A hundred years after an asteroid strikes the Earth and leaves the next few generations with special powers, the world’s most advanced city has been founded to settle fights between the academies in the city of Rikka, more commonly called Asterisk, for control of whatever the winner of the yearly competition wants. In the fights, one or more combatants must face off against an equal opposite number of combatants and uses their Genestella powers plus a chosen weapon (called a Lux) to defeat, incapacitate or make an opponent yield. The fight is watched by a crowd and once the challenge to fight is issued, cannot be rescinded. Into this comes Ayato Amagiri who joins one of the academies in search of his older sister who vanished a while earlier after going to the same academy. Within the first day, he sees a girl in a state of undress, proves himself a hero and gets hit on by his student year head. He hasn’t even gotten to the second day yet.
Ayato is a fun lead if only because he’s uncomplicated. He wants to save his sister if she’s still alive and to just get through his school day at Seidōkan academy. Now, once he meets a Princess, Julis, he goes from a nobody to being a total badass with a sword (standard harem progression so far) and the whole school thinks he’s a whiz. Never once does he show any kind of need to be popular or try to understand how the school works. I’m not kidding, he has to have everything explained to him. Good thing he’s got such a tsundere girl as Julis in his corner. A proper Princess, she is the flustered romantic lead personified. She wants to save the poor orphan children back in her home country (which seems to be from the stock Disney medieval country playbook) but she already knows how to crochet and make sandwiches. The show makes a bigger noise for that than they do the fact she can flay her opponents with fire and with sword (she’s called the Glühende Rose and Witch of the Resplendent Flames because of her powers). Saya is the quiet one with the giant gun power and a massive bust inferiority complex. Kirin is a master swords person who is super shy around everyone but has the skills to make her the No.1 ranked student at Seidōkan.
It’s an interesting concept for a winning prize. If you win the final round and are crowned winner of the Festa, you get whatever you want. What does that involve? Money, power, some form of geo-political control? The way the contestants describe it, it’s like winning the annual Hunger Games. Fascinating stuff. I love the idea of the combative academy and the fact that even within their own respective “houses”, nobody is safe. Ayato and Julis quickly gain the wisdom that they’d be better together than apart due to their respective skills. As they train, they figure out how to overcome most of their weaknesses and enhance their strengths. It makes a welcome break from a certain grouping of fighting harem shows that show an equal amount of punching the hero for falling on someone’s boob as it does the team coming together. Also the city itself, a technological marvel, has only been glimpsed at in the episodes we’ve seen. I hope it has the same kind of place as Academy City in A Certain Scientific Railgun as I love seeing what the future looks like to film and animation designers. The animation itself is well done with good character designs but I found the actual animation to be basic the closer to a character it got. If the storyline evolves into a more complex setting as is hinted at in the later episodes, then I can forgive the more spartan animation work.
The weakest parts of the show is where the makers can’t decide if each scene should be played for laughs or not. There are dramatic scenes and then there are the scenes where the girls get insanely jealous of each other for Ayato’s affections (real or imagined). But sometimes the show doesn’t know when to stop and we get some lines carried over in the middle of a dramatic scene from a joke that should have been said and left where it was. Oddly, the most fun I had was when the show was trying to be funny and failing at it. The writing is such that the person trying to crack wise knows they suck and knows you do too. Another problem is that the show leans far too much on Ayato, meaning that he has to be in the room when the other characters emote or talk about their past. Do we really need him to be there all the time? Do the characters like Julis, Saya and Claudia not have anything to say to one another when he’s not around? Luckily after the initial episode where Ayato walked in on Julis half naked, there’s not much in the way of titillation (I can never write that word without feeling dirty) other than Claudia trying her best in a state of undress to disconcert Ayato. The beauty of Claudia is that we know she is just shamelessly flirting with him because she’s got her own troubles from her Luxe which mock kills her every time she uses it and then brings her back to life right afterwards. You’d have a “devil may care attitude” after a while, I guarantee it. Also, the harem that Ayato is gathering is ticking all the boxes: tsundere, loli, shy girl, buxom flirt, hyper-sexual loud mouth. I just hope it’s just a smokescreen and not the actual substance for Ayato’s team.
The Asterisk War has taken an unusual step and paused its twenty six episode run on episode twelve at the end of December to resume in April-ish. This seems to be a confident move on the show runners part but from what I can see, Asterisk has enough about itself to be able to make it to the finish line with flying colours. Whether it does or not, is up to it.
Cross posted on Otaku News