The Asterisk War: The Way of the Sword

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

There is not usually much continuity between reviews of different series on my site: these are meant to stand alone. That said, as I read The Asterisk War’s 11th volume, a series derided by many as being cookie-cutter and plot-by-numbers, filled with harem heroines getting jealous, cool girls with swords, and a lead who seems to be putting all issues of romance aside till he solves the big problems, it was hard not to compare this with the 13th Strike the Blood, which I’d read right before it. Heck, they even both have the exact same number of fanfics on AO3. Five. I was somewhat grumpy with the StB volume, which I felt fell back into its old patterns (admittedly on purpose). This volume of Asterisk War, which is a “between arcs” volume with no tournaments, should in theory be even more by the numbers – and it is. Despite that, I found myself enjoying it a lot more. I’m not entirely sure why this is, though.

Kirin was on the cover of the 10th volume, so she’s not on this one, which is a shame, as this is absolutely her book through and through. She invites the rest of the group to her family house for the break, but all of them have other plans, which devastates her, as she’s that sort of person. That said, Ayato is quick enough to realize this, and asks if she wouldn’t mind going to HIS house, mostly as he wants to avoid being alone with his father. Kirin learns about Ayato’s family and past, and yearns to help him get closer to his parents. Things are slightly happier at her house, and Ayato naturally comes with her in return, as she has a full family once more – her father is out of prison due to her wish. But will she have to drop out of school to take over the family? And will she manage to confess to Ayato?

Again, every single plot beat you see here can be read a mile away, both on Kirin’s end, and also with Ayato, who also has to deal with the larger plot (his sister being revived, and also his late mother, whose secret identity the reader learns about here). And it probably helps that I haven’t read or seen Chivalry of a Failed Knight, the series everyone negatively compares Asterisk War to, unlike Strike the Blood, where I am familiar with Index. I think the main reason I enjoy this series more is that, despite both having complicated plots, the Asterisk War characters grow and develop emotionally in satisfying ways that have little to nothing to do with the fact that they love Ayato. Yes, Kirin wants to get strong so that she can stand by Ayato’s side, but her arc is also satisfying for her standing up to her family and inspiring Ayato to do the same, even if he can’t quite make up with his stern but awkward father. Julis and Claudia also get mini-arcs in this book that help develop their own plotlines and character, neither of which have anything to do with Ayato.

Asterisk War may be cookie-cutter and written to order, but its characters have a depth I just don’t really see from Kojou and Yukina. If you want to read a predictable light novel series that Western fans tend to dislike, this is definitely the one to pick.

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