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.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Paradise Kiss Review

Paradise Kiss Review

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the show Paradise Kiss. 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:

Since this series is classified as a coming-of-age tale, and seeing as I don't really see a lot of that in anime, I'd thought it'd be fun to talk about this first. I've read and seen plenty coming of age stories ranging from a great movie (The Way Way Back) to a literary classic which did nothing for me besides being a near sleeping aid (A Separate Peace). So seeing one in anime took me a bit by surprise.

I saw the first episode of this show in both Japanese and English the day I finished Karneval, when I was looking for new shows to watch. Though Paradise Kiss interested me with its fashion and animation, I decided to wait a little while before I hopped on the bandwagon. After a year of waiting and finding out this series was created by the same girl who created Nana (also want to see that down the road), I decided to watch this show with Luke, and then Sukisho, a show based off of a BL game which came out earlier in the year this show aired (2005), would come later.

So after my year of waiting, how did this turn out?

Well, this turned out to be quite the adventure. This show manged to be very memorable, as I cared about the characters' conflicts, the build-up of the story, and the animation. Though the series did falter a bit towards the end, with an ending that felt not much like one, I'm still glad I got the chance to watch it now instead of later.

How does this coming of age tale spins its web? Let's find out:


Yukari Hayasaka is a senior in high school who lives a fairly boring life. She attends regular and cram school in order to get into a good college per her mother's encouragement, and doesn't really have a life besides studying. After she runs into a couple of  senior design students who take her back to their shop known as the altier, her life is going to start to take a change. After being asked by them to model for their school's upcoming contest, Yukari initially refuses. However, after encountering the charmingly handsome leader of the group George Koizumi, she decides to go for it.

The group of Yazagaku Fashion School students have a starting label called Paradise Kiss (also known as ParaKiss) where all of them pitch in to help make designs for fun and cool outfits. As Yukari becomes close friends with them, and romantic feelings grow between her and George, she starts to question her life and the way its headed.

After an argument with her mother, Yukari decides to move out of her house to see what she wants to do, and how she'll do it. While cutting school, she stays in Arashi's (another member of the design team) apartment, thinks about college, becomes a model, ponders some more, and loses her virginity. 

This all happens within the span of six days. Lucky girl. Yukari's living her life right!

Wait, where was I again? Oh yeah, the story. 

After Hiroyuki, one of Yukari's classmates and her former crush, talks to her about where she's been and the path she's been going on, he decides to help her get back into the routine of going to school after cutting it for about a week. She also goes back to her mom, but only if she listens to her about her new path in life rather than studying. As the fashion contest creeps closer, what will happen to our characters? And more importantly, what do they want to do with their lives?

Overall, the story for Paradise Kiss has a moderate pace. I like the build-up to the fashion show, and other key elements, such as the growing sexual tension between Yukari and George. But I think this show is definitely great at making you feel for most of the characters' struggles, either personal or romantic. It's pretty interesting to see that a show does this for other characters besides the leads, and it's done well here.

Unfortunately, the show can get a little dull at times, though not as soul-sucking as a couple of moments from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU or Dance with Devils. This mainly happens in the latter half, which affected a bit of my enjoyment. But the ending is where the show kind of weakens a bit more.

The final episode doesn't necessarily feel like one, due to the fact that it's a bit slow, and plot threads are picked up that weren't addressed before. Though the ending is pretty bittersweet, the events that are introduced or other issues the characters faced are either tied up way too nicely or are not addressed. There's some things I'm still curious about for the characters and what will happen, but the show doesn't really answer those questions. Which is honestly a bit of a shame, because most of the episodes were still good as a whole.

So besides the show's tendency to get a bit boring at times and the last episode's ending, the story's pretty good for the most part. It could have been a bit stronger, but for what we have, I'm down for it.

The characters are up next!


Unlike some other shows, Paradise Kiss easily establishes its main cast without any problems. Some of the side characters don't really get tangled in the plot besides a few, and most of them are forgettable anyways. Besides Arashi, who sadly didn't get as much of the development as some of his fellow friends did (Isabella got a little more in the end), we do get one thing about his childhood. That will be further addressed when I talk about Miwako.

Let's go over Yukari first:

Yukari, also known as Caroline (the nickname Miwako gives her), isn't the most interesting character to start off with. The only fun she's known is studying, considering the fact that her mother wishes for her to go to a really good university. But it's not until she discovers ParaKiss and when she gets a makeover (her bags are cut off) does she start to come out of her shell.

Besides becoming a model, Yukari's ambitions and her personality start to warm up. She becomes more focused on pursuing a dream, even though she isn't sure exactly what she wants to do besides modeling. She also develops strong feelings for George, even though at times he can be a bit cold. But she grows a lot as a character, becoming more confident in what she can do.

As a whole, Yukari is pretty rootable throughout the series as she becomes her own person rather than a hollow shell. Though she can get a little dis-trustworthy of George, and maybe a bit too clingy, most of the time she does understand things that tick her off, and she will act on them. She handled running away from home with high maturity, and I don't think she was ever scared. Which, to be honest, is quite surprising.

Now onto George:

In some ways, George is easily a Manic Pixie Dream Boy. He's whimsical, doesn't really change in personality throughout the series (his background is developed), serves as the romantic interest to a character whose life isn't very special, and being very very handsome. So basically, think the Zooey Deschanel of anime:

But outside of that, I think George is a fairly decent character, one who's probably the most interesting out of the show outside of his green-blue hair color.

George has a knack for fashion design, mainly in designing haute couture clothes. Although he can appear as distant and cold (which he can show at various parts of the show), he often has very extravagant taste that wouldn't be normally accepted in mainstream fashion. He lives in a very fancy house and drives a vintage Jaguar. He wants Yukari to make her own decisions, as well as manage to take responsibility for how they end up. He often refers to her as his muse, as well as a tease.

In a way, I do like George. I really like his look, and his ability to act as someone who can help Yukari dig out of her boring monotonous life. He also has pretty impeccable fashion sense, which include feather boas or just really sweet suits. At the same time, there are points where one can get irritated with George, especially when he acts colder to Yukari, or in the final episode, where he decides to drop his dreams of designing right out the door for really no reason. Though I think he still manages to fit into some expectations of the Manic Pixie Dream character, he also is his own, which does work out in the end.

Miwako is up last for the character section:

Miwako is the younger sister of Mikako, the main character from another work by Ai Yazawa, Gokinjo Monogatari. Then again, this series does take place within the same universe, so it makes sense why she's here. Mikako owns a fashion line named Happy Berry, and her little sister wishes to work in the future under her sister's footsteps.

Miwako is very bubbly and happy, shown through her Lolita style of dress and her optimistic attitude. She also tends to act a little childish during some situations, and is currently in a relationship with Arashi. Arashi was one of her childhood friends, along with Hiroyuki, Yukari's cram school classmate and her former crush. Miwako used to love Hiroyuki, but her developing feelings caused Arashi to become jealous and their friendship is split up due to that. However, she still believes Arashi is a kind person, even through his rough attitude. 

Some times, she is seen carrying a jar of konpeito candy, a Japanese candy shaped like stars, which helps to make her feel better as it reminds her of being loved by many people. In the anime, this is only seen once, but is mentioned a couple of times later.

Miwako is my favorite character from this anime simply because she is super adorable and I love her bubbly spirit. She always managed to put a smile on my face, ranging from her outfits to her personality. I really liked her relationship with Arashi, because even though they went through a couple of issues, they always seemed to make up once Arashi dropped his jealousy guard down, especially after Miwako gets into contact with Hiroyuki again. And their relationship never felt toxic to me whatsoever, it felt generally caring.

Other characters in the ParaKiss group include Arashi, Miwako's boyfriend who has a very tough appearance with his 2 clothespin piercings, and his demeanor. He also feels inferior to Hiroyuki, which is the main cause of his jealousy. There is also Isabella, a transgender woman who is the named mother of the Yazagaku students, who became able to express herself in dresses thanks to George.

Other than that, we have Hiroyuki, Yukari's studious classmate from cram school, Yukino, George's mother, Mikako, Seiji, a hair stylist who is close friends with George, Alice, Miwako's niece, Yukari's mother and brother. And finally, Kaori, a former student of Yazagaku student who now studies aboard after winning the second year fashion show. There's some others too, but like I mentioned earlier, they're mostly forgettable.


The animation for this series was produced by Madhouse, who are mainly known for their work on One Punch Man, the 2011 series of Hunter x Hunter, and Kobato.

As a studio, Madhouse has failed to let me down. They are known for some very pretty animation, and this series definitely has that. While some of the mouth movements did get a bit off at some points of the show, the animation is still very consistent. Some of the fashion looks mouthwatering, the characters all look good, and there's some really cute introductory bits with various objects during the early parts of the series that are super adorable.

Also, can I applaud Madhouse with the way they handled Yukari and George's first time? I've seen anime that has more sexual content with nudity or kissing, as well as in books. The way that Paradise Kiss handles it makes this scene highly apparent, but doesn't do much to overly sexualize it to the point of someone getting uncomfortable by it. It's done in a classy way that doesn't try to harp on any excessive elements to make it oh so right.

High five!

Besides that, the animation is easily one of the best parts of the show. For mid-2000s standards, it fits the bill.


The score for this series was composed by the musician NARASAKI from the band (I assume at least) COALTAR OF DEEPERS THE BABYS. Aside from this, he has no other credits for anime scores.

Overall, the score for this series is a bit forgettable. There's some pieces that stick out, but the majority of it feels non-existent. I can't really say much about it, because its one of those scores that I don't really think back out. The opening and ending are good though, so that's a big plus. A bigger plus for an band outside of Japan to have a song of theirs featured as an ending theme (that being Franz Ferdinand's Do You Want To).

As for the voice work, the casting for this show is Japanese is actually kind of 
interesting. We have Yu Yamada, who mainly works as a model, playing Yukari (who becomes one), and Shunsuke Mizutani, the vocalist and guitarist of the Japanese rock band THE BABYS as Arashi (who I'm pretty sure is a performer himself). Both do pretty well among the others, and they sound pretty natural while handling probably their first time behind the mic for an anime. Though I haven't watch much of the English to fully give my impression on it, the first episode is pretty good. Again, everyone sounds fine (Patrick Seitz is easily my favorite thus far), and hopefully I can see more of it in the future.

Highlights in the original Japanese are Yu Yamada, Kenji Hamada, Marika Matsumoto, Shunsuke Mizutani, Chiharu Suzuka, Shinichiro Miki, and Rumi Shishido.


As a whole, I'm really glad I watched this show. The story was good, the characters were nice, and the animation is absolutely beautiful. Though I wish the series had a slightly better ending, and some various other things were slightly stronger, I'd say this show was right up my alley.

This is recommended to people who have seen Nana and want to see another anime adaption from the same manga author (also the same animation studio), or are looking for a good coming of age tale with good heart and charm. Oh, and don't forget the fashion!

Score: 8/10


Good story.

Great main characters.

Fantastic animation.

Show makes you understand struggles of the characters.

Respectful handling of sex scene.

Nice build-up to main event.


Ending feels too abrupt; show can get a bit boring at times.

Some of the side characters aren't interesting.

Minor mouth issues in animation.

Slightly dull score.