The Asterisk War: Gathering Clouds and Resplendent Flames

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

I was going to spend this review of the latest Asterisk War talking about how awesome Saya Sasamiya is, the girl whose main solution to every single problem is “I guess I just need a bigger gun”, but then I looked at my review of the previous volume and realized I’d done that already. But I mean, come on, what do you expect me to talk about? The fights? That said, there is a little bit of non-tournament stuff here. The King Arthur school is back, and one of their members is now mind-controlled and evil, and has a backstory that makes me wonder if the author of Asterisk War read A Certain Scientific Railgun one day and thought “Hmmm”. And we finally get the end of the Sugary Days flashbacks with Akari and Madiath Mesa, which shows off his reasoning for being the big bad of the series, and I guess it’s all right as a motivation, but I dunno, the bad guys in this series just feel really boring. I guess I do need to talk about the fights.

Kirin’s on the cover, but, as with the previous book, isn’t actually the focus. We get instead 1) Ayato vs. Fuyuka, who essentially calls up a spiritual tag team to beat the crap out of Ayato (he still wins – hard to avoid that spoiler given he also fights later in the book); 2) Orphelia vs. Sylvia, which gives us some more of Sylvia’s backstory and thankfully does not kill her off, though it’s a close one; Saya vs. Lenaty, where even the announcers are making fun of Saya (who is, admittedly, wearing what amounts to an elementary schooler’s backpack), and again MORE DAKKA wins the day; and finally Ayato vs. Julis. The last battle you’d think would be called off, as his sister’s “you have a bomb in my body” problem is dealt with here as well, but when Ayato hears what Julis is actually planning to do…

Asterisk War is never going to be winning any “favorite series” competitions – as far as I can tell, its current fanbase is divided between those who hated the Ayato and Julis fight because he was too overpowered and those who hated it because he wasn’t overpowered enough – but it chugs along its fights never wear out their welcome, and, as I said at the start of the book, it has Saya. I was amused at the epilogue, which discusses the finals as if Saya has already lost. Saya, while admitting she thinks the same thing, is rather pissed off about this, but doesn’t want to forfeit even though she’s grievously injured and Orphelia literally tried to murder her last opponent, because she has something she “wants to try out”. Several times she thinks to herself that she’s the weakest of those in the quarterfinals, but now she’s in the semis, and I highly doubt the author will kill her off for drama, so I look forward to seeing what happens.

But that may take a bit. Yes, those dreaded words, we’ve caught up with Japan. The 16th volume is out there at the end of March, but I suspect we won’t see it till the fall at the earliest. Till then, Asterisk War is still coasting on being “okay”, but it has Saya, and that’s good enough for me.

The Asterisk War: Struggle for Supremacy

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

Ooof. We are deep into “tournament arc” here, folks, which means that a) the books are really not doing anything aside from showing off some cool fights, which means I have very little to write about, and b) it is fairly easy to guess who is going to be winning each of those fights. Ayato and Julis are not going to be losing at this point in time. Heck, even the “trying to figure out what the bad guys are doing” plot takes a back seat here, though it does lead to one of the funnier not-really-a-gag moments in the book when Orphelia straight up tells the other villains “oh yeah, I told Julis our plan six months ago.” After basically being absent from the last book, Julis gets more to do here, including what ends up being the best fight, but I suspect she is going to continue to be very unhappy for the next few volumes. Fortunately, the book has a secret weapon: Saya, aka Best Girl.

Claudia is on the cover, but barely in the book itself at all. Though she fares better than Kirin, who is totally absent. We get a series of fights, after briefly seeing Julis win her Round Four battle. First we see Ayato take on Rodolfo Zoppo, an arrogant ass who we dearly want to see get the shit beaten out of. Sadly, all of Ayato’s fights in this series have involved him barely winning, and that’s what happens here. Lester fights the Black Knight, and wins, but unfortunately is too injured to continue, so Julis gets a bye in Round 6. Speaking of Julis, as stated, she gets the best fight, taking on Xiaohui, who has returned from his Vision Quest and gotten stronger thanks to an old man on a mountain who doesn’t train him but lets him watch his everyday life. It’s a good reminder that Asterisk War runs on cliches. Saya takes on a girl who’s too amusing to take seriously. We get Robot vs. Robot, and the more evil robot wins. Silvia wins her match, which amounts to song vs. dance. And Orphelia manages to not only take out Hilda, but Hilda may in fact be permanently removed from the stage – her ending is ominous.

Apologies for the spoilers, but again, none of this is a surprise. You knew most of these people were going to win. Aside from Julis, as I noted, Saya gets the best moments, as she has the 2nd best fight, but more importantly is there to deliver a pep talk to Claudia and Rimcy, who are both feeling depressed and useless. Saya points out that she is an Unlucky Childhood Friend who spends every day handing around a hot tsundere princess and a meek sword prodigy, and also has to deal with the world’s top idol singer. They are all probably better fighters than her. They are all more likely to get Ayato’s love than her. But, as Saya wonderfully puts it, “so what?”. She refuses to simply stop trying. It’s not quite the end of the book, but it makes for a great emotional climax.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make up for 170 pages or so of fight after fight after fight. And I suspect we’ll get more of the same next time, though the cliffhanger does at least promise some emotional torture of Julis as well. Good times!

The Asterisk War: The Steps of Glory

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

There’s good news and bad news in this new volume of The Asterisk War. The bad news is that this is the start of the series’ THIRD tournament arc, and with a few exceptions, battle scenes are what we’re going to get. The good news is that this author is quite good at writing battle scenes, particularly with a lot of young men and women kicking ass in various kinds of ways. We do get more at the start of the book showing the growing relationship between our villain, Madiath Mesa, and Ayato’s mother Sakura, whose real name seems to be Akari. It’s no surprise by now that she’s a girl shunned by the rest of her family due to “out of control” powers and forced to essentially live in a shed for most of her childhood, given what we’ve seen of this world to date. We do also get a bit of Kirin investigating, though that’s mostly her almost getting killed. The rest is fighting and foreshadowing of more fighting to come.

Saya is on the cover this time, and does get a bit to do, as she’s in the tournament. I was amused that chaotic, unpredictable fighters are her weakness, which makes perfect sense given her own personality and her love for Ayato. Ayato actually gets the most troublesome fights, not a big surprise given he’s the main character, and learns the hard way that the nature of this tournament (one-on-one, as opposed to pairs or groups) means everyone is far more brutal – several characters are hospitalized and the narrative has to tell us “it’s OK, they’re going to live”. He fights a big guy who has a few surprise Luxes that he can bring out, which shows off that there are various factions trying to influence this tournament as much as possible. He also fights a very nice girl and is very nice back at her, and it’s a good thing their battle is fierce otherwise I suspect the audience watching these fights would have been rather bored.

For those wanting more Julis, sorry to say you will have to wait – she’s barely in this book, and we don’t get to see any of her preliminary bouts. Instead we get a large number of characters, some of whom we’ve seen before and some we haven’t, but I can guarantee you I’ve mostly forgotten who they are. That’s fine, we’re not here for character development, we’re here to read some nice fights. Hilda’s battle was excellent, and I look forward to seeing the Mad Scientist fight, even though the narrator for some reason wants to tell me I won’t be able to get it. I was also amused at the student council presidents of the various schools trying to figure out how to explain the various borderline-illegal things their students have done. Next volume promises us the start of the real Tournament proper – in other words, battles where we may NOT guess the outcome in advance.

This is apparently the final arc in the series, per the author, which doesn’t surprise me given the main cast is about to graduate. I am assuming that many good fights will be had, all the remaining women in love with Ayato will confess to him, and he will end up with Julis, because in the end Asterisk War is well-written cliche but still very, very cliche. Still, I’ll be back next time.