Some disaster struck and from this humans were able to develop powers of sorts and as you do in these fantasy stories you build schools to train teenagers to be homicidal nut-jobs that think only of ways to use their powers to beat other teens into submission all in the name of achieving some greater purpose or dream. Okay, that was a little bit sarcastic but it is essentially The Asterisk War boiled down to its most basic parts.
If you want to check out my week to week thoughts, click here.
I’d like to clarify that as sarcastic as I was in my overview there, I actually have really enjoyed watching The Asterisk War (both season 1 and 2 minus the very first episode of season 1). As long as you don’t want to probe to deeply you have a nice cast of characters with distinct hair colours which makes it easy to differentiate the haremettes, some fairly cool fight sequences, weapons and powers, and a plot that nicely distinguishes that everyone who is not helping our protagonists are clearly evil and will eventually be destroyed. All well and good and thoroughly enjoyable.
Now I’m going to ruin it and actually think about it. unfortunately, The Asterisk War doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny.
Let’s start with Ayato. Ayato is one of those overly nice protagonists I talked about in a feature not so long ago. His only true and distinct personality trait is that he is nice. He isn’t overly clever (except when the plot asks him to strategize), he isn’t particularly good at anything (other than fighting), and yet everybody loves him and thinks he is amazing. What I find particularly distressing in this case was that Ayato did have one defining trait; his power was limited to five minutes by a seal set by his missing sister. This gave him something more than just being nice. A little bit of a tragic backstory (though Asterisk seems determined not to play this for tragedy) and a clear hurdle to overcome when facing strong opponents. And then he just undid the seal (or part of it). Now he can use his power for an hour or so. No cost for doing this or particular effort involved. More importantly, since then, he hasn’t even seemed to need to unseal his power at all, he just uses it. So that one thing that distinguished Ayato and made him a little interesting just disappeared midway through season 2. That is kind of depressing when you think about it for too long.
Then we have Julis. I’ve already had a bit of a rant about Julis previously but let’s re-establish. She’s a Princess of a small country and of course wants to save orphans. She’s tough and doesn’t let people get close but Mr Nice Protagonist manages to win her over and the two team up. While Julis gets to look pretty awesome in the lesser fights as soon as we come up against a boss it is all down to Ayato. Julis consistently get’s sidelined and overlooked. This is problematic because Ayato’s vague and often forgotten goal of finding his sister is nowhere near as interesting as Julis’ clear desire to save her country (though exactly what from was not established until fairly close to the end of the second season and even then it is still a fairly generic threat). This story would be better served by actually allowing Julis to take the lead with the occasional support from Ayato and yet Ayato continues to flail his sword around and that’s so much better somehow.
The other characters (mostly female) sometimes get good moments and great lines but then get shunted to the background. They are presented as having goals and reasons for fighting, but mostly hang around to get patted on the head. That doesn’t bother me all that much as I kind of understand that the story needs to focus on its main characters, the problem becomes that the main characters aren’t doing anything worth watching a lot of the time because Ayato’s goals are nebulous and Julis is waiting for Ayato to help her achieve her goals. Even when she says that she has to do something alone, one sentence from Ayato and she agrees to let him help.
Forgetting the characters for the moment, and forgetting them is pretty easy to do, the plot is as generic as it comes. Ayato goes to school, gets in a fight with Julis, they partner up and prepare for the Festa, we then fight duels in the Festa for forever (though they clearly tell us that was only 2 weeks) and now we are dealing with preparations for the next big round of fighting. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the background with power deals and organisations, but Julis and Ayato are only vaguely aware of these things so they revealed through shadowy conversations and voice only phone calls which means none of it is developed. This leaves the setting and plot as pretty basic with only moments of intrigue that are quickly swept under the rug and forgotten until a character says ‘do you remember’. And half the time I don’t remember because it was something mentioned once about six or seven episodes ago.
As to the action itself, I quite enjoyed it but realise that visually it isn’t any better than other standard fantasy fighting anime and the tactics (if they can be called such) used in the fights are pretty generic. There are a couple of moments that make you pay attention, but otherwise the fights are all pretty standard and the most interesting ones don’t include our protagonists so they get finished pretty quickly.
Let me restate, I like this anime. I’ve watched two seasons of it and should we get a third I’ll continue to watch. But this is not a great anime or going on my list of anime that I’ll rewatch over and over. This is popcorn fare at best and while it is inoffensive amusement it doesn’t offer anything deeper or more involved. Which is a shame because there are certainly hints that there could be something more to this anime but at the moment the series has not delivered. If you haven’t watched The Asterisk War, I would recommend giving it a go, but just know you aren’t going to find anything you haven’t seen before.