The Asterisk War – Dancing Swords

In Asterisk War, our male protagonist Kamito is heading towards his new school when he hears something and stumbles unaware upon the female lead Claire in… oh wait, sorry, that’s the wrong anime. I always get them mixed up. You see, Asterisk War is extraordinarily similar to last year’s Blade Dance of Elementalers, just done far better.

In the 20th century, a catastrophic event known as ‘Invertia’ happened, leading to the world’s nations falling and a global government taking their place. During Invertia, meteors suddenly and inexplicably rained from the sky upon the earth. These meteors contained a new element, named Mana, which has since spread across the Earth and allows people with certain natural gifts to perform feats of magic.

Rikka

Those people, known as Genestella, have been gathered up in a series of six schools within a special city known as Rikka, or Asterisk. These schools have a special curriculum, including magic and combat among its subjects, to prepare these students for the Festa – grand tournaments where the Genestella fight each other for fame and wealth.

Ayato, or not-Kamito as my wife likes to call him, is about to start his first day at Seidoukan Academy when he catches a lace handkerchief falling out of a window. When trying to return it, he gets a glance of a less than fully clothed Julis, our female lead, which leads to problems.

Of course, the above is nothing new. We’ve seen every single one of those elements before. We’ve even seen most of the them all together in the aforementioned Bladedance. Even the characters are relatively stereotypical. Julis is our resident Tsundere, Ayato is the typical ignorant Harem-Lord, Saya is the ‘childhood friend who has secretly always loved Ayato’, and so on. But there are reasons why clichés are so popular.

Harem

The biggest reason why clichés work, especially as it pertains to characters, is that a predictable base makes it easier to build something interesting. I liked Asterisk War’s characters. Saya’s shamelessness, Claudia’s… exuberance, Julis’ simple yet charming ambitions, even Ayato’s secret. The twists on the tropes made for interesting characters that were easy to relate to. And while this show is a harem show, the harem never feels oppressive nor like it is a focus. Even still, it is a harem anime, so a certain degree of fanservice is present and there will be some moments that might come across as a bit awkward. Fair warning. That being said, they did spend a surprising, and impressive, amount of time developing a lot of the side characters. Far more attention was devoted to characters who weren’t Ayato than you’d expect a harem anime to commit.

Julis

By having the core of the story be something recognizable they’re able to make the deviations from that seem more noteworthy. The story has a rather fascinating mystery undertone to it, with our protagonist’s sister seemingly at its center. The best part is that while there are a lot of interesting things that could easily build into something crazy, the show’s big mysteries could also just as easily prove to be a string of coincidences and still make sense. Clichés also give us the ability to spend less time developing the characters without really sacrificing the potential for deep characters… and what do we spend that extra time on?

The action, of course. Asterisk War has some fantastic combat sequences, especially during the tournament. The different fighting styles of each character work together to create a dynamic and exciting visual showcase. But what really makes it work is the art direction. I really loved the art style here, with the interesting hybrid of magic and technology. Each character has their own style, but they all adopt some hybrid form of digitized/pixelated magic with a lot of modern variants on traditional weaponry like energy swords… and it’s beautiful to look at. What surprised me was how reminiscent it was, visually at least, of Irregular at Magic High School. It more than makes up for the fact that the character models are not the most detailed. And they aren’t, there’s a definite lacking when it comes to the models… but with how amazing the magic looks, I can ignore that.

Mystery

The show’s soundtrack is beyond reproach. The opening theme is fitting and has a good pace, but they also do a good job on the ambient music to keep the mood appropriate for each scene. But, in my eyes, the greatest audio accomplishment is the ending… which is a simply stellar song.

Asterisk War is a fun anime that makes good use of clichés to tell a story that goes beyond them. Its visuals are a mix of stellar and mediocre, the soundtrack is amazing, the action is exciting, and the story and characters are stronger than you might expect from the genre. Overall, this is one I’m very excited to see continue in a few months when the second arc starts.