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Asterisk War Collection 4 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

asterisk-war-season-2-japanese-volume-6-jacketThe end of the beginning.

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:
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.

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.

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 a group shot of the four main girls on the front panel that’s definitely appealing with the pop of color against the white and purple background The back panel works a good image of the Kirin with an upbeat expression about them that uses 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.

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.

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)
The back half of Asterisk War with the previously collection was a decent bit of fun but it already felt like it had fallen off a bit from the first half of the season. The focus on the tournament side was a given but it ended up being more dominant and that left less to invest in elsewhere. The big plus to it all was that it obviously looked good and played well visually, making for an enjoyable batch of six episodes. With this batch of six, things feel more like an epilogue that’s actually a prologue more than anything else, a setup for what’s to come from the original source material. Which is admittedly a good chunk of why these shows are produced, but so much of this just feels like epilogue material without anything significant to really latch onto that it became kind of a blur as it went on.

The escape from the mafia side of things the last time around was enjoyable to watch and seeing Ayato doing his best to keep things going with the mystery woman, who turns out to be Sylvia, isn’t bad. His time with his poor disguise trying to not be obvious is comical but the real focus is on sylvia with the fact that she’s a songstress and definitely well designed to be visually pleasing. It’s not exactly idol content but you get enough of it that if you’re a bit burned out on that it may be mildly problematic. I think it works better than it should but that’s partially the inertia of goodwill the first half of the series engendered carrying through here. It’s a nice additional plot point and expansion on the world, one that was mostly focused on the school side and the matches, so there’s some pluses to be had there.

Naturally, the show wants to dig into the matches more and with a bit of a handicap at play at first it’s enjoyable to finally have Ayato and Julis back together and doing their best. Their fight against the AR-D and RM-C combo makes for some great action material even with them holding back in their own way all while their opponent is unsure why, which gets ramped up more when they’re actually fairly well trapped and aren’t fighting to their potential. The “unlocking” moment is really fun to watch with how that plays out as it’s pure Claudia material and reminds just how underutilized she is in this series. The opponents put up a good match and over the two episodes that this largely takes place in it’s one of the more interesting matches but also feels like it has the least impact overall.

Where the show goes from here is where it felt like a trio of epilogue episodes, even though they each do their own thing. It shifts to the winter break period for the kids and the team heads off to Lieseltania, giving us some time with Julis’ slightly older family and the goings-on there, bringing some mild resolution to that bit of family drama that never connected well to begin with. If course, there’s action to be had in this as there are things going on in the background here related to the local Gryps Festa, which brings an interesting fight with Gustave that looks really neat visually but similar to other areas never feels like it’s cemented enough. It’s these areas, focusing on Ophelia and Gustave, where much of what we get just feels like you’re waiting to wake up from a dream sequence in order to get on to the real thing. Which is what the final minutes come across more as with it setting up what a second series could be like, but more accurately works toward pointing the viewer toward the novels.

In Summary:
Asterisk War is a series that I dug pretty well with the opening half of the two-cour series but felt like it didn’t have the energy to really carry things through with to the full run of it. Part of it is the spacing of the show over four releases in an age when people are more and more interested in binge viewing. But, frankly, that’s what streaming is good for in order to consume something. Aniplex USA put together four great releases in terms of packaging and pack-in extras so that those that love the show would get a lot of value out of the limited editions, or could just get the regular editions if the goodies weren’t up their alley. Having only watched it in this form, it’s something that I suspect I’ll enjoy more in a complete viewing over a couple of days rather than over nine months. There are a lot of fun things in the show and I really like the character designs and world concept and even got swept up a bit in the tournament aspect because of the character’s personalities. It’s definitely got a good bit to offer and fans of the show will love the overall quality of the final releases.

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: April 25th, 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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