It was a surprise. A treat of sorts. Kind of like when you ask to borrow $10 and your parents say they only have a 20 as you take it from them. I wholeheartedly expected season 2 of Gakusen Toshi Asterisk to be about as fun as sitting in a waiting room for four hours next to a crying toddler. But what I found was an action-packed anime that had me gripped.
So what set season 2 apart from the depressing beginnings of season 1? To put it simply – it played up its strengths and minimised its shortfalls. This isn’t to say the shortfalls weren’t there – we still had to witness girls throwing themselves at Ayato as if he was the last scoop of ice-cream on a scorching hot day (don’t judge me for my strange analogy). But we saw this much less often, to a point where it wasn’t overwhelming.
Similarly, with a large focus placed on the Phoenix Festa – a knockout tournament, we consistently saw enthralling fights filled with unique battle tactics and flashy displays. It’s worth noting that while in many anime repeated fight scenes become incredibly formulaic, and this somewhat rings true here as well. The recipe of struggle before power-spike leading to success was rinsed and repeated a few times. But ultimately the fights were still well developed, had unique elements and didn’t drag on too long.
If you love added suspense know that mystery is a strongpoint. While Gakusen Toshi Asterisk is far from the crime genre, it does well to make you aware of many characters who’re hiding secrets or have another dimension that is yet to be discovered. It’s a bit of a tease, not unlike a locked diary. But it keeps you wondering where things will lead and how it fits in with the greater story.
It’s also in this season that I started to like the characters. If the first season had ended with an apocalypse I probably would’ve thought, “Ohh well that’s a wrap, time to sleep!” But now i’d probably be a little upset. Admittedly on occasion I couldn’t help but think Julis needed a time out for being so uptight about literally everything. But overall the characters became much more likeable to the point where I was interested in their personalised goals and I wanted to see them succeed.
Anime is just like sex in that you can’t shoot straight for the big reveal without a build up first. What am I on about? (Sex, duh). While the fight scenes were amazing, developmental factors in the anime at times seemed a bit rushed. Particularly at the end of the season with the need to tie up loose ends and create new modes to drive anticipation for the next season. It felt a bit like a plot on fast forward and it took me a while to realise that a major plot consideration had been resolved in literally 45 seconds.
While the flaws that make this anime cliché still exist, they’ve notably been toned down. Our overpowered main character is still overpowered, it’s just slightly less obvious. His female squad who obsess over him still do so, just not as often. Likewise the amazing fight scenes with great animation and art remain, and with greater frequency (hooray!). While this anime is by no means an original mastermind, it’s undoubtedly come a long way since it gonorrhoea-comparable beginnings. If you love action and mystery, and you don’t mind putting up with a bit of annoying nonsense here and there, then consider giving this series a watch. Just be warned that if you’re going to start with season 1 it’s going to be a rough experience early.
Thank you for reading my review!