Gakusen is based on a Light Novel series adapted by A-1 who I’m decided to name the kings of Pop-corn anime , anime you watch purely to get a enjoyable let largely empty experience. You should recognise them from these recent hits. Sword art online , Aldonoah Zero seasons 1 & 2 , Black butler and several others. So needless to say they knew how to handle this sort of show.
“Long, long ago, an epic catastrophe, known as Invertia, caused a complete change in the world's power balance. In the years following this disaster, a group known as the Integrated Enterprise Foundation rose to power. In addition to this massive change, a new breed of humans born with amazing physical skills known as Genestella also emerged and joined the ranks of humanity.
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk follows the story of Ayato Amagiri, a student who has just transferred into one of the six most elite schools for Genestella students in the world—Seidoukan Academy—where students learn to control their powers and duel against each other in entertainment battles known as festas. Unfortunately, Ayato gets off to a rough start. When trying to return a lost handkerchief to a female classmate, he accidentally sees her changing which leads to her challenging him to a duel. What most people don't realize however, is that Ayato has no real interest in festas and instead has an alternative motive for joining this prestigious school. What is Ayato's big secret? Will he be able to keep up his act when surrounded by some of the greatest Genestella in the world?”
Two things that struck me , right off the bat. The show does not work very well as a stand-alone expirience and I’m okay with that. There’s nothing wrong with the show refusing to slow down and spoon-feed new-comers all the information. Especially those who decided to skip the first season. It makes my job more difficult but hey.
Gakusen basically , took the tournament saga which every large shounen goes through , and spun it into a full blown series. Dragon Ball Z had several world tournaments arcs , Yu Yu Hakusho had one and what many people consider the best original Naruto arc , the chunin exams , were basically a tournament arc. So it’s not hard to see why they chose to slice this particular part out.
The writing , pacing and story development are all incredibly cliched , but I think it’s the perfect serious to just watch absentmindedly in bed there’s a reason why cliches become cliche because enough people enjoyed them enough for other creators to copy them over to their own works. I think the writers of Gakusen knew they weren’t making high art here and just decided to have fun with it.
The soundtrack is very underlying , blending and underlining the action. It’s very well synched with combat.
The art-style is very standard , less impressive and creative than Sword Art Online , but it’s not dreadful. It’s the very neutral , unprovoking art-style most shows favour these days. It’s not good , it’s not bad. It’s a fitting reflection of the shows overall quality.
The general animation is very toned down for the most part , as though the studio were saving as much budget as they could for the fight-scenes. Which are glorious by the way. Due to the enormous roster of characters each mash-up feels unique and I liked how it favours the characters are smart and use strategy to win form of writing the fights rather than characters punch each other hard. Now of course the strategies’ are mostly ass-pulls that the viewer has no way to predict but I did warn you that Gakusen requires are very open mind to enjoy.
The fights utilize the CG well , character movements feel unique to them and the blows pack a lot of power , the transitions are fast and creative using shadows and negative space to switch between character perspectives. Particularly impressive is the use of the virtual camera to create long sweeping shots that create the illusion that the fight is just one big take. Now this luxury treatment is limited only to the fight scenes expect far more mediocrity in the in-between scenes.
Character designs , the human ones at least , are the bare minimum of what you could expect. The entire championship is far more impressive , monks , mechs and knights all fighting in one arena , what could be better ? Anime tends to stick to the regions either it has an all Japanese cast or a mixed Euro Japanese one so it’s actually quite remarkable of Gakusen to feature , Japanese , Chinese , European and many more.
So as you should now know having read the review that Gakusen is pure,mindless fun. And I do mean mindless , it’s dumb cliched , characters are one dimensional tropes and the story just decides on it’s own how things are going to go with neither rhyme nor reason. Though you should have noticed that I never said that any of this is bad. Not every show has to try and break animation history , there need to be mediocre shows for great ones to shine through. Gakusen doesn’t try to pass itself off as anything more and ticks off all the boxes it wanted to tick off.
People crave dumb shows that they can easily digest and be entertained by , and Gakusen is there for those people , A-1 has had success in stretching their shows out over several season and with the limitless potential for a story Gakusen has its very likely we’ll soon see Asterisks 3 PV’s floating around.