The Asterisk War: The Grand Finale

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan as “Gakusen Toshi Asterisk” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

The Asterisk War has always been a series that not only speaks in cliches, but revels in them. There is not a single original bone in its body, and I think the author knows that and is unapologetic. That applies very much to this final volume, which is half a volume of fighting and half a volume of epilogue, complete with a “where are they now?” flashforward. We get Ayato saying that he won’t kill Madiath Mesa as that would mean becoming like him. We also get Madiath Mesa committing suicide, because the author is not Ayato. We get to see Saya casually disarm six bombs set along the entire arena… offscreen. Of course. We get to see the final fight between Julis and Orphelia literally end with an Ashita no Joe reference, right down to the art. And we get to see the author trying to pick between two harem endings despised by fans, and somehow managing to pick BOTH of them. It’s near genius, I loved it.

Never let it be said the cover doesn’t give things away. In any case, good news, the artist is well again, so there’s actual art to go with this book. We’re down to two main fights: Ayato and Saya vs. Madiath Mesa, which quickly just becomes Ayato when it is revealed that there is are bombs due to destroy everyone watching the final arena battle unless Saya gets off the pages of the book immediately, which she does. Meanwhile, Julis shows off the results of her ludicrous training with a ludicrous fight against Orphelia, one which features being able to briefly see into other dimensions, gravity vs. fire, and in the end just beating the shit out of each other like sensible people. After that we get “everyone’s in the hospital”, and then the aforementioned flashforward, as Julis has finally had to give in and become royalty.

So yeah, let’s get to that ending, the only reason anyone would still be reading this series. I had heard spoilers that everyone confessed to Ayato but he rejected them all and ran away. That turns out to be true, though we only hear about it in passing during the three-year flashforward. Most of the flashforward involves every main cast member making their way to Lieseltania, where Julis is the new Queen, after her older brother decided to pull a Samson act and take out most of the corruption in the country. Also invited is Ayato, who has a moment with Julis where he’s clearly about to confess before being interrupted by the other girls. But even the author admits in the afterword “Yes, Julis wins”. Also, please look at that cover again. So, for those fans of angry tsunderes who are first girl winning, congrats. Though honestly Julis hasn’t been that angry for a while now.

The Asterisk War was a series that knew how to do one thing well: fight scenes. It made it to 17 volumes by focusing almost entirely on those scenes, and the rest of the plot and characterization were like pastry puffs. Still, I’m happy I read it, even if best girl didn’t win. Possibly as she was sent away to disarm more bombs offscreen. Not that I’m bitter.

The Asterisk War: The Golden Bough Conflagration

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan as “Gakusen Toshi Asterisk” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

OK, this took about a year longer than I was expecting it to when I wrote the review of Vol. 15 in February 2021. Part of the reason is that this took a long time to come out in Japan. The complete lack of interior illustrations may tell you why – the artist was ill, and the writer really did not want to change to a different artist. Still, we get a cover! Sylvia is on it! That said, you know what Asterisk War cover appearances are like. Fans of Sylvia will probably be unhappy with this book. The book itself tries to balance its three genres – harem romcom, tournament fighting, and counterterrorism thriller – but, to no one’s surprise, the last of those is going to get the attention in this penultimate book. We get set up to most of the big fights, with the help of our main cast, as well as Minato Wakamiya! You remember Minato. From the spinoff series? That never got licensed? Yeah. (She was briefly in Book 13-14.)

We begin with the fight between Saya and Orphelia, which… goes about how you’d expect, but Saya gets crucial information and also doesn’t die, so I’ll call that a moral victory. So now we know why Julis is pushing all her friends away, and also what the villains hope to achieve… though the villains are not really working together because they like each other. As such, while Julis prepares for her fight against Orphelia, which will no doubt be the centerpiece of the next volume, the others go to take out all the villains they can. Ayato, Saya and Kirin face off against Madiath Mesa… as well as his mind-controlled underling. Meanwhile, Claudia and Sylvia are fighting Varda-Vaos, bringing along Minato because they believe she will prove useful, and possibly also as her personality is basically “I’m gonna do my best!” with a massive anime hammer.

This series really works best when writing fights, and they are well-written, so I appreciate that. As for the villains, I feel it acknowledges that they’re a bit meh, though two of the three fights are still to come. And then there’s Dirk, who pretty much behaves exactly as you’d expect Dirk to behave. I’d say he’s a problematic fave, except this series has no fans anymore, so who really likes him enough to call him a fave? The fights basically exist to have the supporting cast do really cool things, but then end up unable to go on any further. Kirin wins but is unconscious, Sylvia… well, we hope she’s back to normal, and Claudia seems to have sacrificed the rest of her life in order to win. She’s probably the one I worry most about. As for Julis and Ayato (and Saya, but you know she’ll be written out fast), wait for the next book.

Which is the final book in the series. Hopefully it won’t take a year and a half to come out here, but given this is not one of Yen On’s top sellers who knows? The Japanese volume came out in June, and had the reaction you’d expect for a harem romcom with fans that get Very Angry Indeed. For those who enjoy this series (it’s pretty much just me, isn’t it?), this was a solid book. Which it had pictures, but oh well.

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.