The Asterisk War: Encounter with a Fiery Princess

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

There’s a moment about two-thirds of the way through this novel where the hero and heroine are viewing the city, and she asks to eat at a fast food place. He is somewhat startled by this, as he’s discovered that she’s the princess of a European nation and expected her to only want to go to high-class restaurants. Eventually we do get an explanation for why she prefers to eat there, but her initial response to him is simply that this is fine, right? And that’s sort of how I feel about The Asterisk War. It’s not original by any means. In fact, that’s an understatement. It is so unoriginal that it may actually leech cliches from the books on your shelves that surround it (Go reread them – are they filled with twists?). That said, sometimes you want a burger and fries. And The Asterisk War is very good fast food, which I’d be happy to eat if I’m in a rush.

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I will try to describe the plot without just linking to various TV Tropes pages. Our hero is Ayato, a young man who’s just arrived at a prestigious magic academy, one of six schools in the shape of an asterisk that fight each other (hence the name of the series). Supposedly he’s a perfectly normal student with a bit of sword training. In reality, of course, his true power has been sealed by his sister, who is currently missing and whose footsteps he is trying to trace. He has an unfortunate first encounter (if you guessed “saw half-naked”, you get no points as it was too obvious) with our heroine, Julis, who seems like the standard angry tsundere (she wields massive fire powers, because of course she does) but in reality is just bad at dealing with people and somewhat lonely. As Ayato learns about the school, running into a) the buxom and teasing Student Council President who has big plans for him, and b) his childhood friend, a sleepy and emotionless young girl who nevertheless carries a somewhat obvious torch for him, Julis deals with the fact that someone is trying to kill, or at least disable, her before the Big Competition that no doubt will serve as the plot of future books.

Now, if you’ve been keeping score, try to add up the number of other manga, anime, and light novels that the above description sounded like or reminded you of. If you got under ten, you weren’t trying hard enough. (I’m honestly amazed there wasn’t incestual subtext – clearly the author didn’t try hard enough.) But for all my snark, I actually enjoyed this quite a bit. The hero is likeable and strong without being overpowerful, and reacts to half-naked women like a normal teenage boy and not a manga cliche. Julis starts off over the top, but it takes less than half a volume for us to realize that she’s not going to be another tsundere – well, except when the fanservice or comedy requires it, then of course she will be. I’m also very fond of Saya, less because of good writing and more because I simply like that type of character. Same with Claudia.

So there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. But the fanservice is light compared to other series, the plot twists are predictable but not irritating, and most of the cast is quite likeable. It’s fast food, but it’s filled with stuff you always enjoyed growing up. I’m perfectly happy to take it in and see what happens next. (Also, Chivalry of a Failed Knight doesn’t have its book licensed yet, so schtum.)