"Too little, too late" is a painful phrase.
After 12 episodes of broken nonsense, this show somehow got a second season that attempted the impossible: being a competent sequel to The Asterisk War. By some miracle, it succeeded. Not to say that this show is even remotely good now, but this second season somehow turned being awful into an accomplishment. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or depressed.
Part of why this second season managed to improve upon the first one is that it actually makes an attempt to have dynamic characters, giving every character something to do, posing an actual threat for the main character, and attempt slightly more meaningful character arcs. It doesn't necessarily succeed in many of these areas, as the asspulls are still as frequent as the world-building is disastrous. However, for the first time, I felt slightly engaged in what was going on. The new characters such as Sylvia had genuinely cool designs and personalities, and some of the returning characters that barely got any screen time last season actually become genuine threats that bring actual life to this show during the end of the show's tournament arc. Hell, the final bosses of the arc --two literal robots-- have some actual chemistry and character development, both of which were missing in this franchise. The irony here is adorable.
Sadly, the tournament arc ends around episode 8, the show spends its final episodes trying at giving someone other than our main lead an emotional arc that was set up in the first season. The foundation of the first season had already collapsed in on itself, so seeing Julis' childhood friend that got teased in the early parts of season 1 was almost enough to keep me invested for an episode...before nearly falling asleep. None of the actually worthwhile side characters like Sylvia or the two robots Ayato would fight in the Phoenix Festa tournament make an appearance, and we're left with our dry harem, which only got marginally better than the first season. It's far too late to flesh any of them out now as we already spent an entire season enduring them as obnoxious caricatures with nothing going for them. There's no way for me to care about Julis's problems or Claudia's sneaky advances on Ayatofu. Even seeing some of the more neglected side characters Ayato hung out with in season 1 team up wasn't enough to get me to care about them, and that's because of season 1. If these characters were written as anything more than sleazy caricatures of archetypes beforehand, then maybe seeing the show try to do interesting things with them would have been more satisfying. It also would have helped if the show's idea of character development was natural growth instead of making Kirin radically more stern and mature than before out of nowhere. Sadly, all I can do is attempt to cherish what obligatory efforts the writers made to make us care about a couple of mediocre side characters.
While the awful artwork and art style mostly hasn't changed, they are a few moments of impressive visuals, such as the very first scene of the season. The sequence where Sylvia sings to Ayato is also pretty nice, as it's both a visual and narrative highlight for the show. Sadly, the fights are still terrible overall, as like last time, they're either incredibly clunky or immensely difficult to follow. There's no real middle ground here. The closest they come to that would be the final fights of the two major arcs of the season, which are admittedly entertaining, if not necessarily well-animated.
The music is still incredibly mediocre, with no memorable OSTs whatsoever. They do have the courtesy to throw in a new vocal track and a few new pieces of background music, but the only highlights are the songs that open and close each episode. The OP for this season --"The Asterisk War" by Shiena Nishizawa-- is incredibly frantic, albeit a tad unwieldy with the frantic techno beats in the chorus. Once again, it's the ED that shines compared to everything else, as Haruka Chigusa's "Ai no Uta -words of love-" is a catchy and relatively heartwarming piece with pleasant vocals and visuals of characters actually having fun for once.
Sadly, this season is still not worth your time if you didn't already enjoy the first season. It tries to do what legitimately good sequels do, yet it fails thanks to its own incompetence and the borderline irredeemable failings of its predecessor. It's still a mess with largely terrible characters, nonsensical world-building, and asspulls galore. It still fails to animate good fight scenes. It still fails to be captivating for more than a few minutes at a time. At the very least, the attempt was there, which is more than I can say for the first season. That doesn't mean people like me are going to care since it's the sequel to The Asterisk War. No matter how good a sequel it may be, it would always be limited by the unsalvageable foundation that series built for this now dead franchise.