It seems that every season, one anime I choose to watch ends up being a harem. Don’t get me wrong; I see nothing wrong with harems, and in fact I enjoy them a lot. However, when looking at The Asterisk War, I figured I was in for a basic shounen with laser swords. Granted, there are laser swords, but they have to fight for screen time with a harem, and it causes a lack of focus. I don’t mean to disparage the anime, but I can’t say it creates a perfect balance either; so before this gets any more confusing (in regards of my opinion at least), let’s take a look at Asterisk War.
The Story At Hand
A great cataclysm known as “Invertia” ravaged many of the Earth’s major cities, and as a result, the individual power of countries began to die out. This paved the way for a massive conglomerate dubbed the Integrated Enterprise Foundation to take power. Since a group of businesses became the power center of the planet, sensibilities and ethics as a whole were warped; becoming ruthless and only concerned with results and income, no matter who or what had to be destroyed to reach that goal.
However, Invertia caused more change in the world than a shift in political power. Invertia itself left behind a great deal of meteors; from which a new element, mana, was discovered. Mana was cultivated to further technology in many ways, including the creation of futuristic energy weapons known as luxes. It doesn’t stop at technology though; exposure to mana has also changed people. There are some called Genestella; who have superhuman strength, agility, and stamina as well as an aura called Prana. Though all genestella have a prana aura and can use it to raise their combat abilities, a rare few can channel it into different, more distinct powers; these individuals are known as stregas (female) and dantes(males).
Since Genestella are more powerful than normal humans, they are generally discriminated against out of fear. In hopes of avoiding this discrimination, many go to Asterisk: a series of six academies, each one owned by one of the companies that comprise the Integreated Enterprise Foundation. If not for discrimination, some go to Asterisk because of the combat festas held there, which promise to grant a single wish to the victor.
Got all that? Good, because that’s not even the story we’re looking at. That’s just the world lore. Fortunately enough, the plot going forward is dead simple: Asterisk holds three festas each year; the first, a doubles tournament called the Phoenix Festa, of about to start and everyone participating has a wish they want to fulfill by winning.
Now without further ado, let’s meet the cast.
Ayato did not come to Asterisk to have a wish granted, nor did he do it to escape persecution for being a genestella. Rather, he enrolled in Seidoukan Academy to follow in his older sister’s footsteps and find meaning in life. Along the way, he meets a girl named Julis-Alexia Von Reissfeld; and hearing her story, he decides his purpose is to defend her at all costs.
In addition to his superhuman traits as a genestella, Ayato has an innate ability called “savage force”, which greatly increases his already superhuman agility. This ability combined with the fact that he is heir to the Amagiri Shinmeiryuu fighting style makes him practically unmatched in close combat. However, Ayato’s now estranged sister used her power to put a limiter on his abilities; seriously hindering Ayato’s access to his savage force. It might be worth noting that though his savage force is a cut above average genestella power, Ayato is not a dante.
As a whole, Ayato is a typical PG harem protagonist. He’s exceedingly kind and forgiving… and that’s pretty much it. But hey, he’s good at fighting, so there’s something.
Julis is a thickheaded princess. Yes, a literal princess. She has left her homeland of Lieseltania in hopes of winning a festa and using her wish to support an orphanage back home, which is going to be shut down without her help.
Julis is also a strega, allowing her to use a wide range of fire-based attacks including projectiles and traps, as well as having the standard issue superhuman attributes.
Being a princess, Julis is written as the holier-than-thou tsundere (albeit in a mild degree) type. She is either too proud or afraid to express her feelings towards Ayato, but since she’s the first girl and frontrunner of the harem, it’s more or less par for the course.
Claudia is ranked #2 in Seidoukan in terms of combat ability and is a member of its student council, and as such, has a great deal of responsibility; from having in-depth knowledge of the rival schools to activity in the politics and goings on around Asterisk.
Claudia has the power of precognition, allowing her to see a short while into the future; this power is granted to her by the special weapon she wields called an ogre lux.
Around Ayato, she plays the “Onee-chan” role, constantly teasing him and making low-key (and occasionally overt) offers to… get to know each other on a more intimate level. All lewdness aside, she seems more comfortable and casual than normal when around Ayato, finding herself able to trust him with her inner thoughts despite not spending all that much time with him.
Saya goes to Seidoukan for a fairly simple reason: her father works in lux creation and wants her to get exposure for his work. She has her own motives as well, but refuses to tell anyone what they may be. She is surprised to find Ayato going to the same school as her, as they were friends as children; though there is no specification as to whether she has held a torch for him all that time or if she just suddenly decided she’s into him.
In combat, Saya uses no less than 10 lux, each being a gun specially made for her by her father.
As far as her personality goes, Saya is a bit of a doozie. She’s the drowsy type, reacting to everything imaginable with the kind of low-impact boredom that can only come from being too tired to react properly. However, despite this tired disposition, she’s much more aggressive than the other girls in vying for Ayato’s attention (save of course for Claudia’s overtness).
In harem terms, she’s the childhood friend, the helpless one (directionally challenged), the one who claims ownership of the protagonist, and the self-conscious flat-chested one. That’s kind of a lot to swallow, but it blends together well enough.
Kirin is ranked #1 at Seidoukan academy, having earned the nickname “Lightning Blade Speed” for easy-to-guess reasons. She hopes to win a festa to free her father, who was sent to prison for accidentally killing a man who was attempting to kidnap her. Though this would normally be considered self-defense, Kirin’s father is a genestella whereas the kidnapper was a normal human, elevating the case to murder.
In battle, Kirin does not use a special ogre lux, nor even a normal lux; rather, she chooses to go into battle with a plain-Jane katana.
In addition to her standard skills as a genestella, Kirin, much like Ayato, is the heir to a powerful sword style known as Toudouryu; which has earned her the top spot at Seidoukan.
Outside of battle, Kirin is a simple girl. Despite being the most feared and respected fighter at Seidoukan, she is saccharine sweet and extremely shy. In harem terms; she’s more or less dandere (extremely shy and awkward) as well as being the young one of the group at only 13 years old.
Asterisk War suffers from trying to put 10 pounds of content into a five-pound bag; there’s just so much going on at all times that though there is some decent interaction, characterization is somewhat shallow. The only character to go through any significant character development is Claudia, and she gets the least screen-time among the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, the anime is a decently fun experience, but with such limited time, the characters simply can’t show enough depth while also having the combat aspect be good enough; and even then, the concept that the protagonist is unstoppable when at full power but loses said power after a short while is pretty passé. However, even though there are some blatant issues, the combat is pretty fun to watch due to genestellas having superhuman agility and stregas/dantes having more distinct superpowers.
On the technical side, the animation is pretty good, and the music ranges from decent to resplendent in the case of the ED.
Not amazing, but decent*
The Asterisk War - 7.5/10
The Asterisk War suffers due to lack of focus. Maybe it's the short time it had to portray its story, but honestly I doubt it. At the core, I feel that the characters are reflective of the world they reside in. Remember how long it took to explain how the world worked compared to what the anime's focus was? Well, that is the exact same issue the characters face. The characters all have moderately rich backstories, but what we see in their actions falls flat in comparison, almost like their harem roles take precedence over their action/drama characterization. However, a great deal of story action had to be packed into 12 episodes, and as such, content was low on the whole; so much so that the season ended only partway into the Phoenix Festa. As such, trying times in stressful situations (such as high-stakes combat tournaments) often lead to character development, so I'm pretty optimistic about the second season. However, all of these issues are depth-related, so if you're turning on anime just to have a fun time and not really analyze anything too deeply, Asterisk War is actually pretty good.
The anime was decent overall considering what it had to push in a single season, but it seems to me that it should have just been a single 24-episode string, much like how Ushio and Tora has been belting out episodes for the last 25 weeks. My reccomendation is that unless you're really eager to check out Asterisk War despite its shortcomings, wait for season 2 in April, where everything can fall into place more fluidly.
All in all, if you're not the type to poke holes, you'll likely enjoy The Asterisk War.