The Asterisk War Episode 22: A Visit to Julis’ Home Town! Trouble at the Ball! Sad Saya!

Lieseltania, the 22nd episode of The Asterisk War, treats us to a visit to Julis Riessfeld’s home of Lieseltania, where she receives a welcome befitting a princess — which annoys her to no end. Claudia Enfield springs a questions on Amagiri Ayato (no, not that question), as well as Sasamiya Saya and Toudou Kirin. It’s a question that has ramifications into the world of intrigue surrounding the Integrated Enterprise Foundation.

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What Happened (Spoiler Free)

It's hard to tell by looking at her, but Julis serious hates public appearances. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
It’s hard to tell by looking at her, but Julis serious hates public appearances. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Our heroes (Julis, Ayato, Claudia, Saya, and Kirin) were enjoying a relaxing breakfast when Julis asks if they have plans for the New Years break. The next thing everyone knew, they board a plan, fly to Lieseltania, and participate in a parade welcoming Julis and, to a lesser extent, Ayato. Once in the palace, Julis rips into her brother for subjecting them to all of that without warning; he says he only wanted to thank her for saving Flora Klemm and give the people of Lieseltania a chance to express their adoration for her. Mollified, she shows her guests to their rooms. As they walked, she told them some of the history of Lieseltania — what made it become a puppet of the Integrated Enterprise Foundation; how her brother fulfills his role; how she remains steadfast in her resolve to restore dignity to her people.

That night, Flora visits Ayato and asks for help finding Saya. The first thing Ayato thought was that Saya, being “directionally challenged,” got lost. So, he searches for her and finds her looking out over the lake. She struggles to speak her feelings to him — just what will the usually up-beat Saya say? Why does she look so torn?

After finishing dinner, Claudia asks them if they will join her team next year for the Gryps Festa. Ayato already said he’d join if Julis would. Will Julis consent? What conditions will she set?

The king throws a huge banquet for them the next evening. Ayato is literally struck speechless when he sees the four young women in their gowns. As the guest of honor, Ayato’s to escort Julis, but she has to show him how to offer his arm. The banquet goes well enough. Julis explains how the women around her brother, in addition to his wife, are his lovers; presents (or spies) from the Integrated Enterprise Foundation. Ayato feels shocked that they are so obvious about it; Julis feels resigned. When her brother calls her over, she lets Ayato go off in search of a quiet space.

He finds Kirin beset by three would-be suitors. They’re not hurting her, but she’s mortified and completely out of her depth. Ayato rescues her only to be joined by Saya; both of the young women want to link arms with him.

An older man at first compliments them, then asks if Ayato’s decided to join Claudia’s Gryps Festa team. Ayato, a cautious young man, says he hasn’t decided. That’s when the other man warns them to stay out and unleashes an attack — with Ayato having left Ser-Veresta in his room to conform to the king’s no weapons policy! Who is the man? How will Ayato and his friends fare, unarmed, against the attack?

The rest of this review may have spoilers, so please be careful!

What Happened

Ayato wore the same shocked expression for several scenes! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The gang were surprised to find themselves on the luxurious royal yet. Ayato wore the same shocked expression for several scenes! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The gang — Julis, Ayato, Claudia, Saya, and Kirin — are relaxing at breakfast one morning. Out of nowhere, Julis says there’s something she’d like to discuss with them. Next thing everyone knew, they were flying in a royal Lieseltanian jet, landing at a royal Lieseltanian airport, getting into a royal Lieseltanian limousine, and waving at people from within a royal Lieseltanian parade. A huge crowd had turned out to congratulate Julis on her victory. Smiling and waving at everyone, her expression didn’t even waver when a group of girls called out to Ayato.

When they arrive at the palace, Julis leads the gang to Jolbert Riessfeld, her brother the king, and starts to yell at him for dragging not only her, but Ayato into the parade. Jolbert apologizes and says he just wanted to thank her and Ayato for saving Flora Klemm’s life. When he points out that the people longed to see not only Julis, but the partner she had hand-picked for the Phoenix Festa, she seemed embarrassed enough to calm down. The king invites them to a banquet in their honor to be held tomorrow night.

On the way to their quarters, Julis shares some of her country’s history: how the Integrated Enterprise Foundation discovered a valuable meteorite where the ancient country of Lieseltania had stood; how they decided to share the profits to avoid war; and how they setup the new incarnation of Lieseltania as a puppet state. There’s huge economic disparity. Julis renews her vow to combat it.

Alone in her room, Claudia takes an audio only call. Smiling, she said that she won’t relent; when the call ends, her expression collapses into exhaustion, and she sighs.

Claudia put on a brave face, the the audio call she received took a lot out of her. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Claudia put on a brave face, the the audio call she received took a lot out of her. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Flora Klemm interrupts Ayato as he’s studying to ask him to help her find Saya. It’s almost dinner time, and no one knows where she is. He finds her staring at the lake. She steels herself, turns to him, and for one of the first times we’ve seen, she struggles to put her emotions into words. She finally says she’s wanted to apologize. Years ago, he had moved away, and she had kept in touch. But the longer he was away, the more not seeing him hurt, so she stopped calling. She feels like if she had maintained contact, together they could have saved his sister when she first disappeared. And even if she could not help find her, she says she may have been able to at least comfort him. That realization’s been tearing her up. She asks him to lean on her when he needs to. She says that this time, she’ll be there for sure.

He says when the time comes, he’ll count on her. They go to dinner.

During after-dinner coffee, Claudia asks them to join her team for next year’s Gryps Festa. Ayato says he will if Julis does. When Julis agrees, Saya and Kirin agree, too. Of course, Claudia’s pleased.

The next night, before the banquet, Ayato’s not comfortable in a tuxedo. Flora tells him he looks fine, but he can’t take Ser-Veresta to the festivities. He leaves it in her care.

He joins Claudia, Julis, Saya, and Kirin. He’s speechless at how wonderful they look. Claudia says that she’d rather Ayato escort her, but Julis was the guest of honor, so he was obligated to escort her.

Guess which of these two women has had more experience wearing gowns? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Guess which of these two women has had more experience wearing gowns? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The party wasn’t very old before Ayato feels exhausted. For as much as she protests social events, Julis seems completely at ease. She tells Ayato that her brother is the perfect puppet king. He does what the Integrated Enterprise Foundation tells him to do, so they fund his vices. At the party, aside from his wife, four other woman stood around him as he talked to guests. Ayato was shocked when Julis said the women were his lovers who were presents (and/or spies) from the Integrated Enterprise Foundation. Julis couldn’t find it in her heart to hate them; but she wanted to take a different path.

When Jolbert calls Julis over, she and Ayato agree it would be a good time for him to get some air. Neither of them saw the lurker in the shadows, but Claudia saw him.

Ayato comes across Kirin trying to deal with potential suitors. She’s completely panicked, and she gratefully ran to Ayato when he asked if she had a moment. The potential suitors were so stricken with her that they good-naturedly accepted her departure.

Kirin still shows signs of lacking confidence due to the influence of her abusive uncle. She thinks she’s ugly in her gown. Ayato’s able to reassure her in gentle way. Emboldened, she asks if they could walk arm in arm, because when he did that with Julis, it looked so “lovely.” Saya arrives and wants in on the action, too.

That’s when an older man arrives. He asks if Ayato is planning to take part in the Gryps Festival. The ever-cautious Ayato says he hasn’t made up his mind yet. His eyes glowing, the man tells them it would be in their best interests not to participate.

Instantly, Saya, Ayato, and Kirin fanned out into defensive positions. Kirin and Ayato even instinctively reach for their swords, which of course aren’t there. After a brief verbal repartee, the man summons a chimera, hurls it at them, and disappears.

The guests flee in terror.

Saya, feeling less inclined to follow rules than the others, managed to bring her weapon to the ball. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Saya, feeling less inclined to follow rules than the others, managed to bring her weapon to the ball. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The chimera attacks Kirin first. She evades the lion’s head, but the snake almost bites her in half — until Ayato pulled her to safety. Both of them might have been crushed by the next attack had Saya not been Saya: she had kept her weapon strapped to her thigh in spite of the rules, and she blasted the beast into the garden, away from everyone. Ayato, after exchanging looks with both Julis and Saya, attacks the beast and shows just how powerful he is — even without an Ogre Lux. He delivers blow after blow until the beast is staggered and stunned. Then he calls on Saya and Julis, who combine their firepower to obliterate the beast.

From his vantage point across the lake, the old man who had unleashed the chimera is impressed. He said he hadn’t planned to get involved, but he sees he has no choice.

What I Liked

Saya tried to make a move for Ayato at breakfast, but Julis interrupted her with the invitation to Lieseltania. While riding in the parade, Saya looked dejectedly at Julis, who was a perfect image of princess. She seemed to see her chances with Ayato slipping away. It’s not that I like seeing that happening to Saya; it’s that I’m glad the series is finally dealing with the drama of their sometimes conflicting relationships. Harem shows are nice and all, but I prefer some realism be added to the mix. This episode took some steps down that path.

Kirin was shocked when Julis yelled at her brother, the king. Saya? Not so much... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Kirin was shocked when Julis yelled at her brother, the king. Saya? Not so much… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Kirin seemed mortified that Julis would yell at the king. Saya, on the other hand, just took it all in.

As soon as Flora asks him to help find Saya, Ayato assumes her challenged sense of direction was to blame. I’m not so sure this time; when he found her, she was looking into the lake, lost in thought. I like what looks to me like the use of misdirection. Ayato went into the scene expecting an emotionally frivolous exchange; Saya was struggling to find words to express what she was feeling in her heart. Seeing her fighting so hard to translate her feelings into words was much more poignant coming from a character like Saya who’s ordinarily so composed. The contrast was almost heart-wrenching.

Amid all of that emotion, Saya called Ayato’s sister “Bis Sis Haru.” How adorable is that?

Ayato’s reaction to seeing Julis, Claudia, Saya, and Kirin in their gowns was perfect. He didn’t do the nose bleed thing or pass out; he just found himself at a complete loss of words for several breaths. He was silent for so long that Julis had to goad him into speaking! Claudia was completely at ease in her dress; Julis would liked to have been, but she felt obligated to be embarrassed; Kirin was absolutely embarrassed; and Saya gave Ayato a peace sign. They each reacted completely in character.

When it came time to leave for the ballroom, Ayato didn’t even know how to offer his arm to Julis. She didn’t make a big deal of it; she smiled and showed him how to do it right. Kirin looked on, aghast; Saya was embarrassed; Claudia seemed to expect it.

After Ayato “rescues” her from the potential suitors who were complimenting her, Kirin confesses that she doesn’t do well with strangers, and she doesn’t feel like she’s pretty like “the senpais” (Julis and Claudia). Ordinarily, I’d see a statement like that as fishing for a compliment. In Kirin’s case, I think it reveals that she’s still fighting to throw off the influence of that idiot uncle who use to run her career. Back in episode 7 of the first season, she broke free of his day to day influence. But it’s interesting to see a series like The Asterisk War take the emotional aftermath of that kind of relationship seriously.

When Saya's serious, she's serious. And when it comes to her friends' safety... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
When Saya’s serious, she’s serious. And when it comes to her friends’ safety… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

When Saya blasts the beast into the garden, she tells Ayato that she promised she’d be there when he needed her. She looked committed, too. I think it’d be amazing to have a friend like Saya.

What I Liked Less

Kirin’s idiot uncle still had a hand in this episode: he’s partly responsible for Kirin’s diminished self-image. Okay, that’s not a knock on the show; it’s actually a positive when a series’ character can make me so angry. But he’s still an idiot. And I still wanted an opportunity to say so.

Thoughts

True story time! Ayato’s not alone in the social faux pas of not knowing how to offer his arm to a woman: when I was in high school, I was supposed to escort a girl in the class ahead of me to the stage. Guess who looked like an idiot in front of an entire gym full of upperclassmen? Yeah, I achieved the level of embarrassment most people need weeks to amass in a single instant.

I’ve always been an over-achiever.

This episode marks a change in direction from Festa-focus to intrigue-focus. Either one alone might get boring after awhile. The way things seem to be going, I’m looking forward to this new arc.

That being said, this episode stood out for me because of something that I think The Asterisk War does better than most series in its genre: its characters and its character moments. This was a Saya episode. Since she’s my favorite character, I thought it was a lot of fun! Her normally distant and unflappable demeanor cracked this week, and her indirect expression of affection for Ayato moved me. Instead of saying she wanted to apologize, she could have said something mundane like “Oh, I’ve always loved you,” or “I’ll wait for you forever.” But that wouldn’t’ve been Saya.

Claudia knows something about what's going on -- and she's keeping it close to her vest. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Claudia knows something about what’s going on — and she’s keeping it close to her vest. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

We also got a glimpse of the long-game that Claudia’s trying to play. I wish she’d trust her new team-mates more and let them in on what she knows — or suspects — about what’s going on. She might not know for sure, but her expression when she saw the shadow-lurker as Ayato left the ballroom, and her expression in the aftermath of the chimera, suggest that she recognizes the work of a faction who’s against her. I get that it’s hard for her to trust anyone; I get that her mom’s an executive for Integrated Enterprise Foundation so security is a way of life. But if she’s going to move her agenda forward in the long term, she’s going to need willing and informed allies. I can think of no one better than the team of Ayato, Julis, Saya, and Kirin. I think it’s time she clues them in.

Or maybe I’m misreading the whole situation, and she’s as much in the dark as any of them!

Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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Post Author: tcrow