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.
The Asterisk War has always been a series that not only speaks in cliches, but revels in them. There is not a single original bone in its body, and I think the author knows that and is unapologetic. That applies very much to this final volume, which is half a volume of fighting and half a volume of epilogue, complete with a “where are they now?” flashforward. We get Ayato saying that he won’t kill Madiath Mesa as that would mean becoming like him. We also get Madiath Mesa committing suicide, because the author is not Ayato. We get to see Saya casually disarm six bombs set along the entire arena… offscreen. Of course. We get to see the final fight between Julis and Orphelia literally end with an Ashita no Joe reference, right down to the art. And we get to see the author trying to pick between two harem endings despised by fans, and somehow managing to pick BOTH of them. It’s near genius, I loved it.
Never let it be said the cover doesn’t give things away. In any case, good news, the artist is well again, so there’s actual art to go with this book. We’re down to two main fights: Ayato and Saya vs. Madiath Mesa, which quickly just becomes Ayato when it is revealed that there is are bombs due to destroy everyone watching the final arena battle unless Saya gets off the pages of the book immediately, which she does. Meanwhile, Julis shows off the results of her ludicrous training with a ludicrous fight against Orphelia, one which features being able to briefly see into other dimensions, gravity vs. fire, and in the end just beating the shit out of each other like sensible people. After that we get “everyone’s in the hospital”, and then the aforementioned flashforward, as Julis has finally had to give in and become royalty.
So yeah, let’s get to that ending, the only reason anyone would still be reading this series. I had heard spoilers that everyone confessed to Ayato but he rejected them all and ran away. That turns out to be true, though we only hear about it in passing during the three-year flashforward. Most of the flashforward involves every main cast member making their way to Lieseltania, where Julis is the new Queen, after her older brother decided to pull a Samson act and take out most of the corruption in the country. Also invited is Ayato, who has a moment with Julis where he’s clearly about to confess before being interrupted by the other girls. But even the author admits in the afterword “Yes, Julis wins”. Also, please look at that cover again. So, for those fans of angry tsunderes who are first girl winning, congrats. Though honestly Julis hasn’t been that angry for a while now.
The Asterisk War was a series that knew how to do one thing well: fight scenes. It made it to 17 volumes by focusing almost entirely on those scenes, and the rest of the plot and characterization were like pastry puffs. Still, I’m happy I read it, even if best girl didn’t win. Possibly as she was sent away to disarm more bombs offscreen. Not that I’m bitter.