By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan by Media Factory. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.
I must admit, of all the minor characters introduced in the last book when Ayato toured the festivals, I was not expecting the comic relief idol band to be the most important. Yet here we are, with said band trying to shame Ayato for being a clueless harem protagonist, getting into fights with other, more delinquent contestants, discovering secret underground battle rings, and taking on our heroes in the final part of the book. Actually, possibly the most interesting part of their story is the fact that their weapon is so powerful, even divided into five bits, that it literally makes them more eccentric and difficult. They have weaponized being cloud cuckoolanders! They also put up a damn good fight, forcing Claudia to use a lot more of her precognitive powers than I think she wanted, which will no doubt come to haunt her in the end. That said, this is really Saya’s book. So I will save her for later.
But first, let’s stay with Claudia, who stuns everyone by announcing her goal in front of the press. This certainly unnerves many people in power, especially her mother, who it turns out if in charge of most everything. As you can imagine, Claudia and her mother do not get along, and yet their confrontation is a highlight of the book. It also seems to tie into what Sylvie is searching for – as does the aforementioned underground battle ring, which is shut down for now but I’ll bet you even money will be started up again in a few books so that Ayato and Julis can fight forbidden illegal battles. Much of the rest of the book is the start of this tournament, with various groups fighting and showing off their dangerous points. This includes Claudia’s team as well, usually with her as the ‘team captain’, though that changes for the final match of the book.
Which brings us to Saya, who gets a lot of focus here. She’s both the childhood friend love interest and the ‘stoic’ one, so brings a lot of popular cards to the table. Her stoicness masks a lot of emotion, though, both in her desire to be able to bring everything she can to the battles with her weapons (which works out wonderfully in the last battle with her homing bazooka thing), and in her desire to be closer to Ayato. She spends a lot of the middle of the book convincing the idol group girls that Ayato is not, in fact, a playboy (well, not deliberately) and explaining all the times he’s been there for her. Which seems to lead her to the big cliffhanger, where she confesses to him. Now, I have a feeling that Saya is aware of the cliches of harem novels like this, and knows that by both being a childhood friend *and* confessing first, she’s out of luck. Still, it’s super impressive, and I hope that Ayato is able to give her a response that’s not just hemming and hawing.
Asterisk War is still very light and fluffy, but this was a particularly strong volume of the series. If you only watched the anime to make fun of it, you might be surprised by this book.