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.