The Asterisk War: Festival Symphony

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

The author admits in the afterword that this was supposed to end with the start of the next school battle, but that things got out of hand. As such, we have another volume that is theoretically marking time and having fun before the next round of fights. In reality, of course, what we get here is more insight into the six other schools, with attention paid to almost all of them. We finally find out what Claudia’s wish is, and why the entire world seems to want to stop her. And Ayato gets another girl falling in love with him, and like the others, she’s intensely likeable. The drawbacks of the series remain the same – every plot twist is quite predictable, and the characters sometimes seem to be types rather than real people. But as a book that puts the “light” in light novel, it’s fun.

The majority of the book, as the title might suggest, is taken up with the Culture Festival that all six schools are giving. Ayato has agreed to take Sylvia on a date around the schools, something which the other girls in his orbit are all very well aware of. I liked the differing approaches to dealing with their jealousy – Julis hides from the entire festival and works on training, Saya does a bunch of events where she can just destroy everything, etc. Ayato, meanwhile, being terminally clueless about romance, has no idea why any of this is going on, which can sometimes be a problem, as he and Sylvia put on disguises but he keeps breaking their cover. The date itself also serves as an excuse to talk a bit more about the different schools and the types of students they attract, and we also meet some new recurring cast members, both comedic (the idol group that’s trying to top Sylvia) and serious (Jie Long’s new powerhouses, though Hufeng’s “long suffering” attitude is sometimes funny).

We’re gearing up for the next tournament, the Gryps, which depends on teamwork. As such, Claudia discusses her weapon and what the drawbacks to it are, and also shares why she wants to win: she wants to talk to a supposed criminal that’s been imprisoned. Ayato and Sylvia, meanwhile, may not be at the same school, but their desires also hinge on the book’s later plotline, with Ayato being offered a way to wake his sister up that involves a “deal with the devil” sort of bargain, and Sylvia finding out that her old teacher is not who she once was. Sylvia seems to have a large amount of “I don’t want to burden others with my own problems” to her, which I’m sure will get her in danger sooner rather than later.

The Asterisk War is never going to be among the best light novels out there, but it’s always readable and fun, and I’d argue it’s perhaps the most “typical” example of the genre.

The Asterisk War: The Triumphal Homecoming Battle

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

New semester, new characters, new translator, it’s all new on the Asterisk War front. That said, I would not call this the start of a new arc, really. This book seems to be entirely concerned with putting pieces in place to set up the next few books. Sometimes this works well – the villain of the book is suitably arrogant and snotty, and you will enjoy his defeat – and sometimes it feels like it’s been shoehorned in – Orphelia essentially drops in to reveal who she is and her connection to Julis before going away for the rest of the book. Everyone’s schemes seem to have one think in common, though, which is to stop Claudia winning the next section of the tournament. This is because of her wish, which we are told several times we’re going to hear but never do. And certainly our main five characters would make quite a team if they can all work together, so the bad guys have good reason to worry.

We’ve moved a few months along after the battle of the last three books, and I am very happy o see we won’t have to deal with wacky classroom comedy like a lot of other magical school series. Instead Julis invites everyone to her home country, which is the ever popular “tiny country somewhere in Central Europe” that fantasy authors seem to love, so that she can visit the orphanage she saved by winning the tournament and also catch up with her brother the King. Of course, Julis lacks self-awareness (something she shares with Ayato at times), so is not sure why there’s suddenly a giant parade in her honor, or a party set up to show her off. She’s insanely popular now. Also, the country and various organizations seem to be shipping her with Ayato, which should go well as the author is as well, despite all the fanservicey harem illustrations. Unfortunately, there’s also a group out to kill her, and they’ve sent an assassin who can create magical beasts. Oh yes, and Julis’ old childhood friend shows up. Sadly, she’s evil now.

As I’ve said before (possibly in every single review), no one reads Asterisk War for the plot twists. Everything develops the war you think it is going to develop. But the book also exhibits a basic level of competence that makes me quite happy to keep reading it, and the girls are all harem ‘types’ without quite being boring cliches. I am looking forward to the main cast teaming up with Claudia, if only as I find Claudia’s powers and backstory the most interesting of them. Everyone gets something cool to do in the final battle, and there’s some decent discussion of politics. And oh yes, after Ayato asid his wish was for his sister to be found last time… his sister is found. Sadly, that doesn’t really do him much good, abut at least he knows her circumstances now.

This takes us to the end of the Asterisk War anime adaptation, so new volumes should be new content. I am aware that the anime was unpopular, but I’ve never had an issue with the books. Perhaps it reads better in prose. (More likely it’s because I’ve never read Chivalry of a Failed Knight.) I’d still recommend Asterisk War to anyone who likes magical fighting school series, it is a nice light snack of a novel.

The Asterisk War: Battle for the Crown

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

I always enjoy each volume of Asterisk War I read, despite the fact that you can see every plot beat and character development coming from eight miles away. The good thing about it is, it’s the RIGHT kind of character development. This being a tournament arc, you would expect that the losers among our heroes get shuffled off to the side to watch from the stands, like… well, every other tournament arc in manga and anime. But no, Saya and Kirin (yes, it’s a spoiler that they lost, but not much of one if you have any idea about how narrative works) not only get to save the day in their B-plot, but Saya actually gets something of a resolution in the argument she had with Rimcy a couple books ago. And speaking of Ardy and Rimcy, their character arc is not winning the tournament, it’s showing that they are capable of growing and striving just as humans do, and it’s also carried off very well. The well-worn path this walks is comfortable, and has tea at the end.

The girl on the cover this time around is Sylvia, president of the all-girls institute that’s one of the six schools. She essentially shows up to give Ayato a hand in the kidnapping B-plot and to tease him – even the author admits he had planned to add her later. She’s cute, though, and I look forward to seeing how she differs from Claudia in the Ayato harem sweepstakes. As for the tournament part of it, there are two really good fights and one sort of mediocre one – we know that Ayato and Julis are going to reach the finals, and so the battle they face to get there feels perfunctory and short – which is better than perfunctory and long, I suppose. Saya and Kirin fare better – as I said above, they have to lose for plot reasons, but they do a damn good job, forcing Ardy and Rimcy to bring out their secret weapon earlier and generally showing that they are not just stoic/meek (delete where applicable) girls.

They also get to rescue the kidnapped girl, despite severe injuries from the tournament, injuries that are also handed to Ayato and Julis in the final. The final battle takes up the most space in the book, and is mostly worth it, though perhaps drags on a bit long – yes, even in books as short as The Asterisk War, scenes can go on too long. But Ardy is fun, and I liked the way that Ayato and Julis finally got together to take down the pair, which is clever, finds a way around Ayato’s big weakness, and is also quite shippy. That said, their pledge at the end of the book to keep allying in the other two competitions no matter what just seems to be inviting trouble, if you ask me.

So one tournament down, and apparently next time we get a slight break before jumping into Tournament Two. In the meantime, The Asterisk War continues to be, in my opinion, predictable cliches done right.