The Asterisk War Part 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD / Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 282 minutes approx.
Being an anime fan can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. We get to see some amazing TV shows and films that beguile, bewilder, amuse, and astound us with their genius, creativity, and sheer aesthetic beauty. Then there are the shows that are so derivative they make it difficult to summon any interest in them.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Asterisk War. Following a cataclysmic event called Invertia that destroyed most of the earth, wiping out all sovereign and government rule. In its wake, a conglomerate called Integrated Enterprise Foundation rebuilt society and the economy, while at the same time, people began to develop super powers now called Genestellas.
In the city of Rikka, aka Asterisk, the six academies hold a series of tournaments called Festas in which Genestellas participate for global viewing pleasure, representing their academies for the glory and the personal rewards being big money prizes. Enter Ayato Amagiri, new transfer student at Seidoukan Academy, which is currently ranked fifth, who does not intend to fight, despite possessing supreme skills.
Upon his arrival, Ayato has an awkward encounter with top-ranking female student Julis-Alexia von Riessfeld, leading to her challenging Ayato to a duel. Before it goes too far, the fight is interrupted by student council President Claudia Enfield, who tries to recruit Ayato for the upcoming Phoenix Festa tournament to restore the academy’s past glories and rise up the ranking tables again.
However, Ayato only transferred to Seidoukan as he is searching for his missing older sister, Haruka, previously a student there. Whilst information on Haruka is scant Claudia notices that Ayato is compatible with Haruka’s Ogre Lux (weapon), Ser-Veresta, so she makes Ayato an offer he can’t refuse – help Seidoukan win the Phoenix Festa tournament and the academy will grant any wish he desires.
The Asterisk War is based on a series of light novels by Yu Miyazaki which began in 2012 and is proving quite popular in Japan, having also spread out to a manga adaptation and a video game. Yet, one would be hard pressed to describe it as an original work as it evokes a sense of déjà vu at almost every step of the way, from the duelling academies concept to the harem comedy and even the apocalyptic prologue to the story.
Despite the stark monochrome opening of a girl apparently being vanquished in a violent battle (guess who?), the clichés begin almost immediately with Ayato picking up a dropped handkerchief and discovering its owner in the building above, Julis, in a state of undress. For some viewers this might be a great way to open a show but for others it is a test to see if you have enough faith in it to resist hitting the stop button.
Yet the remainder of the first episode doesn’t really do much to convince cynical viewers to stick around, with busty Claudia throwing herself at bland nice guy Ayato, followed by uppity tsundere Julis chewing him out just for existing, until Ayato wins her over with his chivalry when a rival student tries to fight Julis in public.
But two girls do not a harem make so let’s introduce you to Ayato’s childhood friend and loli no 1 Saya Sasamiya, a soft spoken, sleepy girl but highly skilled fighter, and the academy’s top ranked fighter Kirin Toudou. Loli no 2 is a meek junior, mistaken as being older than her 13 years due to her ample bosom. Kirin falls for Ayato when he defends her against her bullying uncle, teaching her to stand up to him.
If one thing prevents these girls from being one-dimensional lazy genre tropes it is the reason they are entering the Festa tournaments. Julis is the First Princess of Lieseltania, but the country is dire need of funds so she is fighting to help her people; Saya’s father is a gun inventor, and she uses his weapons in the tournaments so she hopes to fund his work going forward; and Kirin is hoping win enough money to clear her incarcerated father’s name after being framed by her uncle.
They still fight over Ayato’s affections, provide fan service and frivolous comedy, but at heart this gives the girls definition they otherwise wouldn’t have had per the conventions of the genre. Although Ayato’s animal magnetism doesn’t stretch beyond Seidoukan, his sense of fair play and amiable demeanour does win over some of his adversaries, again mostly busty females, including a psychotic vampire and the sister she feeds off.
Unfortunately these sisters arrive too late; a shame as glimpses of their backstory suggests it is more fascinating than much of the main plot. This also applies to the nominal main antagonist, Dirk Eberwein of Rewolf Black Institute. He pops up every now and then but it isn’t until the last few episodes that the threat he poses to Ayato and co. and well as the other academies, is hinted at.
Looks like we’ll have to wait for season 2 before we find out what his devilish plans could be. Chances are with the world building and character introductions out of the way, a fluid and consistent story could be told. Putting aside the paint-by-numbers content of this season, the animation is competently handled by A1 studios, serving up a few treats in the action sequences, specifically in the tournament bouts.
Maybe the fault lies with adapting a 12 episode TV series from short stories, but while there is an over arching plot as opposed to episodic frippery, the first few episodes offer nothing new to seasoned viewers, thus expecting them to stick it out to the end when things finally pick up is either blind optimism or sheer arrogance.
Not the worst show around, The Asterisk War tests the patience of fans wanting fresh concepts and stories. It has potential, but many viewers may not want to stick around for season two to find out if this is explored or not.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Rating – ** ½
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