The Asterisk War: Conquering Dragons and Knights

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

Even if you hadn’t already figured out what the result of the Gryps competition, the subtitle of the volume may clue you in. Our heroes this time take on Jie Long’s Dragon Warriors, a team seemingly set up to look like they stepped off the screen of a videogame. The winner of that battle goes on to face Saint Gallardsworth’s team of Arthurian types, though I’m honestly not sure if Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table ever had an obvious princess-curled tsundere quite like Laetitia. Things are not helped by the events in the previous volume, which have left most of Team Enfield feeling particularly exhausted. Of course, this is exactly the time when a typical cliched shonen series would have its cast each reach the next level, pull new abilities out of their asses, and go on to crush the competition by virtue of being really, really shonen about it. And never let it be said that Asterisk War does not go for the easy answer, as this is exactly what happens.

Kirin has the cover image this time around, and while the author apologizes in the afterword for sidelining her from the final fight, I have a feeling that was meant to be partly ironic, as the fight against Jie Long is Kirin’s finest hour to date. Honestly, I was expecting Ayato to pull things off again, but to be fair, he was needed for the next fight along, and Kirin had not had a spotlight in some time, so it’s justified. Much as it’s talked about in terms of being able to see the way the fighter’s prana is behaving, her new ability essentially boils down to “can predict moves better”, which is fine. No one cries out for gritty realism in a magical academy fighting manga – at least I hope they don’t. Instead you ask for cool, and that’s what we get here… at the cost of Kirin being bedridden for the rest of the book. And possible getting yelled at by her family, there’s a cliffhanger involved.

We then go up against Team Lancelot, though not before we see Ayato meet a mysterious masked man who professes to be the one who put his sister in her coma. He’s a trickster mentor of the finest water, and his presence (and assistant) seems to hint that Ayato’s story will be tied up with Sylvie’s again pretty soon. That said, the best part of this second half was seeing Ernest finally give in and embrace his inner selfish asshole. His weapon involves being pure, noble and chivalrous, but doing so was clearly pressuring him in ways that were obvious to see. It was one of those things where the reader, who knows his character type, was waiting for the other shoe to drop. He also becomes far more interesting, even though it may be Percival who we follow going forward. (Sorry, Laetitia, you have “always a side character” written all over you.

In addition to Kirin’s family cliffhanger, we also get Ayato getting a call from his father right at the end. Still, despite that, I suspect that the next volume will be a lighter, breezier one to help relax after this arc. If you’re enjoying this beach read of a light novel, this is an excellent pickup.

The Asterisk War: Whispers of a Long Farewell

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

Last time Saya stole Claudia’s thunder a bit, but in this volume Claudia definitely takes the spotlight: this is her book, and we get glimpses of her childhood, how she’s been changed and affected by wielding the Pan-Dora, and just what her REAL wish it, as everyone agrees it can’t simply be “I want an interview with a known political prisoner”. In fact, it’s a lot more close to home than that, and a lot darker. That said, in amongst the darkness we do get some good fights, as Ayato finally has to face off against his roommate, who turns out to be from a family of ninjas, to the surprise of absolutely no one. And of course the other girls are somewhat stunned at Saya admitting her feelings directly to Ayato, and are wondering what comes next, though honestly, knowing how harem titles work, they should not be surprised the answer is “not much.”

I did give Saya credit for confessing last time, but it’s hard to take “you don’t have to answer me right away” as anything more than backing away at the last minute. That said, that’s more on the author than on Saya herself, and she’s right that she doesn’t want to affect the Gryps team while they’re still competing. Julis and Kirin are both providing what little humor is in this volume with their reactions, which are pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Additional lightness is provided by Laetitia, Claudia’s childhood friend and “rival”, the sort of rival that you always see in these sorts of things, who is constantly talking about defeating Claudia one day but in reality is caring and worried. Just because I really enjoy each new volume of Asterisk War does not mean it isn’t hitting each cliche with perfect precision.

The bulk of the book stems from Claudia’s somewhat open declaration of war last book, and the Powers That Be deciding that things are so dangerous now that assassinating her in a very obvious way is actually the lesser of two evils. Fortunately, she’s clever and able to avoid getting killed right up till Ayato can show up. Unfortunately, Ayato is related to her REAL wish, and to his horror, it’s a bit of a death wish. As I said before, given what Claudia endures is using her Orga Lux, it’s unsurprising that she’s gotten somewhat jaded and tired – she’s seen being killed by the entire cast, including Julis, Kirin AND Saya. But not Ayato, and this leads to the second confession of the book. I’ll be honest, I did briefly wonder if the author had the stones to kill Claudia off. But honestly, having her survive was not only the more cliched (and thus Asterisk War) option, but it allows for a really lovely it where Ayato asks what she plans to do now, and she literally has no idea – she hadn’t imagined surviving.

I’m not sure how her newly “repaired” relationship with her mother and the rest of the PtB will go, but I do know that the next book will have the next tournament bout, and it’s not good news for our heroes – Claudia and Ayato are very depleted on resources. Are they really going to lose? OK, probably not. But Asterisk War remains good frothy fun, with some really good character development this time around as well.

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.