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Asterisk War Collection 3 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Asterisk War Season 1 Japanese Volume 1 HeaderIt’s time to power up!

What They Say:
After successfully destroying the Gravi-Sheath, Ayato and Julis free the Urzaiz sisters from their shackles. However, Ayato’s side effect of forcefully releasing the seal and its time limit are now known to the other teams. As the Phoenix Festa finals continue, Julis must come up with a strategy to cover for Ayato’s inability to fight at full strength due to the seal’s side effect. Will Ayato and Julis be able to survive in the Festa?

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 2016, 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.

Packaging:
The limited edition release is pretty nicely put together, though I do wish once more 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 Saya and Kirin together in an embrace on the front cover here with the gold and white background to give her more color clarity as it stands out – though not as much as some of the online images would make you think! The back panel works a good image of the supporting cast together with some upbeat expressions about them that uses greens 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 that are new to these episodes. 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first half of the series finished up in late 2015, the second cour got underway in the spring of 2016 and didn’t miss a beat as we moved further into the Festa event. I liked a decent bit of what we got with the first cour as it was fun and not terribly deep but avoided being just too goofy or superficial. It had a decent bit of tension and character darkness to it so that you felt for the characters a bit more than you might otherwise but you also knew that it wasn’t going to be a rich minefield of material. The big positive for the show, one again, is the animation quality. And for fans of the show this release delivers that in spades with a great high definition encoding along with another fantastic package that really does bring some great items to bear overall.

With this set of six episodes we get the forward advancement of the competition itself and that dominates most of the episodes. The return of the show at this stage after a break at least provides a little time for a reconnect at the start as it focuses mostly on the simpler match with Ayato and Julis as they go up against Song and Zhou, giving us some one on one time to showcase their abilities. There isn’t anything deep to the action but it’s fun to watch the way these two have come together pretty well and the trust that exists between them with the fights while also showing the support side of the rest of the team. Since they’re climbing the rankings pretty well overall and getting further than a lot expected based on the initial concept of how they’d perform, and Ayato’s relative newness, it’s definitely a fun getting back on track way to get the second cour up and running.

The dominant part of this block is one that worked better for me than I expected as it puts Ayato and Julis up against the twins with Shenyun and Shehua. I’m typically not a fan of twins in anime, especially action shows like this, because it’s just far too predictable with personalities and approach. It’s little surprise that Shenyun is practically psychotic by the end of the match, driven over the edge by losing, and that kind of deflates that aspect of it because you knew it from the minute they stepped on the stage in addition to all the dialogue about them beforehand by others. What makes this segment work better than it should is what we get from Ayato and Julis as they have to actually craft a strategy to work against them, knowing how they operate and dealing with Ayato’s five minute limit. This plays well and you do kind of thrill a bit when Ayato reveals their trick and takes down Shenyun.

Except, of course, it was predicted to some degree and it was just another one of the shadow versions of himself. That shifts the gears to being about Julis coming on board to fight since Ayato’s time limit has run out and she gets to really show off not just her abilities but also how well she’s protecting Ayato while he recovers. Though the arc does move toward Ayato being the one who can take down the twins, and in quite the decisive ultra powered form that kind of takes him to a difficult level to deal with, it doesn’t make her secondary to him. The two are working as a team with their respective strengths and weaknesses and that makes it engaging, especially since they don’t bicker and argue with each other either. Ayato’s change in what he can do here, supposedly extending his time from five minutes to an hour now, definitely changes the dynamic going forward and seemingly overpowers him in my mind, so I’m curious to see how the show adjusts.

This batch of episodes does give some of the others a chance to fight, notably with Saya and Kirin getting into their match, but it’s one that feels very abbreviated as it’s largely taken care of in a single episode and feels more dialogue oriented overall, though it’s not really. They’re fun scenes to watch play out but it lacks the kind of seriousness and impact that the Ayato and Julis piece does. We also get a little more going on with some minor background pieces and supporting players advancing the story itself a bit, but most of the focus really is on the Festa fight itself as we get through the semifinals and are ready for the wildcard match by the end, one that you know will play out properly since you can’t have the leads not make it to the big match, right?

In Summary:
Asterisk War gets its second cour on pretty well here, especially if your favorite parts of it are the action elements and fights themselves. Ayato and Julis definitely have a very good series of events going on here that’s wonderfully animated and has the right kind of twists and turns to it that makes it engaging and fun. The secondary material is a bit more bland but part of that comes from being used to having full seasons to watch at a time and feeling more disconnected from it all because of the time between sets. Fans of the show know what they’re getting here and Aniplex USA has delivered like it has with the first two sets in a great looking show in a very solid package.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Bonus Previews, Web Previews, Textless Opening, Textless Ending

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
MSRP: $114.98
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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