An asterisk is that little star you sometimes see, next to things like ‘free* checking’ or ‘free* bat day’ or ‘free* Willy’. It is an indicator that things are not on the up-and-up. That is certainly the case with “The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water” (“ Gakusen Toshi Asutarisuku” “Academy Battle City Asterisk”). But, first, we must go back to the front.
In the 20th century, a disaster called Invertia led to the destruction of numerous cities across the world. (Well, I assume the world. I mean, only Japan got pulverized?) In response to the declining economy, the Integrated Empire Foundation is organized to assume the world’s leadership. The parallel city of Rikka, also known as Asterisk, has six academies which hold tournaments called “Festas”. Seidokan Academy becomes the 5th highest-ranking academy in Asterisk. Now, the thing about Rikka is that it is designed to look like a stylized asterisk, with the six academies as the points of the star and the festival battlegrounds as the center.
Into this seething cauldron of strength and might, we fling in Ayato Amagiri (guy in center), who has come here to try and find his missing sister. All he has are vague clues and vaguer memories. On his first day as a student, he encounters the Lieseltanian princess Julis-Alexia Marie Florentia Renate von Riessfeld (pink hair to his right) and is forced to duel with her. However, as typical, circumstances force the duel to be stopped and so top dominance is not clearly established. Nevertheless, we do go on to establish the harem of sorts, so the other ladies are (right to left):
Saya Sasamiya (Ayato’s childhood friend)
Claudia Enfield (Student Council President, #2 Rank)
Kirin Tōdō (#1 Rank, but abused by her uncle)
So, we have the dual dueling stories of the ladies vying for Ayato’s affection plus getting ready for the Festa and defeating all those that come before them. And herein lie the two problems:
The first is since I am unfamiliar with the powers and abilities of those in this Festa, the fight sequences are a bit wasted on proles like me, as I am not certain what the strategy is and how they use it to their best effect or if this is just an excuse to beat the snot out of people that you otherwise couldn’t legally do.
The second is that I am or have seen a similar show recently (or at the same time) so everything is blending together, so I am honestly not certain if I am talking about the correct show. However, since they both cover the same ground in the same way, it really is a Lego® approach to things, as the parts are interchangeable to make a different, yet similar thing. It’s that we learn of their abilities and limitations and whether the other teams in the Festa are able to exploit these shortcomings. We also experience the growing relationship between Ayato and Julis. I never got the feeling this would blossom into love; we just need the abilities of the other to be able to defeat our dreaded enemies; otherwise, you can go lie bleeding under a bridge.
The very end of each episode has Claudia Enfield, nattering on about something, but it is done in CG. I am uncertain as to why they did it, except that they could push it out faster over traditional animation. Or perhaps she is a robot. Who can tell? In any case, the conclusion of the first season means we will merit a second season. Potentially we can have a favorable denouement to all of this and not have dangling participles, which a lot of shows like this seem to have.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Standard approach)
Plot 7 (Rather cookie-cutter this season)
Pacing 7 (Fits and starts)
Effectiveness 8 (Good use of the battles)
Conclusion 6 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Got a bit predictable)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. *Nothing is ever really ‘free’.