The Asterisk War
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water ?
To this point The Asterisk War has looked and felt every bit like a typical super-powered, school-based battle anime. While episode 4 does not show any shining sign that the series has the potential to be more than that (or, for that matter, is even striving to be more), it does at least show that it is going to be a competent representative of its genre. That happens because a heavy emphasis on action does not deter it from an ultimately more important development: that Ayato and Julis actually do make a pretty good couple.
There were signs of this last episode during the conversations in Julis's room about the orphanage and Ayato's reasoning after that about how he wanted to make his purpose to protect and support Julis, but that finally fully crystallizes in this episode when the opportunity arises for them to properly work together in a fight. A classic tsundere Julis may be, but that she does not resist or protest much against Ayato swooping in to her rescue, and instead actually uses her powers to help him pursue a foe that is trying to get away, shows that she is not going to fight off accepting him too strenuously. When they use their powers together they make a pretty fearsome team, too; bad guys in series like this often get off easy because the heroic couple is too skittish about fully cooperating with each other, so if this keeps up then it will be both a welcome change of pace and bad news for anyone who opposes them. The more tender scene after the battle is over, when Ayato is talking with Julis while lying in her lap, only further cements that there is actual chemistry between the two and not just them being forced together for plot convenience's sake. Too bad for Claudia, although as the late scenes of the episode show, she has her own priorities and considerations (and a nasty side that she had not previously shown), and as much as she might be interested in Ayato herself, him synching with Julis fulfills them, too.
The actual story for the episode involves Julis going to an abandoned building to confront the letter-sender from the previous episode, which proves to be Silas Norman, who had been one of Lester's supposed flunkies but is actually the mastermind behind the attacks. His plan was to get Lester and Julis to take each other out, and Lester's not keen on his subterfuge when he also arrives on the scene. (Apparently my judgment about him last episode – that he's principled thug – was not off.) That leads to a battle where Lester and Julis are threatened with being overwhelmed by the horde of mechanical puppets Silas manipulates, though Julis does deduce his true affiliation from that. Lester and Julis both acquit themselves well at first but are gradually overwhelmed, which gives Ayato the perfect opportunity to play the hero by literally sweeping Julis off her feet and using Ser Veresta to show the full extent of his power. (Note that Lester gets totally forgotten about in this scenario.) Afterwards we get hints that Silas was just a pawn for others, which presumably provides the set-up for the next plot arc since the story feels like it has reached the end of the first novel.
The big flaw here is that Ayato and Julis have an overly-long and too-casual conversation immediately after escaping from harm's way but in a situation where a continuing threat was quite reasonably imminent. Some may also not take too kindly to a heroine who is quite clearly strong in her own right being carried around by the heroic male lead while he fights (and no matter how much of a stud Ayato is, that she wouldn't have been in his way like that strains credibility). As cool as it makes Ayato look, that could very definitely be taken negatively, though the smirk on Julis's face at times during the scene suggests that she's pretty happy having someone fight with/for her for a change. The battle also takes a lot of shortcuts, so it's hardly an animation wonder. Still, its flash and energy and capable musical support show that its battle staging can also be one of the series' strengths.
Next episode the other girl who has been shown in the OP will debut, which undoubtedly means another potential love interest for Ayato. Right now, though, he has a good thing going with Julis, and if the series' writing is wise then it will keep the romantic emphasis on that.
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