Dec 19, 2015
HaXXspetten (All reviews)
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk is a series which starts off as one of the most uninspiring anime I've ever seen throughout its first few episodes, but past a certain point it starts improving quite rapidly. Granted that doesn't really say very much given how mediocre the opening is, but despite the lackluster start it manages to make a quite impressive comeback and eventually become a pretty enjoyable anime.

First things first though, episodes 1-4 of Asterisk didn't exactly give me a very good first impression because they are *painfully* generic. Like if you've seen any typical action/fantasy/ecchi/harem magic academy anime before, you should know roughly what clichés to expect, and I'll just say that initially Asterisk has effectively all of them. Our protagonist Ayato transfers into a new school and walks in on the tsundere female lead Julis in her underwear within 3 minutes of the first episode and 'accidentally' grabs her breasts, he meets his new classmates and immediately becomes surrounded by a bunch of girls who fall in love with him for whatever reason, he's given a powerful magic sword which he just so happened to be the 'chosen one' to wield and thus becomes super overpowered... you get the idea. Basically it's all been done countless times before and I'm really getting sick of it at this point. As a side note there's also this one scene which blatantly rips off the light sabers from Star Wars for some reason, even the sound effects were completely the same... well whatever.

Anyway, then starting from episode 5 (what I presume is the beginning of the second volume of the light novel), something happens to this anime which slowly but surely turns it into something different. And it comes with the introduction of a girl named Kirin; a very shy and nervous girl, yet also the top-ranked student in the school in terms of fighting prowess. The story starts putting a surprising amount of focus on her character and backstory, and in the process it downright sneakily goes *away* from the abundance of overused clichés it had in the first few episodes. Suddenly the amount of fanservice and romcom shenanigans is severely toned down, and instead we actually get some real depth and character development. Sure, it only really involves Kirin herself and our protagonist Ayato, but it was still a breath of fresh air compared to just having content I've already seen a hundred times before in other anime. And plot progression aside, I personally found Kirin to be by far and wide the most likeable girl in Asterisk's character cast anyway so I guess it was a win-win scenario in that sense.

Now I haven't read the light novels of Asterisk, but based on the contents of the anime I'm presuming it's covering every volume in 4 episodes each. And thus I was a bit worried that it'd start to get worse again after the anime had finished up on the contents of volume 2 which seemed to be the Kirin-focused one. Fortunately however that didn't turn out to be the case, as starting with episode 9 we finally get into what I guess can be called the 'main' story of this series. Introducing the Festa: a grand series of tournaments where the students of the six different magic academies in the city of Asterisk fight each other to showcase their talent and technological development. The price they're all fighting for is the opportunity to have any one wish of theirs granted. Naturally, Ayato and the girls are competing as well. Normally I'm not a fan of action in ecchi anime since it tends to end up rather incompatible with its own fanservice, but Asterisk does a respectable job at keeping the two sides separate from one another. As a result, the duels in the Festa are actually not that bad, and A-1 Pictures' are not exactly newbies when it comes to creating fancy special effects in shounen battles, so the visuals are pretty decent too.

When Gakusen Toshi Asterisk started airing, I considered it one of my least favorite shows of the season. Not that it's finished however; I'd say it's a perfectly acceptable show. Not anything amazing by any means of course, but if you just want an easily enjoyable way to spend 20 minutes every weekend... then this anime pulls it off very well. Discounting the generic and unimpressive opening, it has pretty decent fight scenes and production value, as well as good characterization for at least part of its cast. Oh and for you pervs out there who are just intending to watch this for the ecchi tag, I'd recommend you to look somewhere else; Asterisk really doesn't have very much of that at all.

I cannot make a proper evaluation of the story as a whole though for the simple reason that... well this is a split-cour. At the time of writing this we've still only gotten to see half of what the anime has to offer, with the second season airing in Spring 2016. However the Festa is a huge event, and there's plenty of action left to showcase on that front, so the second cour might very well be even better than the first. Fingers crossed.