As you may or may not be aware, two very similar anime are airing this season: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry and Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (henceforth referred to as Cavalry and Asterisk, respectively). They both involve schools with weapons and magic and romance and ecchi and stuff, but just how similar are they really? That is what this review series aims to analyze. I will post one part per four episodes aired of each anime, and this is the first. Keep in mind that these will be released late on the Saturday they’re due because I have to spend a whole day thinking and writing about the last of the series of four episodes.
As a final note, this review may contain spoilers. Please proceed with caution.
11/21 EDIT: Part 2, where I talk about how episodes 5-8 have impacted my thoughts, is released. Click here to view it.
12/19 EDIT: Part 3, where I sum everything up from start to finish, is released. Click here to view it.
Opening and Ending themes
- Cavalry OP: “Identity (アイデンティティ)” by Mikio Sakai – Of all four themes between both series, this has to be the best one. It’s not really a diamond in the rough, though. 8/10.
- Cavalry ED: “Haramitsu Renka (波羅蜜恋華)” by ALI PROJECT – Not my type of song. I’d say about average in terms of quality, and the PV with the slow scrolling and roses and random nudity isn’t doing it any favors. Sure, the slow scrolling in the PV is fitting for what it’s worth, but the relative loudness of the song ruins that impression. 4/10.
- Asterisk OP: “Brand-new World” by Shiena Nishizawa – It seems cool at first, but then the vocals come in. Sadly not the first cool-sounding opening theme to be ruined by vocals (here’s looking at you, Rally Go Round). 6/10.
- Asterisk ED: “Waiting for the rain” by Maaya Sakamoto – Definitely not my type of song, but the combination of slowness and softness is a nice change of pace from the craziness that goes on in the anime. 5/10.
The duo of a dark-haired boy for a protagonist and a reddish-haired tsundere girl for a deuteragonist is an obvious common theme between these two anime. In fact, it’s not even a new concept (see also: Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance, Trinity Seven, maybe even more that I haven’t watched). Still, the main two characters are different…in a way.
- Cavalry protagonist: Ikki Kurogane – If there’s anything I really like about this character, it’s that his first instinct when stumbling upon a half-naked girl is to take off his own clothes in an attempt to make it even. Even aside from that, he’s not that bad overall, what with his determination to rise to the top in spite of being branded “Worst One” (seems familiar…), and his ability to calculate the weak point behind his opponent’s battle tactics.
- Cavalry deuteragonist: Stella Vermillion – I’ll be honest: Stella is not my type of character. Her hair, her breasts, and her generic tsundere personality are unsettling to me. What prevents her from being a bottom-tier character is the resolve she shows in episode 3 and 4 by stripping for the sake of hostages and sticking up for Ikki when the crowd was bad-mouthing him, respectively. It’s also admirable how she and Ikki promise to get stronger together and eventually fight each other in the Battle Festival. What I’m saying is: Stella is an okay character for her purpose, but there are some points about her that prevent me from liking her.
- Asterisk protagonist: Ayato Amagiri – Compared to Ikki, Ayato seems rather…generic to me, if only because of his way of handling the whole stumbling-upon-a-half-naked-girl situation—his more obvious flustered reaction. That doesn’t mean I don’t like him, though. At least he’s willing to fight for what he holds dear, even if it means putting himself in danger. Plus, I honestly have no reason to dislike him.
- Asterisk deuteragonist: Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt – Julis is a more bearable deuteragonist than Stella because the former is more attractive and has a less bothersome personality, not to mention she has a more subtle figure. I will also add that she has a better voice. She may seem like a damsel in distress in these first four episodes, but she certainly knows how to defend herself, and she provides great support for Ayato in episode 4, showing off the ability to fly him around while he’s holding her.
Any characters not mentioned in this section are not introduced yet, don’t need a description because they’re so minor, or cannot be described without spoiling anything.
- Shizuku Kurogane – Ikki’s sister, who acts affectionately towards him (by kissing his lips and holding his hand) and uses the “I’m his sister” argument to justify it. (Pretty suspicious if you ask me…) In episode 3, it is shown that she can create a protective barrier of water. She claims to know Ikki better than anyone else, and she seems to me like an obstacle in the relationship between Ikki and Stella. As of now, I don’t really like her as a character, but it’s too early to pass judgement now.
- Nagi “Alice” Arisuin – Shizuku’s roommate. He generally keeps a level head in dire situations, but he has a flamboyant side that even goes as far as to jokingly brand Ikki as a target of his seductive charm. In episode 3, it is shown that he can manipulate shadows using a dagger called Darkness Hermit. Good character overall, maybe even one of the best.
- Kagami Kusakabe – Representative of the newspaper club, her only good point I find is her glasses. She’s overly energetic, has an annoying voice, and has breasts too big for her height. She’s also annoyingly clingy when she first meets Ikki.
- Kurono Shinguuji – The director of the academy, who ensures that Ikki’s experience as a student goes as well as it can.
- Nene Saikyou – An adult-like although somewhat irresponsible loli who wears a loose-fitting kimono and observes Ikki’s development with interest. She also wears a goofy grin similar to that of Akio in Trinity Seven.
- Shizuya Kirihara – An enemy of Ikki who takes pleasure in watching him suffer. His power makes it so he (and later his arrows) are unable to be perceived by human senses. Coincidentally, he happens to be Ikki’s first opponent in the Battle Festival.
- Claudia Enfield – Student council president who gives Ayato important information regarding how things work around the academy. I dislike this character because she’s one of those blond ojou-sama type characters and her breasts are distracting. She’s usually calm and collected, but she shows off something of a dark side in episode 4.
- Saya Sasamiya – A kuudere loli and an old friend of Ayato’s who shows up in episode 2. She wields a grenade launcher, which she uses to fend off a group of attackers who are after Julis. Sadly, she has not made any appearances since. I appreciate what little screentime she has had.
- Haruka Amagiri – Ayato’s older sister, who has only appeared in the introduction and flashbacks. Ayato’s motive in enrolling in the academy is finding out what happened to her, and, incidentally, he ends up finding a sword that she most likely used. She has bound Ayato’s powers, most likely so they don’t go haywire.
- Lester MacPhail – A buff and stubborn fellow student who wishes to challenge Julis but ends up getting rejected every time.
- Eishirou Yabuki – Ayato’s roommate and classmate, who seems to know the latest news and gives off a sort of Shuu Maiko vibe. As revealed in episode 2, he lent Ayato a sword for his duel with Julis.
The Story So Far
I decided (as of November 26) to relocate these summaries to Google Docs for two reasons: (1) to minimize spoilers, and (2) while I enjoy writing them, I realize that they seem out of place in a review like this, and I wouldn’t blame anyone if they lost interest because of them.
As a whole
These anime series have plenty of similarities: reddish-haired tsundere deuteragonist, protagonist stumbles upon her changing, protagonist and deuteragonist want to get stronger together, magic weapons, and competition. However, Cavalry seems to have a lesser male-to-female ratio than Asterisk, the use of weapons outside of school is more strictly enforced in Cavalry than in Asterisk, and the protagonists have different motives: while Ikki’s motive is to rise to the top, Ayato merely wishes to discover the truth about his older sister. Also, Ikki starts off with a weapon and the title “Worst One,” whereas Ayato is more of a blank slate, having just transferred into the school without a title and having to be lent a temporary blade after that unfortunate encounter with Julis. Finally, Ikki is closer to Stella than Ayato is to Julis because the former two are fortunate enough to be roommates while the latter two are not.
It’s too soon to say which I like better, but I am leaning towards Asterisk because of its more interesting story and more bearable deuteragonist. Claudia is still a bother, but I say the other characters of the anime are plenty enough to balance her out. It’s a tentative decision, though, because some characters have not yet been introduced (e.g., the dark-haired girl on the cover of Cavalry), some characters have not had enough time in the spotlight (e.g., Saya in Asterisk), and there is still more plot yet to be revealed.
À la prochaine! (Until next time!)