Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Which Was Better?
The Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight — Which was Better? Or, should we ask who is the better princess: Julis Alexia von Riessfeld or Stella Vermillion? Just what does “better” mean in either context, anyway? Dewbond (from Shallow Dives in Anime) and I were just talking about this very topic the other day. We both have a vested interest in the answer, too! Dewbond has written about how much he liked Chivalry. Heck, it’s not like I don’t like it! He and I collaborated on a Chivalry post, and though we pointed out a few quibbles, we overall liked it.
On the other hand, Asterisk War is one of my favorite series, and you can see why in my reviews of the series. Dewbond has just finished watching Asterisk War, and based on his review < will link to it once it’s live > and on the Twitter DMs he sent me while forcing himself to watch it, about the only thing we could agree on was that Rasmus Faber’s soundtrack was thoroughly enjoyable.
So, which show is better? Why does Dewbond prefer Chivalry and I prefer Asterisk War? Why does one of us prefer Stella and the other Julis?
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight Opening Thoughts
Before we get into that, any opening thoughts, Dewbond?
Thanks for hosting this Crow. I always enjoy our chats. I know this series has a special place in your heart, and frankly that’s awesome. My thoughts on shows are that people aren’t ‘wrong’ to like them. I wish I could like it as much as they do, or see what they love so much about it.
I’ll never disparage people for what they like when it comes to anime. I’m the guy who will go to his grave defending ALL of the School Days anime, and believes wholeheartedly that Yosuga no Sora is a near masterpiece. Hell, one of my favorite Isekai series is Another World with my Smartphone. I am not a man of ‘good taste’. So I won’t throw stones from a glass house.
That being said. I don’t think I have seen a more blander, boring, uninteresting and uninspired series like this one. The most ‘’off the rack’ anime I think I’ve come across, with next to nothing that really makes you go ‘oh, that was cool.” It made me want to apologize for every criticism (that is still valid) I levelled at Chivalry of a Failed Knight, and you know how difficult it was for me to get around to watching it.
So Crow, let me turn this around. Why do you love this show and why is it THIS show?
The Flames of Julis
Before I answer that, I want to take a moment to reflect on this collaboration. You recently published your review of The Asterisk War, and it provided supporting detail for how you just described the show. It’s fair to say that our opinions are substantially different. Probably not diametrically opposed, because you didn’t out and out hate the show. But very different. I want to reflect on how remarkable it is that we can still collaborate to talk about the show.
I mean, in today’s polarized environment, a civilized discussion is not as common as it should be! The bottom line is that I both trust your professionalism and your perspective. It’s an interesting question: How can the two of us, who generally have pretty similar tastes in anime, be so far apart on this series?
And that brings me back to your question. Why do I love this show?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I got through ¾ of the first episode and wasn’t at all sure I was going to even keep watching. It came down to the very last scene, in fact. I talked about it in my review of the first episode. There was something about the image of Julis standing in the center of her swirling flames that captured my imagination.
And to be honest, when I read your review, I had to smile when you described how Ayato and Julis first met. Ayato was not at his most impressive in that scene! But even he started to grow on me as the series moved forward.
Dang it, Ayato! Knock first! Were you raised in a barn or something? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
But let’s talk about the world, because I think that might be where we can see the difference in our tastes. Chivalry was a pretty straight forward dystopia. Ikki’s problem came primarily from his family, specifically his family. I thought that worked well for its story. But the world around them was really an after-thought. I’m not saying that as a criticism, because it wasn’t material to the story.
Corporatism in The Asterisk War
In Asterisk War, though, the world had become basically a series of huge corporations. I loved that idea! It opened a lot of dramatic possibilities, and I liked how the show realized some of them. Claudia, for example, was the daughter of a corporate executive. Her mom had to undergo some kind of treatment to remove some of her more basic instincts so she could function as an executive. That cast a shadow of melancholy over Claudia. I didn’t see her as someone just flirting with Ayato “just because.” She was desperate for human contact, as a human, while that was still open to her.
I also thought she felt attracted to Ayato because of her Ogre Lux, Pan-Dora. She could only become intimate with someone like Ayato, whose speed and strength might just keep him alive if she startled out of a dream. Talk about a downer!
What did you think of the world? Or Claudia’s place in it?
I think for both Knight, and Asterisk both of the worlds are an afterthought. The focus is on the characters and relationships. Knight in my view does this far better with the focus on Stella and Ikki’s romance, while Ayato and Julis feel more put together because that is what the plot demands, but we’ll get into that later.
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: The World as an Afterthought?
I think the world was the least interesting of the entire show. It really was just, as the show put it, an academy city on the water. There was nothing really special that pulled me in. It was just another typical school setting, with another tournament arc involving the usual cast of characters. It wasn’t anything bad, but it wasn’t anything special. I did find the ideas of the different ‘houses’ to be interesting, but there wasn’t enough done to really pull me in. Perhaps in the second season or the light novels that may shine a bit more light, but I didn’t see it. I think Crow, you like to pull out details and concepts from stuff that may not be there in the author’s intent. That’s a cool way to see things, but Asterisk War didn’t give me the meat on the bone to get it done.
Was the academic city on the water an afterthought? Or was it integral to the plot? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
That’s an interesting observation. I think that it often comes down to our own intent, at least when we write reviews. If I see something that makes me want to enjoy a series, my imagination gets with the program and will fill in details that might not be there. That’s neither good nor bad. Most art is a cooperation between artists and viewers. We either willingly participate, or we don’t.
For example, you said how much more Stella and Ikki’s relationship resonated. I can see that — I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. It was a real delight, in fact, to see such a healthy relationship between two lovers grow. You mentioned it in your review, and I mentioned it in mine. So I completely agree that their relationship is awesome.
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Julis and Ayato – An Asexual Romance?
I think the reason that Julis and Ayato’s relationship resonated with me is that I did not expect it to be romantic. That might sound weird, and maybe it’s another example of my imagination filling in the blanks. But Julis is a princess. She was likely raised with the expectation that love was something for commoners. So while she certainly reacts as a tsundere from time to time, and she saw Ayato as a potential partner, I did not get the sense that she had romantic feelings for him. Certainly not on the level of Stella’s reaction to Ikki. In a sense, Julis was more cerebral, more measured.
Ayato is the same way. The dude couldn’t be romantic to save his life. Whereas Ikki was interested in a romantic relationship with Stella, I’m not sure Ayato is even capable of that. I’m thinking of when he met with Julis’ brother the King. Ayato, usually one to fluster easily at the mere mention of feelings, became very business-like. It’s almost as if he could deal with the discussion in the abstract, but not in an intimate format.
That’s a long way of saying I liked both relationships, for different reasons, because they were different. It doesn’t hurt that I’m always on the lookout for relationships that are atypical, like the asexual relationship between Julis and Ayato.
I will remind you and the readers that I only watched the first season of Asterisk War, as I felt it was fair to judge this show and Failed Knight on the same 12 episode stretch.
Stella and Ikki got off to a rocky start. But that was part of the fun of watching a natural and enjoyable romantic relationship grow and bear fruit. Capture from the Hulu stream.
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Julis and Ayato – A Lazy Romance?
That’s an interesting way to view it and would work if, again, it had proper development. I’m sorry, Crow, but I look at Ayato and Julis and I see two characters who are only together, if you can even call it that, because that is what a light novel of this type demands. Ayato wants to protect Julis because what, he saw her half naked once and decides to be a simp? Why does Julis like him? Because he can swing a sword really well? There is nothing, N-O-T-H-I-N-G that even shows that there is a spark between them except for the expectations of the light novel. They don’t even have a “rivals to lovers” thing going on. It’s just two people who come across each other, decide to team up for a tournament and go about their business.
It’s just lazy. There is no groundwork, no attempt to lay seeds of interesting dynamics. There is so much that could have been done, most of which is pretty basic stuff. Maybe Julis has no idea of the ‘commoner world’, maybe she suffers from pride and doesn’t like men. Maybe Ayato knows that in the past his family served her family. Or maybe, like in Failed Knight, they are just fucking hot for each other. Any of that, any of it would have made it better to watch, instead of a check-list feeling I got.
I mean, let’s look at Stella and Ikki. While similar in the blueprint, those two characters treat the audience with respect. They meet each other, have an instant attraction and instead of 12 episodes of ‘will they, won’t they’, they confess their feelings, get together and tell a story around that. I actually felt that Stella and Ikki were a real couple, I could feel the companionship, chemistry and the sexual tension. Despite being as ‘off the rack’ as this show, there was actual real effort to create something, and it is what saves Failed Knight from an already shaky premise.
In the Spirit of Rin and Shirou
Let me also bring up another relationship that is similar. Rin Tohsaka and Shirou Emiya from Unlimited Blade Works. You can argue that despite having feelings for each other, they are more partners than lovers. The show portrays them as more of a team, two people thrown into a war they are not prepared for. Rin is cynical, logical and dedicated, while Shirou is idealistic, naive and introspective. They fill in each other’s flaws and help each other become better people by the end. Yes they are in love, but you don’t need to see the intimacy, because you know at the end that these two are ride or die for each other. Can you honestly truly say that about Ayato and Julis? Removing your own inferences from the text?
Stella and Ikki got off to a rocky start, but when they clicked, they clicked! Julis and Ayato had no such moment. Capture from the Hulu stream.
Well, I probably could remove my own inferences. But that’d just be regurgitating the raw narrative from the show, and what’s the fun of that? It’s impossible for me to divorce how I reacted to the show from my opinion of it. For example, you mentioned that from your perspective, Juilis and Ayato’s relationship was “lazy.” I didn’t see evidence for that, but you did. How you saw and reacted to that relationship is completely valid.
In my case, even the conjecture I built out in the absence of data is still based on references within the series. Let me give you a couple of examples.
There’s a scene that I really like in episode 4. Ayato has been struggling with who he is, why his sister had sealed his power, and what he should do with his life. At the end of the episode, Ayato asked Julis if she had a partner for the upcoming class battle. He was a physical wreck after using his powers, based on the lock his sister had put on him, and Julis said he shouldn’t push himself.
“No, I’m totally cool with that,” he said (20:47) in Crunchyroll’s stream. “I told you before… What I’m supposed to do right now Julis, is to be there for you.”
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Ayato’s Non-Sexual Commitment to Julis
His commitment to her wasn’t based on an erotic attraction. It was based on an act of will, based on his intuition. I liked their relationship precisely because it was not merely romantic. By that, I’m not saying anything negative about romance, or romantic relationships. They’re a common staple in anime and literature as a whole! I’ll even reaffirm that I really enjoyed Ikki and Stella’s relationship because it did a refreshingly straight-forward take on romantic love.
Ayato did not seem to have anything sexual in mind when he said his job was to be there for her. That’s interesting — and unusual! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Years ago, I read something CS Lewis said in Mere Christianity. He said, “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life.” That really stuck with me. Even when I was much, much younger, I realized that a flood of emotions was not enough to form a lifelong commitment. For some people, romance might not even be something in their makeup. But that doesn’t exclude commitments that can be every bit as deeply satisfying or lifelong.
It’s the same for Julis. I know you don’t think world-building in the Asterisk war is sufficient. On the other hand, I see it as permeating almost every aspect of the show. Julis is withdrawn because she’s spent her entire life resisting belligerent oppression at the hands of the controlling corporations. She’s become passive/aggressive about it — tsundere, you might say. So when Ayato offered to help her, simply because he wanted to, it was embarrassing to her. She had no frame of reference. But it was a moment of emotional honesty for her, because you could just see in her face that an affirming commitment appealed to her. She spent the rest of the series trying to figure out how to deal with it.
That’s why I enjoyed their relationship so much. It was not romantic. It was something different. I’ve seen those kinds of relationships in real life, and I like to see them portrayed in fiction. I don’t think they get enough press.
The Secondary Characters: Shizuku/Nagi vs Claudia/Saya
So it sounds like in terms of world building, your vote goes to Chivalry and mine goes to Asterisk War. From the perspective of the two lead characters and their relationships, you’re firmly in the Chivalry camp, and I’m split. I liked both equally well, for entirely different reasons. What about the secondary characters like Shizuku Kurogane and Nagi Arisuin from Chivalry and Saya Sasamiya and Claudia Enfield from Asterisk?
In terms of Failed Knight’s supporting cast, I found they were enjoyable enough. Shizuku went full wincest right off the bat, but I actually enjoyed her own story arc. She was the only one in Ikki’s corner for a long time, and Stella coming in to be a girl who can actually be is a challenge for her. That’s why the relationship with Nagi was fun to watch. It was almost if they had their own romance or at the very least, a friendship that would define them both. There is a genuine fondness there, and while I know a little of future light novel events, it is something that changes them both for the better. Overall while they are overshadowed by how well Ikki and Stella are portrayed, they fulfill the role of secondary characters well.
Shizuku seemed very comfortable expressing her affection for her brother. Ikki, on the other hand…
For Asterisk War, Saya and Claudia were probably more interesting than the main characters to me. Saya is the cute little kuudere with a big gun, which is always an instant win for me. And Claudia was ‘ara-ara’ in the best ways. She is definitely one of the sexier anime girls I have come across and felt like a more mature and refined Ceclia Alcott from Infinite Stratos. She was dead sexy, confident and had a cool power that I’m sure is expanded in the second sea. Had I been watching anime and blogging back in 2015, she would have easily been in the running for best girl.
I’ll also make note of Kirin and credit to the show. They didn’t just get one loli, they got two! She wasn’t really anything special, but it was cool to see her and Saya butt heads over stuff, but still remain a good team.
Overall, I found myself thinking that Asterisk War had a stronger secondary cast, while Failed Knight’s helped compliment what was already the best part of itself. Did you think the same thing Crow?
Strong Secondary Cast, To Be Sure!
Honestly, it’s very close for me! The brocon model is a little broken for me, but Shizuku’s reason for deciding to love her brother was different. It fit the story, and it fit her character. Nagi’s friendship with her also felt genuine, and I thought it added depth to both their characters. So, I don’t have anything negative to say about either of them.
But Saya… I wish you had watched the last 12 episodes. There’s a scene in episode 22 where her conversation with Ayato just about breaks my heart. It also shares a bit of the asexuality I talked about in Ayato’s relationship with Julis. If this Ayato’s at the heart of a harem, and I think that’s pretty clear, then it’s not the kind of harem I’m used to. And I like that!
Let me start my thoughts on Claudia by endorsing everything you said! In addition to that, she sometimes let Ayato see this current of sadness that seemed to pervade her. Partly because of her family situation, and partly because of her Ogre Lux, her life is rough. So if she comes on to Ayato from time to time, it’s from a place of honest need. That combination really stuck out to me.
So, I think I’d say the Asterisk War secondary cast had an edge. But just to be clear: That’s not a slam on Chivalry of a Failed Knight. Not at all!
I don’t think Saya is a morning person. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Which Soundtrack Stood Out?
That leaves us with the soundtrack. It seems that you at least liked the first season’s ED! What’d you think of the soundtrack overall?
Waiting for the Rain is frankly a tune that deserves far better than what the Asterisk War is. Maaya Sakamoto is so prolific as a singer, and she hits another home-run right here. This is probably the defining musical cue from the series, and I’ve had it on playback for weeks now. It’s just a fantastic song and has great visuals to boot. The opening theme for Asterisk left a bit to be desired though. Nothing bad, but it felt VERY anime compared to the ending theme.
For Chivalry of a Failed Knight, I found the opening theme to be rather strange. It is not wrong to expect that show to have a song similar to what Asterisk War has, but instead it feels like this out of place tune that felt like an anime song from the 80s. It gave off the vibe that the show was far more gritty and rough than it turned out to be. Though I guess I could say it helps pave the way for how unexpectedly good the show was in some cases.
As for the ending theme, well Failed Knight gets full marks for showing off the goods. Seeing all the girls wrapped up in thorns and petals was some great ecchi in a show that didn’t skimp out on it. Failed Knight always had a ‘va-va-voom’ aspect to its female characters and the ending theme shows that in spades. I actually got big Code Geass vibes from it, it felt very much like something that the show would do.
What did you think, Crow?
Even the OP’s visuals had an 80s vibe. Capture from the Hulu stream.
Hard to Deny Rasmus Faber!
I can’t say enough good about the Asterisk War’s soundtrack in general. Rasmus Faber’s soundtrack is something I listen to all the time. Songs like Ready Your Blade can get my imagination going. And heaven knows I need all the help I can get!
Waiting for the Rain was great; I even liked the OPs.
I’ll echo what you said about Failed Knight. Maybe I’m suffering from “Let’s Go Ahead” syndrome, but the opening always felt just a half an inch away from being fantastic instead of merely good. I wish I knew more about music theory so I could explain it. But I think you’re right — it felt like it would have been at home in the 1980s!
The rest of Failed Knight’s soundtrack got the job done. It didn’t make me want to rush out and buy it, like Asterisk War’s soundtrack did. But that’s not a bad thing! It worked well for the series. And, yeah, the whole thorn motif worked well, especially for Touka.
So, in terms of scoring, it looks like our scores break down like this:
- Main Couple
- Dewbond: Stella and Ikki
- Crow: Tie
- Secondary Characters
- Dewbond: Claudia and Saya
- Crow: Claudia and Saya
- Dewbond: Tie
- Crow: Asterisk War
Did I capture those right? Any closing thoughts?
Asterisk War vs Chivalry of a Failed Knight: Closing Thoughts
Did I mention how much I enjoyed Claudia’s forthright attitude? If not, I should have! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
That sounds about right, and yeah I got some closing thoughts.
Overall, both Chivalry of a Failed Knight and The Asterisk War are sister series, even if that wasn’t the intention. Both are so similar, but also different enough when you look down at them. I’ll admit that I won’t understand why you like Asterisk War so much, but I am glad that you do, and I only wish I could enjoy it as much as you can.
What I can say is that both shows aren’t anything special, but that Failed Knight at least attempts to respect the viewer’s time with its romance and characters. I’ve said before that if I was suggesting anime to a new fan of the genre, I would recommend Failed Knight without question. It’s a perfect ‘in and out’ anime series that gives you the gist of what a ‘battle school anime’ is and doesn’t drag its feet doing so, even if the premise is abandoned right quick. The Asterisk War meanwhile, has some interesting ideas, but to me remains too dull and uninteresting to really suggest from an Ara-Ara Claudia, a fucking fantastic ending theme and that awesome string bikini.
But Stella has really awesome boobs so…call it even?
Well, I’m sure Julis would object, but facts are facts! And as much as I like the series, I have to admit that Asterisk War’s concept of a nearly asexual “romance” might appeal a ton to me — but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea!
Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat about these two series. Thanks to the readers, to, especially if you made it this far!