The Asterisk War: The Phoenix War Dance

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan by Media Factory. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Melissa Tanaka.

The Asterisk War, quality of writing or no, has a tendency to be overly cliched. Sometimes, in fact, it’s so cliched it actually throws me off my game and surprises me. We’re introduced to a pair of sisters here, who end up fighting Ayato and Julis towards the end of the book. Given that we first meet the older sister literally chained up in a subbasement, I expected her to be the barely controllable psycho one gets chained up in subbasements. As it turns out, she loves to fight, but is far nicer than it would seem (though she was right to ditch the weapon trying to overpower her mind). As for the younger sister, I naturally expected her to show that the sweet girl act was a facade, and that she was really the evil one and the brains of the outfit. Hope. She’s just as sweet as she seems, and is there to cook and be rescued. You can second guess yourself on how cliched this book can be.

This is not to say I did not enjoy the book – I did. It’s as deep as a puddle, but that’s not what I’m looking for. Actually, the one time I think that the book really succeeded in creeping me out was when Claudia (who gets the cover art this time) explains the price she pays for the ability to use her weapons, and what it does to almost everyone who isn’t her. One wonders just how much of the flirty yet manipulative student council president is an act – though probably not much, I’ve already learned my lesson on second guessing myself. As for the rest of the harem, Julis is tsundere, though as always it’s a mild case; Saya is cool and seemingly stoic, and Kirin is shy, and they all still like Ayato a lot. I suspect we can also add Priscilla by the end of this book. Ayato is, of course, completely unnoticing, not getting at all why the girls want him to rub their head.

As you may have gathered, we’ve entered the tournament arc part of the story, and it appears it’s going to last more than one book. This allows us to see Ayato and Julis curbstomp a few opponents into the ground, as we know that they’re going to make it close to the finals as, well, they’re the heroes. In fact, given Julis’ wish, I suspect they pretty much have to win. Not so for Saya and Kirin, and I was pleased to see that they also live to fight another novel. Of the new characters, easily the most memorable – even more than the sisters who are the focus of the book – are the two AI robots, who seem deliberately written to be cartoon cliches. In fact, their interaction reminded me a lot of The Poet and Sickle from the later Baccano books, though thankfully Ardy does not speak nearly as floridly as the Poet. They to pummel their way through the contest, and I suspect we’ll get a confrontation between them and our heroes soon.

To sum up, this book is much like the last two books – hilariously unoriginal and yet fun to read in spite of that. It’s the perfect book to take on a vacation – just be aware the books are short, you’ll likely need to take something else as well.

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