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.

The Asterisk War: Battle for the Crown

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

I always enjoy each volume of Asterisk War I read, despite the fact that you can see every plot beat and character development coming from eight miles away. The good thing about it is, it’s the RIGHT kind of character development. This being a tournament arc, you would expect that the losers among our heroes get shuffled off to the side to watch from the stands, like… well, every other tournament arc in manga and anime. But no, Saya and Kirin (yes, it’s a spoiler that they lost, but not much of one if you have any idea about how narrative works) not only get to save the day in their B-plot, but Saya actually gets something of a resolution in the argument she had with Rimcy a couple books ago. And speaking of Ardy and Rimcy, their character arc is not winning the tournament, it’s showing that they are capable of growing and striving just as humans do, and it’s also carried off very well. The well-worn path this walks is comfortable, and has tea at the end.

The girl on the cover this time around is Sylvia, president of the all-girls institute that’s one of the six schools. She essentially shows up to give Ayato a hand in the kidnapping B-plot and to tease him – even the author admits he had planned to add her later. She’s cute, though, and I look forward to seeing how she differs from Claudia in the Ayato harem sweepstakes. As for the tournament part of it, there are two really good fights and one sort of mediocre one – we know that Ayato and Julis are going to reach the finals, and so the battle they face to get there feels perfunctory and short – which is better than perfunctory and long, I suppose. Saya and Kirin fare better – as I said above, they have to lose for plot reasons, but they do a damn good job, forcing Ardy and Rimcy to bring out their secret weapon earlier and generally showing that they are not just stoic/meek (delete where applicable) girls.

They also get to rescue the kidnapped girl, despite severe injuries from the tournament, injuries that are also handed to Ayato and Julis in the final. The final battle takes up the most space in the book, and is mostly worth it, though perhaps drags on a bit long – yes, even in books as short as The Asterisk War, scenes can go on too long. But Ardy is fun, and I liked the way that Ayato and Julis finally got together to take down the pair, which is clever, finds a way around Ayato’s big weakness, and is also quite shippy. That said, their pledge at the end of the book to keep allying in the other two competitions no matter what just seems to be inviting trouble, if you ask me.

So one tournament down, and apparently next time we get a slight break before jumping into Tournament Two. In the meantime, The Asterisk War continues to be, in my opinion, predictable cliches done right.

The Asterisk War: Quest for Days Lost

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

Another volume of Asterisk War brings along with it more of the same, and honestly these books are so short I frequently wish that Yen had decided to omnibus them, especially since the plot to this volume is essentially “more tournament arc”. Nothing particularly surprising happens – even the cliffhanger ending is signposted from the moment we meet the sweet innocent girl who’s the victim of it. There is cool fighting by tactics. There is cool fighting by unlocking the next level of abilities. There are also Saya and Kirin, whose fights we don’t see until the final chapter. I have a sneaking suspicion how that will turn out, but it’s also part of the cliffhanger ending. So yes, nothing whatsoever new here, but as always the prose is readable, it’s not too offensive (though there are a few stereotypes), and fans of this sort of thing will eat it up like candy and then move on.

One thing I did like is Julis (who is reminding me more of Rin Tohsaka every volume) managing to get Ayato to have a reason to fight and win that isn’t just “well, I guess I’ll help her achieve her goal”. The drive to succeed, to surpass, to go beyond your limits requires something to strive for in these sorts of stories, and given that Ayato is, if I’m being nice, sot of bland it’s especially important for him to have this. He’s on a quest to find his sister, but there’s always been an undercurrent of “she must have had a good reason” that’s stopped him from really investigating. If the tournament ends next volume (which it looks like ti’s shaping up to do), I expect we’ll get more answers, though whether we get his sister is another matter.

Both major battles in this book are against students from Chinese Stereotype Academy, aka Jie Long Seventh Institute. We get both a noble fighting pair who are simply very good at what they do, and a team of twins who are very good at what they do but are also jerks. They don’t cheat per se, but they hammer on weaknesses and love to break their opponent. Dishonorable is a good word for them. Needless to say, Ayato and Julis fight against them near the end of the book, and the fight is probably the best part of the novel, even if, once again, the lack of surprising things happening is clear. If I were to tell you that the twins have a reaction that’s basically “This… this CANNOT BEEEEEE!” towards the end of the fight, I’m sure you would just sigh and nod.

Kirin and Saya are here as well, and Saya gets a flashback that shows off her childhood with Ayato, but honestly it’s harder to develop these two as their personalities are naturally passive – likely that’s why we didn’t see their fights till the very end. In any case, this volume of Asterisk War may not convince uncertain readers to keep going, but it also won’t make them decide to drop it once and for all. It’s still the equivalent of having a Peppermint Patty for dinner. Tasty, but you really want a lot more.