The Asterisk War
Episode 20

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 20 of
The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water (TV 2) ?

Episode 20 went almost exactly like I expected at the end of episode 19: show Ayato and Julis just barely hanging on in the finals while Saya and Kirin complete the rescue, then pulling our Ser-Vesta for the start of a dramatic comeback at the end, with the finale left for episode 21. However, it did have a few amusing and meaningful tidbits in the process.

The finals part of the episode is very predictable: after some posturing by AR-D, Ayato and Julis perform some initial cool stunts, which convince the robots to combining earlier than planned. AR-D has also gotten an upgrade in strength and how to use his shields tactically, which spells bad news for Ayato and Julis. The unpredictable part – and also one of the amusing little touches – is about how they get informed about the successful rescue of Flora, something that I had been wondering about given that contestants don't seem to be allowed outside communication during the battle: the little-used (this season) Claudia simply barges in to the play-by-play booth and announces it to the arena, without of course, adding context. So it looks like next episode we'll see if AR-D has any built-in answer for Ser=Vesta.

Meanwhile Saya and Kirin work together to counter the shadow-manipulating ninja dude. Frankly, this is the tenser and more interesting fight of the two, as it was more creative and seemed less likely that everyone would come out unscathed. Indeed, Kirin does suffer a bad hit in taking out the ninja, so we'll have to wait and see how she is faring next episode. Still, this fight, as well as Ayato and Julis's early actions, showcase the strength of the series: portraying the way its core characters work in unison, whether as pairs in an individual fight or a larger group splitting their efforts for an overall goal. Anime tends to focus so much on solo glory that it can often lose sight of the beauty to be found in well-coordinated attacks and defense where each participant fully has the back of the other. Kirin doesn't win against the ninja because she overpowers him on her own; she wins because Saya knew exactly how to support her to maximum efficiency, because they had practiced extensively together. While anime characters actually working together in a fight isn't that unusual, such endeavors are usually ad hoc; preparing like that to the point of perfect coordination is a relatively rare treat.

For all of that, though, I can't justify giving this episode a high grade because the main fight lacked punch. As much as I adore Julis and Ayato as a fully-supportive pair, too many of their fights have come up short on dynamism and this is one of them. I am beginning to wonder if the lackluster musical score is hindering them, or is it that their battles are more prone than Kirin and Saya's to have unwieldly pauses? Whatever it is, that factor is a major part of what's holding the series back from stepping up to a higher level.

Rating: B-

The Asterisk War is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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