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Asterisk War Collection 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Asterisk War Season 1 Collection 1 CoverIt’s a new world order with a familiar harem design.

What They Say:
Invertia–The astral catastrophe that annihilated many cities in the 20th century also gave birth to a new human race with special powers called the “Genestella.” At the same time, the special element found within the meteors of Invertia facilitated humanity’s technological advancement.

At the academic-city above water Rikka, also known as “Asterisk,” students from each of the six schools at Asterisk prepare for the ultimate battle tournament — known as “Festa.” Seidoukan Academy’s Ayato Amagiri takes up the challenge along with his partner Julis, a.k.a. Glühen Rose, the Witch of the Resplendent Flames. Ayato learns Julis has a big dream to achieve and decides to protect her to the end.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is very solid as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the newly created English language dub, both of which are done in the uncompressed PCM format. The series works a healthy mix of dialogue and action so that it keeps moving and has a life about it and this translates well across the forward soundstage. The powered attacks definitely make an impact with the bass at times and with the flow it across the stage it has a good bit of life. There’s a fair bit of variety to it as well and with some good moments to it in how it unfolds, the high definition audio definitely makes it feel stronger and more connected to what’s happening on screen. When it comes to the dialogue it’s much the same case as it flits about as needed but has a lot of ground moments as well, whether the cast is yelling as they fight or just getting up close and personal. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The six episodes for this release are spread evenly across two discs, giving it plenty of room. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show definitely has a whole lot to like, especially in its color palette, as it’s vibrant and detailed with what it wants to look like. There are lighter and less detailed moments to be sure in the source but the series wants to look and feel flashy and slick and it pays off well with the backgrounds as well as fluid character designs. The animation comes across in a really clean way with no problems such as artifacts or breakup nor is there any line noise of note. Those that enjoyed the show previously will find exactly the kind of top tier presentation they’d expect here to bring it to life.

Asterisk War HeaderPackaging:
The limited edition release is pretty nicely put together, though I do wish once again that it was done with a heavy chipboard box. The cardboard box we get has some appealing artwork as it works off of the Japanese releases, giving us Juris on the front cover here with the pink and white background to give her more color clarity as it stands out. The back panel works a good image of Kirin as she looks all cute while having her sword behind her, using purples and whites as its main focus. The wraparound along the bottom covers the technical information on the back while the front breaks out the features and extras plus all the bonus material. Within the box we get two clear Blu-ray cases with the first one holding the two discs while the second is the soundtrack remix CD. Both of these cases are done with just line artwork of a couple of the girls on the front while the rest of it goes very minimal for backgrounds and interiors with a touch of color and text to detail what’s inside. The set comes with a really great selection of slick postcards that uses various pieces of cover artwork but we also get a fantastic forty-page square bound booklet that provides some great full-color material of character designs and backgrounds, world setting material, and a lot more.

Menu:
The menu for this release works pretty well as we get some of the iconography from the show in the background with the hexagons and the badges, for example. Within that we get some clips playing out that shows off the characters through some decent filters so that it feels slick and active while giving us an idea of what to expect. It’s brightly colored and moves well, making it engaging and interesting without being overwhelming. The navigation strip along the bottom is standard Aniplex fare with the thin strip to hold together the selections in their boxes which are also used in the same way as the pop-up menu. With the font used it can be difficult to read at times, particularly in the submenus with some of the animation from the background coming through, but it’s largely workable.

Extras:
The extras for this release are familiar for the most part as we get a couple of clean opening and closing pieces and the clean prologue from the first episode. We also get the web previews, which are kind of amusing since they show clips from the episode in the background while the rest is done with 3DCG model stuff of one of the characters, which is slick and glossy and very much focused on fanservice – especially that last one in the swimsuit!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series from Yuu Miyazaki with artwork by Okiura, The Asterisk War is a twenty-four episode series that ran for a split two-cour run in late 2015 and early 2016. The novels themselves kicked off back in 2012 and have done well with ten of them released so far and the usual slow as molasses manga that complements it as an adaptation. The anime adaptation stepped up to the big leagues with A-1 Pictures animating it and it certainly shows with Manabu Ono as the overall director as there’s some good flair and style to it. This set brings together the first half of the first cour for six episodes of foundational material. That means most of what we get is introductions and exposition along with a decent bit of action to cement it all. But it is just that, the setup for what’s to come.

The series focuses on a near future alternate earth after an event called the Invertia happened, which was an impact event that caused massive destruction across numerous cities. THe fallout from that was that the world essentially reorganized under what feels like a corporate rule through the Integrated Enterprise Foundation. That just rolls off the tongue. Within these various regions that exist there are six cities that have special academies that foster students that are essentially superpowered. Called Genestella, they’re able to produce specialty weapons and they work through a kind of tournament system to establish their ranking and place in the cities. This series focused on Rikka, which is known better by the obvious name of Asterisk. The makeup of the world isn’t delved into much nor is the Foundation, but that could all show up later as there’s plenty of low-level intrigue simmering around the edges.

This focus is on a new arrival to the campus with Ayato, a young man who has come here to find out about his sister Haruka’s disappearance. She was here five years ago but seemingly disappeared and there’s little record of her actually being at this academy outside of some corrupted records. Ayato is a nice young man as you’d expect with an almost weak feeling about him in how he comes across. Of course, this belies the truth that he’s a gifted Genestella with abilities that place him in the top tier, should they be fully unlocked. Those abilities are kept under some control thanks to a binding that Haruka did years ago that we see in a flashback so what we get here is someone that’s far too familiar in this genre as you know he’s going to be capable of going the distance once his natural born abilities aren’t being restrained anymore.

While he builds a nice little harem of women that he ends up spending time with, from the quiet and subdued Saya to the nervous and cute Kirin, the main focus is on Julis, a young woman who is highly ranked at the academy. She’s something of a rarity as she’s actual royalty, coming from Lieseltania, one of the few nations that doesn’t run things like the Foundation does elsewhere. She has her own reasons for coming here of course but she gets caught up and drawn to Ayato from the first time he leaps into her window to return a handkerchief that blew out. Julis has some amusing moments in how she composes herself in these early scenes but it shifts all too quickly to her realizing that she likes him on some level, and the kind of abilities that he has as well. It’s not one or the other but a whole package kind of thing that grows from there, though naturally Ayato is utterly oblivious to it all.

A lot of what we get here is how the powers work and some of the variety as well as the usual campus squabbles, such as one guy that wants to keep challenging Juris since he wants to gain ranking whereas she has no interest. The introduction of the student council president in Claudia is predictably but fun as she’s the bright-eyed blonde beauty that has a bigger plan in mind as we see from some of her actions. I actually like Claudia since she’s playing this with a bit of scenery chewing about it but she’s hampered by keeping things in the dark and orchestrating with others. With Julis being a princess we also get some attacks on her from outside forces that seem to have their own plans, which you suspect will converge, but there are just six episodes here and you really can’t get all that much from it. Everything we get is nicely done and certainly above competent, but it’s also predictable because it does fall into the introduce a new girl, add story point, move forward, repeat.

In Summary:
The Asterisk War is a slick and glossy production that has some neat ideas and concepts to it that I hope it’ll capitalize on. With this volume, it’s all about the introductions and stage setting so there’s a certain predictability about it that makes out better because of the visual design and polished approach of the creative team. There’s a lot to like here if it can build on it and create something engaging and these six episodes provide hint of what’s to come that should bear that out. Aniplex’s release is naturally top-notch here with a great audio and visual design and a package that works really well, especially the book and some really glossy postcards that are appealing. Fans of the show that want to own it in its best presentation will definitely know that this is it.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Web Previews, Textless Opening, Textless Ending Version 1 & 2, Textless Prologue.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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