The Asterisk War: Idol Showdown

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

I must admit, of all the minor characters introduced in the last book when Ayato toured the festivals, I was not expecting the comic relief idol band to be the most important. Yet here we are, with said band trying to shame Ayato for being a clueless harem protagonist, getting into fights with other, more delinquent contestants, discovering secret underground battle rings, and taking on our heroes in the final part of the book. Actually, possibly the most interesting part of their story is the fact that their weapon is so powerful, even divided into five bits, that it literally makes them more eccentric and difficult. They have weaponized being cloud cuckoolanders! They also put up a damn good fight, forcing Claudia to use a lot more of her precognitive powers than I think she wanted, which will no doubt come to haunt her in the end. That said, this is really Saya’s book. So I will save her for later.

But first, let’s stay with Claudia, who stuns everyone by announcing her goal in front of the press. This certainly unnerves many people in power, especially her mother, who it turns out if in charge of most everything. As you can imagine, Claudia and her mother do not get along, and yet their confrontation is a highlight of the book. It also seems to tie into what Sylvie is searching for – as does the aforementioned underground battle ring, which is shut down for now but I’ll bet you even money will be started up again in a few books so that Ayato and Julis can fight forbidden illegal battles. Much of the rest of the book is the start of this tournament, with various groups fighting and showing off their dangerous points. This includes Claudia’s team as well, usually with her as the ‘team captain’, though that changes for the final match of the book.

Which brings us to Saya, who gets a lot of focus here. She’s both the childhood friend love interest and the ‘stoic’ one, so brings a lot of popular cards to the table. Her stoicness masks a lot of emotion, though, both in her desire to be able to bring everything she can to the battles with her weapons (which works out wonderfully in the last battle with her homing bazooka thing), and in her desire to be closer to Ayato. She spends a lot of the middle of the book convincing the idol group girls that Ayato is not, in fact, a playboy (well, not deliberately) and explaining all the times he’s been there for her. Which seems to lead her to the big cliffhanger, where she confesses to him. Now, I have a feeling that Saya is aware of the cliches of harem novels like this, and knows that by both being a childhood friend *and* confessing first, she’s out of luck. Still, it’s super impressive, and I hope that Ayato is able to give her a response that’s not just hemming and hawing.

Asterisk War is still very light and fluffy, but this was a particularly strong volume of the series. If you only watched the anime to make fun of it, you might be surprised by this book.

The Asterisk War: Festival Symphony

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

The author admits in the afterword that this was supposed to end with the start of the next school battle, but that things got out of hand. As such, we have another volume that is theoretically marking time and having fun before the next round of fights. In reality, of course, what we get here is more insight into the six other schools, with attention paid to almost all of them. We finally find out what Claudia’s wish is, and why the entire world seems to want to stop her. And Ayato gets another girl falling in love with him, and like the others, she’s intensely likeable. The drawbacks of the series remain the same – every plot twist is quite predictable, and the characters sometimes seem to be types rather than real people. But as a book that puts the “light” in light novel, it’s fun.

The majority of the book, as the title might suggest, is taken up with the Culture Festival that all six schools are giving. Ayato has agreed to take Sylvia on a date around the schools, something which the other girls in his orbit are all very well aware of. I liked the differing approaches to dealing with their jealousy – Julis hides from the entire festival and works on training, Saya does a bunch of events where she can just destroy everything, etc. Ayato, meanwhile, being terminally clueless about romance, has no idea why any of this is going on, which can sometimes be a problem, as he and Sylvia put on disguises but he keeps breaking their cover. The date itself also serves as an excuse to talk a bit more about the different schools and the types of students they attract, and we also meet some new recurring cast members, both comedic (the idol group that’s trying to top Sylvia) and serious (Jie Long’s new powerhouses, though Hufeng’s “long suffering” attitude is sometimes funny).

We’re gearing up for the next tournament, the Gryps, which depends on teamwork. As such, Claudia discusses her weapon and what the drawbacks to it are, and also shares why she wants to win: she wants to talk to a supposed criminal that’s been imprisoned. Ayato and Sylvia, meanwhile, may not be at the same school, but their desires also hinge on the book’s later plotline, with Ayato being offered a way to wake his sister up that involves a “deal with the devil” sort of bargain, and Sylvia finding out that her old teacher is not who she once was. Sylvia seems to have a large amount of “I don’t want to burden others with my own problems” to her, which I’m sure will get her in danger sooner rather than later.

The Asterisk War is never going to be among the best light novels out there, but it’s always readable and fun, and I’d argue it’s perhaps the most “typical” example of the genre.

The Asterisk War: The Triumphal Homecoming Battle

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

New semester, new characters, new translator, it’s all new on the Asterisk War front. That said, I would not call this the start of a new arc, really. This book seems to be entirely concerned with putting pieces in place to set up the next few books. Sometimes this works well – the villain of the book is suitably arrogant and snotty, and you will enjoy his defeat – and sometimes it feels like it’s been shoehorned in – Orphelia essentially drops in to reveal who she is and her connection to Julis before going away for the rest of the book. Everyone’s schemes seem to have one think in common, though, which is to stop Claudia winning the next section of the tournament. This is because of her wish, which we are told several times we’re going to hear but never do. And certainly our main five characters would make quite a team if they can all work together, so the bad guys have good reason to worry.

We’ve moved a few months along after the battle of the last three books, and I am very happy o see we won’t have to deal with wacky classroom comedy like a lot of other magical school series. Instead Julis invites everyone to her home country, which is the ever popular “tiny country somewhere in Central Europe” that fantasy authors seem to love, so that she can visit the orphanage she saved by winning the tournament and also catch up with her brother the King. Of course, Julis lacks self-awareness (something she shares with Ayato at times), so is not sure why there’s suddenly a giant parade in her honor, or a party set up to show her off. She’s insanely popular now. Also, the country and various organizations seem to be shipping her with Ayato, which should go well as the author is as well, despite all the fanservicey harem illustrations. Unfortunately, there’s also a group out to kill her, and they’ve sent an assassin who can create magical beasts. Oh yes, and Julis’ old childhood friend shows up. Sadly, she’s evil now.

As I’ve said before (possibly in every single review), no one reads Asterisk War for the plot twists. Everything develops the war you think it is going to develop. But the book also exhibits a basic level of competence that makes me quite happy to keep reading it, and the girls are all harem ‘types’ without quite being boring cliches. I am looking forward to the main cast teaming up with Claudia, if only as I find Claudia’s powers and backstory the most interesting of them. Everyone gets something cool to do in the final battle, and there’s some decent discussion of politics. And oh yes, after Ayato asid his wish was for his sister to be found last time… his sister is found. Sadly, that doesn’t really do him much good, abut at least he knows her circumstances now.

This takes us to the end of the Asterisk War anime adaptation, so new volumes should be new content. I am aware that the anime was unpopular, but I’ve never had an issue with the books. Perhaps it reads better in prose. (More likely it’s because I’ve never read Chivalry of a Failed Knight.) I’d still recommend Asterisk War to anyone who likes magical fighting school series, it is a nice light snack of a novel.