The Asterisk War Sucks [Part 2]

Edited by The Davoo

Text version and links:

When I left off in the previous video, a handkerchief was floating through the air over an idyllic cityscape, where fancy buildings are interspersed with luscious park reserves, and Light Novel Guy makes a nice catch. A quick shot of Light Novel Girl informs us that the handkerchief is hers, and she seems to be upset about something. Now, if you’re a genre-savvy anime watcher viewing this episode for the first time, then you probably already know what’s about to happen. All you had to see was that the girl’s shirt isn’t buttoned up all the way, and you can guess that this scene is going to end in Light Novel Guy accidentally seeing her in her underwear as a result of his nice-guy attempt to return her handkerchief. If you’re like me, then you’re probably halfway between rolling your eyes, and being quietly impressed at the speed with which this show is rushing headlong into trashiness. But we’ll put a pin in that for now.

We quickly get our first good look at Light Novel Guy, and oh my god, it’s Kirito! No wait, maybe it’s Inaho? It’s hard to tell with these A-1 Pictures characters cause they all have the same fucking face. Seriously, there’s like maybe ten or so different face templates which this studio seems to use on every single character in the majority of their shows. It’s crazy! Now look, I’m not one of those guys who thinks that anime characters all look the same. I can appreciate the subtle differences between say, the characters in K-On, vs. the characters in Hyouka, vs. the characters in Hibike Euphonium, and I’ve seen evidence to the fact that when you switch these characters’ faces around, they actually look really weird. But what happens when you put Kirito’s face on Ayato? Oh. Or how about Inaho’s face? Oh. I guess anime characters do all look the same. And it’s funny that I’m even bringing this up now because it’s SOOO much worse with their girl characters. Anyways, I digress.

Light Novel Guy–by the way, this guy’s name is Ayato–gets all glowy, meaning he’s gonna do some superpower stuff, and makes this really awful-looking leap up to Light Novel Girl’s window. He lands all dainty and smooth, but then is struck with embarrassment as he realizes what he’s just accidentally done. Pat yourselves on the back everyone, cause you saw this coming.

Funnily enough, our first panty shot is decidedly not tantalizing, on account of Light Novel Girl apparently has no ass whatsoever, but the camera pans up quickly to hide it and to get into some bra territory. We’ll come back to this in a second–after the camera’s done panning out across the entire world of this story, in a way that actually kind of reminds me of the opening panning shot from Kill la Kill–besides being several fathoms less interesting because it’s just a normal city and not the creatively constructed world of Honnouji Academy. This comparison may end up being more relevant than you first expect, but we’ll save that for later.

After the title card, we fade in on this shot of a huge building complex, which at this point I’m going to assume is a school campus–in which case it may indeed roughly share the populace of a small city. The main building is 28-stories high–I counted.

So of course, it wasn’t enough that we caught a glimpse of this girl in her underwear before–now we get the full-on slow camera pan treatment with all the details in the garments. May I remind you that this is our first exposure to this character–forgive the double entendre. Before we’ve been treated to any piece of information about her whatsoever, our first impression is that her underwear matches her hair.

Now look, I’m not someone who dislikes fanservice in general. In fact, I actually enjoy shows like Kanokon and Seikon no Qwaser wherein the fanservice is pretty much the entire point of the show, because at that point it’s basically just softcore porn with actual characters. Even in shows that aren’t about fanservice, I tend to be okay with it as long as the fanservice is what I call, “diegetic.” [word on screen.] What I mean by this is that the characters are scantily clad for reasons that actually seem normal and make sense narratively. Like, it’s not unusual to think that if you, say, went to the beach with a bunch of girls, then you’re going to see them in sexy bathing suits. That kind of thing is a part of life. It can add to characterization or to our perspective on a character to see how they may act in situations that lead them to be naked, or sexualized; and that’s totally normal and makes sense.

What bothers me is when you take like a plot-driven show that doesn’t really have much to do with sex or sexuality, and cram in a bunch of random, totally unrealistic scenes wherein characters accidentally see one-another naked just for the sake of itself. I mean, it’s not like I don’t understand the appeal of having like a real, normal, plot-based show that happens to be full of cute girls and maybe sometimes you get to see them naked–but it’s not even slightly difficult to accomplish this just by having the girls converse in a locker room, or making a pool episode, or at the very least, just admitting that the guy is deliberately checking the girl out. A moment like this doesn’t even feel like it’s happening in the context of the story–it feels like it’s happening directly to the viewer. Like the universe of the story has conspired around finding a situation in which the audience can be treated to a titillating camera pan of a half-naked girl which isn’t really in-character from the main guy’s perspective, nor a logical result of the narrative at all.

And what’s more, in this particular case, I’m not even really sure how this is meant to attract me to the show. Light Novel Girl certainly isn’t my type, which is more a matter of personal taste, but why do I even care that I caught a two-second glimpse of some girl I’ve never seen before in her underwear? If I wanted to, I could minimize this window right now, open up a new tab and type “pink hair anime boob” into google and immediately have hundreds of pictures of girls identical to this one in whichever particular state of undress most interests me for as long as I want. What is so enticing about random, disjointed fanservice moments that it could possibly compete with the infinite resource of carnal pleasures known as the internet?

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that I live in a universe where the only source of entertainment in existence is anime, and my browser has been set to automatically load up crunchyroll at all times and no other websites whatsoever. I’m only a few clicks away from Kanokon, Recently My Sister Is Unusual, Demon King Daimaou, and So I Can’t Play H, which all have a lot more fanservice, with actual nudity, and much better animation. If I’m specifically only into girls with long pink hair, I’ve got Shin Koihime Musou, R-15, and Familiar of Zero right there. If I am specifically interested in seeing fanservice of a character voiced by Ai Kakuma, then I can watch Amagi Brilliant Park and Kanojo ga Flag Oraretara on the same site. The only thing that this scene provides me which I can’t get a better version of elsewhere is fanservice of a pink haired girl voiced by Ai Kakuma–and if you’re watching this show for such a specific reason, then you probably don’t give a shit whether it’s good on not. By the way, if you want to watch all of those shows, why not use my crunchyroll link to sign up and make me some mon-[cut me off]

So Light Novel Girl reacts about how you’d expect and we watch her change into her weird, illogical school uniform as Kirito explains his reason for being there. As soon as Light Novel Girl hears this, she makes the fastest transition from “tsun” to “dere” that I think I’ve ever seen, lowering Inaho’s guard and making her look like kind of a reasonable person. On a side note, it sure was considerate of the school to provide their students with uniforms that conform perfectly to the contours of their ass–I bet that’s real comfortable.

Of course, the idea that Light Novel Girl is actually a reasonable character is nothing but a false promise, and as soon as she remembers her purpose in the story, she immediately flips into attack mode and destroys her own living quarters. Like, what else is this shot meant to communicate if not that she’s literally blown up her entire apartment because some guy, to whom apparently she is incredibly grateful, happened to see her in her underwear for a second. It’s a good thing this show takes place in a world where everyone’s moral principles are different from ours or else this behavior would seem completely irrational.

Now, you’ve probably figured out at this point that I’m not going to offer this show a whole lot of compliments–that’s not what any of us are here for anyways–but while we’re on this shot of Light Novel Girl’s cocky smile I’d like to give it credit for the one thing I do think was handled alright by this show: the color design. I realize that some of my critics who literally refer to me as “Pretty Colors Digibro” are laughing their asses off right now, but seriously, the colors are pretty. As silly as the uniforms are, they kind of remind me of Phantasy Star Online–and as much as I don’t like Light Novel Girl’s hairstyle, I like that shade of pink and how it contrasts with her eyes. The use of gradients in her hair is nice and subtle–which isn’t going to be the case for every character, but we can talk about that later. I just wanted to pause on this shot because it’s actually got some character to it–even if that character has been such a jumbled mess over the past thirty seconds that it’s impossible to have any idea what this girl is actually like.

The next shot immediately caused me to burst out laughing. At first I thought, Jesus Christ that is some awful framing, why would you ever position the camera like this? The characters look like they’re just superimposed onto the backgro–and then I saw the CG classmates. Nothing quite takes me out of a scene the way a bunch of random, generic CG pedestrians do. It’s never enough that they look completely different from everything else in the show’s world and stand out like a sore thumb, but they always end up with these janky walk cycles that look fucking hilarious. This shot is especially incredible because the perspective is so fucked up that they look like they’re significantly shorter than the main characters.

After a few more students filter into the foreground, it becomes apparent why the main characters look so awkwardly superimposed onto the background. The trees in the distance have this awful filter drawn over them to make them look washed out, as do the CG classmates, and the students in the foreground are blurry and out of focus, to suggest that the focal point of the proverbial camera is fixed on the main characters; however, the entire grassy area that they’re standing on is all in focus–most especially the foreground closer to where the students are standing. This is yet another case where it seems like they tried to pull off something cool and cinematic, but only went halfway and ended up with something janky and hideous.

We’re treated to a quick rinse and repeat of the girl being irrational and standing awkwardly in a shot full of CG dudes and then we finally learn her name–Julis. She presses this button on her boob and then a super weird laser thing shoots out of it and a duel is begun. We’re not gonna comment on the other details here because they’ll be more relevant later. Believe me, you’re not missing anything, they just kind of stand there and talk about how they’re going to fight for a minute and a half while the camera tries its damndest to find new angles to shoot them from.

After some random, weird little sci-fi holograms float around for a while, we finally launch into yet another big, stupid, pointless fight–only this time it goes on for two whole minutes. I mean it’s better than last time since we at least know that both of these characters are relevant, and we know their names and why they’re fighting–but somehow, knowing that this entire fight is predicated on a stupid-ass accidental pervert scene and that there is literally NOTHING at stake somehow only makes it all the more annoying.

The only conceivable narrative purpose for this fight would be to show off the powers of the main characters; but like everything else in the show, the powers are generic and meaningless. Julis has a bunch of terrible-looking fire spears that she throws at Kirito, and he blocks them easily. Then she uses the same attack at a higher speed, and the result is basically the same. The constantly changing camera perspective, ultra-brief cuts, and random explosions all create a nauseatingly difficult to comprehend scene that looks like a million things are going on even though barely anything is actually happening. Julis is impressed with Kirito’s speed, so she decides to hit him with a stronger attack. All of her attacks have stupidly long and complex names that you’ll never ever remember if they come up again, but it’s okay because the attack is just a really big fuckoff fireball.

Kirito runs straight at the fireball, but it’s a trap–Julis actually makes it explode. Now in the process of making this video I have watched this fight scene four times, and it wasn’t until the fourth time that I really sat back and thought about what happens next. Every other time I was so bored and disoriented by all the flashing lights that I just kind of stopped thinking about it until the fight was over–but now that I’m going through moment by moment, I can really allow myself to drink this in.

Inaho jumps directly through the explosion, as if it didn’t do anything to him at all, while shouting the name of an attack called like the twin dragon or whatever, and then… cuts… the explosion? I think? Is that what’s happening here? Like, it’s clear that the explosion has already happened–he is inside of the explosion, and it has not done anything to effect him. But then he slashes his sword in the air a couple of times, and there seems to be another explosion behind him as a result… or something? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON IN THIS SHOT?!

Right from this we cut to Kirito pushing Julis to the ground to protect her from a yellow energy bolt thing fired in from the sidelines, so whatever the fuck was going on with him inside of that explosion is just kind of written off in the next shot. I’m willing to bet that no one even noticed how utterly and weirdly stupid that fight scene actually was. So many things were moving around so quickly, and there was so much visual stimulation that the entire thing just kind of turned into white noise–and it’s not until that moment when Ayato pushes Julis to the ground that you wake up from your trance and realize that the episode is still happening. Considering that all of those enormous explosions didn’t even manage to scorch the grass in the place where the characters were fighting, you could be forgiven for mistaking that entire scene for a fever dream that you had after passing out during the prior two minutes of characters standing around.

It was right around this point in my first viewing of this episode back when it came out that I stopped watching the show. After seven minutes of nothing but irritating, generic, and boring scenes, this utterly meaningless action sequence finally lost me to the point that I got out my phone and started tweeting about how shitty and boring the show is–and I think I left it running for about three more minutes before I finally shut it off.

At this point, you probably have a pretty solid general sense of what goes through my mind when I’m watching a show like this–the kind of relentless scrutiny that builds up and breaks a show for me so quickly that I just can’t take it anymore. But, my dear viewers, if you’ll have me, then this is not the end. I didn’t make this video to explain why I dropped The Asterisk War–I made it so that I can slowly try and get to the heart of all the things that bother me so much about shows of this nature, and about the works of studio A-1 Pictures. In pursuit of this, I have already watched all of the seven episodes of the Asterisk War which have aired at the time of this writing, and believe me… I have a LOOOOOT more to talk about–so stick around on my channel for more.

Continued in part three.

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