Despite Julis-Alexia von Reissfeld and Ayato Amagiri’s best attempts, the time limit on Ayato’s immense power is now known by everyone, including their upcoming opponents in the ongoing Phoenix Festa, putting both of them at a major disadvantage. They will have to fight harder and plan smarter than ever before if they have any hopes of winning and getting their wishes fulfilled.
Even though opinions are mixed (to say the least) amongst the anime community at large, I found myself rather enjoying the first part of The Asterisk War, mostly due to some really stellar action and a surprisingly decent cast by genre standards, so I was quite looking forward to seeing how the second half fared. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down by it; it’s not bad by any means, but feels quite uneven on the whole, mostly due to the rather thin plot.
First things first. Whilst there was a season-long gap between the airing of the first and second batches of The Asterisk War, this feels far less like a second season and more like a second half. Although arguing the difference between the two terms may seem a touch pedantic, there’s a difference in feel. A second season would generally opt to slowly reintroduce the characters and story and start a new arc or direction for the series, something that can not be said about The Asterisk War. It throws you straight back into the fray, with not a recap in sight, so, if you’re like me and haven’t seen the first 12 episodes in a hot minute, maybe set aside some time to rewatch Season 1, or if you haven’t seen either yet, definitely watch them back-to-back. I never thought I’d be lamenting the lack of a recap episode in an anime, yet here we are!
As for the actual show itself, the biggest focus this season is, as previously mentioned, the Phoenix Festa, which started in the latter half of Part 1. Although they might be a bona fide anime staple at this point, the much maligned ‘tournament arc’ trope is rather polarising, either being enjoyed immensely by people or written off as trite. Myself? I’m a sucker for a good tournament arc, if they’re well executed, which I just cannot say applies to Asterisk War. With only 5 matches left at the start of Part 2, and 12 whole episodes to fill, you won’t be shocked to learn that there is padding a-plenty here, which is frustrating. A brand new character is introduced in the form of Flora, Julis’ head maid from her home of Lusitania. I was a fan of her introduction initially, as it highlights a softer, sweeter side of the tsundere Julis which we haven’t really seen before, as well as reinforcing her reasons for wanting to win the Festa, to save the orphanage Flora comes from. Despite this, Flora is ultimately nothing more than a plot device, getting kidnapped soon after being introduced, purely so she can be rescued in order to fill out the runtime. I have no idea if this bit was in the light novels the anime is based on or not, but it feels like textbook filler, and doesn’t serve to enhance the plot or characters whatsoever.
The actual tournament itself is nothing to write home about either, lacking any real grandiose or memorable battles that make others arcs of this ilk stand out from the crowd. Paradoxically, the battles themselves, for the most part, feel way too short, making the padding-out even more perplexing. It isn’t always the best choice, and can sometimes be overdone and abused, but it is certainly possible to make a single battle last over multiple full episodes in an anime, ratcheting up the stakes and intensity, but here they don’t even last half an episode most of the time, which was disappointing to me at least, although your mileage may vary.
Another sign that there wasn’t really have enough in the tournament alone to fill out an entire season is the fact the tournament itself ends after the ninth (or twenty-second, depending how you’re counting) episode, then the show continues to limp on for another three, with a tacked-on mini arc of sorts. The end of the Festa would have been a natural conclusion for the season, but instead it just keeps on going. These episodes aren’t bad, nor would I classify them as filler, but they’re more akin in feel to the start of a new season as opposed to the end of this one. Honestly, it’s a shame that anime has to conform to rigid episode counts, because this is a prime example of having more material than you can fit into 12 episodes, but less than you can fit into 24, which ends up making for a compromised and lacking end product.
Despite my gripes, it isn’t to say I had a bad time with The Asterisk War Part 2, not at all. The action scenes, as short as they are in most cases, maintain the high level of quality in both A1’s animation and Manabu Ono’s direction as before, remaining the main reason to check the show out, and although they may not see much in the way of development, the characters present are still enjoyable and have good chemistry with one another, even if the harem elements are still bothersome, and the ecchi bits that were on the wane as the first part went on are all but completely gone now, which I’m personally thankful for. Production values in general remain high, with Ramus Faber’s score remaining a match made in heaven with this particular aesthetic, alongside the stellar dub cast who all make a return here.
Whilst unnecessary filler makes for a less enjoyable watch than the first half, The Asterisk War Part 2 still maintains the quality action of its predecessor.