By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen Press.
I’d mentioned in my review of the first volume that Strike the Blood reads like a series that was written in anticipation of being made into an anime. Having now completed the second volume, I’ll go a little further – it reads almost like a novelization, as if the anime had come first. This is actually good in many respects – the fight scenes are excellent and highly easy to visualize, and the normal pauses you see in these sorts of series where the plot is slowly explained are kept to a minimum. It does mean that I have the same issues I had with the first volume, though – the character types are all too predictable, as are the plot twists.
As a case in point, we have Sayaka, Yukina’s former roommate and friend and the orphanage devoted to taking girls and making them into magical superstars. She has a giant hate-on for Kojou, of the sort that we know will turn to love by the end of the book, because of course he’s not like those *other* evil vampires. She also has a pseudo-lesbian obsession with Yukina, which I expect will be promptly dropped now that it’s fulfilled its function as minor yuri bait. It’s disappointing, because while Yukina and Asagi also have elements of cliche written into their characters (elements which are exaggerated a bit more in this second volume), they both manage to feel like read young teenage girls, while Sayaka reads like a caricature.
The worldbuilding here fares better, as we once again see a series that knows it won’t be cancelled for a few volumes, so is content to spin out a few interesting subplots and not actually do anything with them. Koujo’s younger sister is clearly possessed by something, but we never quite find out what. Likewise, Asagi’s hacking abilities are starting to go beyond ‘teen genius’ and into legendary abilities. We meet another powerful vampire here, Vatler, and while he also has his share of cliched behavior, his smug “I did it for the lulz” attitude is more tolerable than Sayaka’s angry not-lesbian.
I will likely be reading more of this, despite my grumping. The prose is some of the smoothest we’ve seen in a Yen On release, with very little of the awkward narrative stuttering you see with a lot of first-person light novel narratives. And as I said earlier, the action scenes are genuinely exciting and not confusing, which is impressive given how much destruction is racked up here. The villain is a terrorist, and you get the sense that the author had seen Die Hard before writing him, as he’s very much in the Alan Rickman vein of “polite yet murderous”. There’s also a character from the first volume who returns – that did surprise me, though sadly it also involved maid fetishism. So it’s a good series, but I do wish that I wasn’t able to see the blueprint it works off of so easily.