The Asterisk War
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 5 of
The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water ?
The girl most in question, who first pops up in a collision with a hurrying Ayato early in the episode, becomes the dominant factor in the last third. She is Kirin Todou, a diminutive but still quite curvaceous girl who looks like she will be filling the Shy Girl position in Ayato's harem. (Okay, so she isn't officially enamored with Ayato yet, but there are already signs and anyone familiar with harem series knows what those signs mean.) She is firmly under the thumb of a domineering uncle who is not averse to slapping her around, something which the good-hearted Ayato cannot abide. He intervenes when he see it going on, and after checking out who Ayato is, the uncle agrees to accede to Ayato's wishes to stop it if he can defeat Kirin in a duel. His motivation for this is clear: he wants his niece to distinguish herself as much as possible, and defeating an Ogre Lux wielder would be another feather in her cap. In the duel she uses blazing speed to offset Ayato's power, which after a lengthy stand-off eventually leads to a clear win on her part as Ayato is reaching his limit on keeping the Ogre Lux active. Then Ayato learns from the upset Julis, who had wanted him to avoid frivolous duels so that his key weakness (i.e., that he can only function at top power level for about three minutes) wouldn't be revealed, that he has been dueling with Lightning Blade Speed, the school's #1 student.
That duel is far and away the highlight of the episode, and A-1 Pictures certainly put a lot of extra effort into animating it. Though the production uses cutaways to observers to reduce the animation load, when Ayato and Kirin have a greater sense of motion, of move and counter-move and battle flow, than most action scenes in TV series-level anime, especially ones in this class of series. It also takes the unusual move of not having Kirin use some kind of named power, power-up scenario, or “flash step” shortcut to show how she achieved claim to her nickname: she is simply shown being very fast and remarkably dexterous in her moves. The effort shown there blows away an earlier practice duel between Ayato and Julis, who is testing her partner's limits in preparation for the upcoming Festa.
Other things of future consequence are going on, too. Of lesser importance – but still something that many viewers wondered about – is that Lester came out of the mess last episode with no lasting harm and now seems to be on peaceable terms with Ayato, while Saya seems determined to butt heads (literally!) with Julis over being Ayato's partner; seeing her and Lester pair up would be more interesting, though, as otherwise she is just the necessary competition to maintain some illusion that the romantic pairing has not already been solidified. Meanwhile, Claudia is engaged in full-bore scheming at the Student Council President level, as suggested by a meeting she has with other SCPs in Asterisk (some of which are the aforementioned opener-appearing characters). She has apparently cut a deal with the rival tech-focused Allekant school over the manufacture of new Luxes, and as Julis astutely surmises when a couple of their representatives are escorted through Sedoukan by Claudia, Silas's role in the mess of the previous arc not being revealed (because he was affiliated with Allekant) is at the heart of it. One of the guests is the creator of the dolls Ayato, Julis, and Lester fought last episode, an overly-perky girl who clearly wanted to size up Ayato, while the other is a more serious-minded girl who seems inclined to pick a fight with Saya over how her summoned weapons are “outdated.” Doubtless the latter will set up some kind of conflict between the two later on.
While this episode ultimately does not do anything all that unusual – this is a standard point where harem series shake up their casts with new additions, after all – it gets a grade bump for how well the Ayato-Kirin duel was handled. It also provides plenty of fodder for the next story arc to work with.
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