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.

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!