Anime Corner: The Asterisk War Review

Blog Asterisk War Review Title

The Asterisk War. What Asterisk War?

What’s the Story?

Ayato has just transferred into a special academy where teenagers with special abilities battle it out to earn their heart’s desire (because there’s only a hundred or so other anime that have similar plots). Ayato’s desire is to discover what happened to his beloved older sister who transferred to this academy and then mysteriously disappeared. Ayato teams up with the local tsundere Julis to compete the tournaments known as Festas. Will Ayato uncover the truth behind the tragic fate of his sister? Ah, who cares about that, I know the real question on all of your minds, which member of the harem will Ayato end up? (If you want my honest opinion I doubt we’ll ever get an answer to either of those questions, in the anime at least).

The Review

I mean really, what is the Asterisk War? Did I miss something? Did I slip into a coma while vital information was being given out? (I admit it is possible with this series.) I mean I get that this is basically a tournament anime, but is that technically a war? Is the city called Asterisk, or the academy? If so you may want to reiterate that once in a while. Or is the Asterisk part being left over for the second season?

Also there’s the fact that I’m pretty sure I remember the series opening mentioning a change to morality that society went through when people started getting special powers, yet outside of one instance I can recall this is never explored or focussed on in anyway (it’s that bit where Kirin’s dad is locked up for using his powers, but then that hardly sounds like something that couldn’t happen with current morality). How is this setup any different from your generic teenagers with special abilities and weapons fighting in a tournament shonen anime? Answer: it’s not!

Ok, rant over and all of that being said I don’t actually hate this series. I mean if I sit down and actually think about this series it is kind of infuriating seeing all of the potential that is left by the wayside instead going with your stereotypical characters and generic plot elements, but that’s kind of issue with this series, it works better if you don’t think about it. Now I will never advocate that it is the best option for a series to take the lazy action-fest route, but I do acknowledge that every now and again it’s good to just switch off and enjoy some mindless action. You appreciate a good meal a lot better if you eat junk food now and again, if you’ll permit me to put it metaphorically.

Issue wise the plot is a pretty big one. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, but there’s not exactly anything that new or original. Like I said, it’s your basic tournament with super-powered teenagers. There’s elements that could be interesting, such as the mystery behind what happened to Ayato’s sister or the reveal that the weapons can influence their wielders to the point of controlling them. There’s clearly something sinister going on in this place, but like with so much of this story, it just doesn’t have enough focus or detail for you to sink your teeth into. We know dangerously little about what could be going on, which makes it hard to get excited about where this is all headed.

A generic plot isn’t the end of a story though. It’s not what the building blocks are, not really, it’s what you do with them. Unfortunately Asterisk War does very little.

That brings me to the characters. I like them well enough, but that’s expressed more with a shrug of my shoulders than any great enthusiasm, which is never a good sign. The characters all have a role to play, and they never really break out of those roles. It’s paint by numbers character creation. Ayato is the nice guy with the awesome superpowers. He’s so badass that he needs a MacGuffin limiter to stop him from just beating everyone without breaking a sweat. There’s also the fact that he attracts girls into his harem like honey attracts bears (possibly with similar results). Julis is our tsundere, Saya is the deadpan childhood friend, Kirin is the shy one and Claudia is…well, she’s fanserivce as far as I can tell (not that we don’t get enough of that from the other girls). No one ever does anything that really wows you, outside of action scenes that is, which makes it hard to invest in them. My favourite character in this series is one of the bad guys, and that’s only because of just how energetic and crazy she clearly is (I’m rooting for you Ernesta!).

The saving grace of this anime is the action and the animation. The animation is of a pretty good quality throughout, everything looks nice and has a lot of eye-catching colours, but it really hits its stride when the fighting starts. The fights are always fun even if sometimes gets a touch ridiculous with just how badass Ayato can be. The only downside to some of the action is that some of the powers can be a bit generic. I’ll give Julis points for having an array of attacks, but fire powers have really been done to death. Can’t you come up with something more original?

By far the most disappointing thing about this anime tough is the ending to this first season. Now as far as I am aware there is another 12 episodes of this anime due to come out in the spring, and while I can appreciate splitting up anime like this to help the budget and production, it really does hurt this anime. I can’t help but feel that this anime is stopping before it’s even started. The final battle is a good one with some really nice action and impressive animation, but the plot still feels likes it’s in its set up phase. What have we really learned? What do we know about where this is all going? What is there to keep us interested in coming back for more? Not much really, unless you absolutely have to know what happened to Ayato’s sister. Across these past 12 episodes we’ve basically been introduced to the main players, learned a few titbits about the world and seen a handful of good fights. We’re so far from anything even resembling the meat of the story, outside of a few characters standing around making vague statements; it’s amazing to me that they thought this was a good point to split the series at.

The Verdict

The Asterisk War isn’t a bad anime, it’s also not one that I’ll go out of my way to recommend. The characters are stereotypical, the plot wasteful and its only really saved by its animation and fight scenes. So if you fancy a decent action romp, switch off your brain and open the popcorn.

fish stamp watchable

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

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