Light Novel Review: The Asterisk War [Volume 1]

In the city on the water known as Asterisk, there are six academies which hold tournaments between humans with superpowers called Genestella. The winners of the tournaments called ‘Festas’ are given power, money, and fame. Ayato Amagiri is a new transfer student and on his first day, he encounters Julis Riessfeld. Through unforeseen circumstances, Ayato is forced to duel with her, one of most powerful students at the academy.

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The Asterisk War is exactly what you expect from an action magic romantic comedy high school light novel. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to see all the recognizable elements that come with the genre; academy setting, powerful students, battle competitions, multiple love interests, and the list goes on. It doesn’t do anything new or unexpected but perhaps it’s because of its familiar nature that fans of genre will be able to easily pick it up.

Our main character, Ayato Amagiri, is a new student in the city of Asterisk. Upon finding a handkerchief, he promptly returns into its owner, Julis Riessfeld, right as she’s changing. She composes herself instead of outright attacking Ayato, to formally conduct a duel with him. During their duel, a sniper fires on Julis but Ayato is able to save her. As thanks for saving her, Julis declares to pay back Ayato for his good deed.

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Ayato Amagiri is your standard base protagonist for the genre; he transfers in a particular reason, he’s powerful enough to hold his own against strong opponents, and he is being toyed with the females. What defines Ayato is that he’s a laid-back person and that his sister used to go to this academy. Nothing makes Ayato interesting or striking besides these two characteristics (and the latter barely qualifies for one). And yet, both naturally and predictably, he ends up being the saving grace for our main heroine as the story sets up the events leading up to his newfound motivation.

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Out of all the characters introduced in this first volume of The Asterisk War, Julis Risefrelt is the primary focus. Julis is defined as the high and mighty royal princess. Despite that, she’s got a unique dedication to raise money for orphans back in her country. It’s an fascinating contrast; her grounded compassionate ambitions to help children versus her uninterested attitude towards her other classmates.

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Unfortunately she suffers from instantly developing feelings for our main protagonist, Ayato. Combined with her personality, it clearly marks her as a tsundere (initially cold and even hostile before showing a warmer side over time). I don’t mind if this turns into a small romance subplot, but after three encounters, I don’t buy the heroine feeling nervous and jealous at the mere sight of a rival love interest. It also doesn’t help that novel introduces three girls and instantly begins the harem antics. If creating these rom-com situations was a box on the list of genres tags, The Asterisk War would certainly have checkmarked that.

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I won’t spend too much on the side characters, simply because the story didn’t spend that much time on them either. From the childhood friend to best bro to student council president to even the antagonist, these characters play into their archetypes so well. The author attempts to give them some air of mysteriousness but frankly, these details are unimportant to the main plot of the first volume that they become useless. If anything, their involvement serves to provide background exposition or o move the story along.

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The story isn’t anything too new for the genre. For an entry volume though, The Asterisk War does quite a lot of world-building. There are paragraphs loaded with information on the education system and history of the city of Asterisk which I praise the author for being thorough. There is even a glossary in the back similar to The Irregular at Magic High School (which goes above and beyond what The Asterisk War does in world-building.) However, when the information cuts into battle scenes or slows down the pace of events, it becomes a problem. The story has a overall theme of pursuing your ambitions, supported by Julis’s main objective, Ayato’s newfound goal, and even the antagonist’s counterargument. Unfortunately, these points are buried underneath the uninspired plotline’s first impression.

The illustrations were drawn by Okiura, the same illustrator behind the character designs for Infinite Stratos and Plastic Memories. The artwork seems to lean towards the “cute look” aesthetic with an emphasis on the characters designs. While the girls are fine, Ayato has somewhat of an odd face structure combined with a  plain looking design.

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The Asterisk War is very heavily rooted in the ‘action magic rom-com high school’ genre with lots of world-building. If you are a fan of this genre, I would recommend it, as the entry volume into the series is a fairly strong start. However, I wouldn’t go into it expecting any radical changes to the genre. For others on the other hand, this light novel series is a clear skip.

Rating: Not Recommended – Average*

* See last paragraph.


Author: Yuu Miyazaki

Illustrator: Okiura

English Translator: Melissa Tanaka

English Publisher: Yen Press

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One Response to Light Novel Review: The Asterisk War [Volume 1]

  1. Pingback: Light Novel Notes (October 2016 — Round 2) | English Light Novels

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