a reason, and I really like her look and personality in general. I'm glad she warmed up to Ayato in the way she did, and for a main female character from this kind of show, it's definitely a good thing.

Claudia's next in line:

Like I mentioned earlier, Claudia is the student council president of Seidokan Academy and helped Ayato get into the school. She has been the president since her junior high years, and her ultimate goal is to win the Gryps Festa. Her Lux, Pan-Dora, allows her to see into the future (which includes her own death multiple times). It also manages to unlock another side of her personality, making her way more mischievous than she can be. She also likes seducing Ayato. A lot.

Claudia isn't the most interesting character out of the set of girls, but I don't mind her too much. Though I wish she got a little more screen-time (that's mainly toward the end, though), I still liked her development (or what we got), and she reminds me of Chiffon Fairchild from Freezing: seems to be sweet and innocent on the surface, but is hiding something darker underneath.

Saya's now up:

The daughter of a weapons manufacturer and Ayato's childhood friend, she moved to Germany due to her father's work. Because of that, both of them lost touch for a little while. She has very short stature, but doesn't let that bother her. She can be a bit air-headed, often speaking in a robotic tone, but can actually be pretty intelligent. She and Julis get into a couple of mild arguments about Ayato, such as who was more capable to show him around Rika in Episode 2, but they manage to call truces, unlike other characters I've seen from these adaptions.

Her main Lux is a grenade launcher made by her father, which is called Helnekrom. She wants to fight in the Festa because she wants to defend her father, and often becomes defensive when people insult him. She becomes a duo with Kirin in the Phoenix Festa at the end of the series.

Overall, Saya was my least favorite out of the main cast. I did think she was pretty entertaining and she had some great moments, but I found her a little stale. Perhaps it was her demeanor that is to blame? And maybe not as much development compared to the rest of the girls? Overall, I think she'll be better in the second season, so she can only go up from here.

Kirin will be the last character I'll talk about:

The #1 ranked student at Seidokan Academy, she got the ranking despite only being 13 years old. But let's just say her age doesn't match up with her skill. She never loses any of the duels she participates in, and always come out on top. This is because her uncle constantly pressures her to participate in duels in order to get her father out of prison, since he works for a very important company that may help free him. After dueling with Ayato when he defends her against her uncle, she spends more time with him in training, and during a battle caused by Allekant, she decides to follow her own path and not be a puppet in her uncle's orders.

She further establishes this by having a rematch with Ayato (and losing in the process), and teaming up with Saya to compete in the Phoenix Festa. Though she doesn't use a Lux, she does wield a katana and has super fast speed.

Overall, Kirin was super adorable. I really liked her personality, and how she was able to grow stronger later on in the series. She is quite good in battle, and her chemistry was Saya is actually very funny later on, especially when Saya tries to grope one of Kirin's breasts in Episode 10.

This show, like BlazBlue Alter Memory and Gangsta, does have a big cast. However, a couple of these characters only appear once or twice, so I'm just going to describe the recurring side characters.

We have Lester MacPhail, Seidokan's Rank 9 who has a bad temper and like to challenge Julis to fights since she beat him to get Rank 5, Randy and Silas are his friends who always follow him around. Eishiro, Ayato's dormmate who is in the Newspaper Club, Haruka, Ayato's older sister who appears in brief flashbacks, We also have the student council presidents from different schools other than Seidokan, such as Dirk from Le Wolfe, who has a slight involvement in the last battle at the Phoenix Festa. There's also Korona, his assistant. Ernesta, the puppet master, and Camilla, her reluctant sidekick, attend Allekant. We also have Ernesta's puppets, nicknamed AR-D and RM-C. And finally to round things off, we have Irene and Priscilla Urzaiz, sisters who attend Le Wolfe who Ayato and Julis go up against in Episode 12.


The studio behind animation for this series was A-1 Pictures, who are most known for animating the Uta no Prince Sama seasons, Black Butler, and Nanatsu no Taizai.

2015 wasn't the best year for A-1 Pictures, and I think everyone can agree to that. They took on a bunch of shows that quality began to fly right under their noses. I mainly noticed this in Uta Pri Season 3, especially towards the end. I can't just dwell on the Ranmaru shower scene A-1 as the best visual of your work this year! But let's not forget the fact that while Fairy Tail's animation has improved, the color scheme is now completely washed out, like it spent too much time on its rinse cycle. You guys are typically on the top of your game!

But thankfully this series has consistency all around, despite a few dips here and there. The fight scenes were very pretty with their effects, the characters moved well and looked good, and it was just a step-up compared to the majority of their series that came out last year.

Examples are below:


*applauds A-1 Pictures*

Thanks for improving. Now let's hope it sticks.


The score for the anime was composed by Rasmus Faber, a Swedish electronic music producer who has worked on some songs for Japanese artists in the past, including openings. This is his first OST credit though. He also composed the ending.

Overall, can I just say this OST slays? No really. Rasmus Faber easily produced one of the best anime OST's I heard in 2015. It's pretty epic, with a lot of electronic pieces that definitely got my blood pumping in some of the more serious action scenes. But I also liked the more laid-back pieces that this series had, because it established the fact how this score was really good all around. Hopefully Rasmus Faber composes more in the future, because I'd love to hear more of his work in anime. His song Hideaway outside of this series is pretty good as well.

Now onto voice work. Now for the most part, I have to say I was pretty impressed with most of the seiyuus in this lineup. A couple of them I haven't heard much from at all, or I got to hear a different voice/hear more of a particular seiyuu's range. It was pretty cool to hear Ai Kakuma's voice go deeper than I'd normally expect it do, as Julis's voice is a stark difference compared to Est from Bladedance and Anne from Maria the Virgin Witch.  But other than that, we had a lot of great performers.

Highlights for me are Atsushi Tamaru, Ai Kakuma, Shiori Izawa, Nao Toyoma, Ari Osawa, Takanori Hoshino, Yuichi Iguchi, Yuma Uchida, Takahiro Sakurai, Chinatsu Akasaki, Mutsumi Tamura, Wataru Hatano, Haruka Yoshimura, Tomokazu Sugita, Moe Toyota, Yumi Uchiyama, Juri Nagatsuma, Yukari Tamura, and Mai Nakahara.


Overall, I'm really happy this series managed to turn out as well as it did. This gives me at least some hope that these adaptions can provide something good out of them in the future, as I can see many others liking shows from this pool that I didn't. But this is probably the best show out of the ones I've seen, due to the more likable characters among other things.

I would recommend this show to people who like sci-fi and fantasy, are looking for a show in this genre that isn't too cliche or just meh, or want to see a show that gives something great and unexpected.

Score: 9/10


Good story.

Nice characters.

More consistent animation from A-1 Pictures.

Boss score.

Great seiyuu performances.

One of the better shows out of the LN "harem fantasy" pool.

Intense battles.


Some elements in story not explored as much.

Weakness in a couple of characters.

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