Strike the Blood, Vol. 7

By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Bourque.

Let the drums roll out and the trumpets call, strike up the band as well as the blood because I am here to tell you that this is easily the best Strike the Blood to date. It has finally moved above its decent but uninspiring attempts at makework writing and had me say, after finishing this book, “yeah, that was pretty decent”. And it should come as no surprise to find that the main reason for this, in my opinion, is because it doesn’t abide by the formula of the first six books. Oh, yes, the middle section may make an awkward attempt at it, and indeed the section in the classroom was my least favorite in the book. But overall we get backstory revelations, setup for future books, a reasonable amount of character development… it makes me cry that we haven’t bothered to have this before now, but I’ll take it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to overhype this too much: this is rising to the level of ‘pretty good’, but that’s all it’s doing. I would not recommend reading through the previous six books to get to this point. That said, the first third of the book, which is a flashback to when Kojou and his sister meet the Fourth Primogenitor, is well-handled, and exists pretty much to tell us that what little we’d heard to date, including Kojou’s own memories, was pretty trustworthy. We also meet his father, who seems an Indiana Jones sort, and while he’s a pretty cool guy it’s not hard to see why he is divorced from Kojou’s mother. The last quarter or so of the book also does another “finally” and focuses on Yaze, who has occasionally helped out (and gotten beat up a lot) but whose thoughts we rarely get much beyond surface. He gets his own backstory here, and shows us he’s not merely someone who is Kojou’s friend because he has to be.

As I said earlier, I was annoyed at the wacky comedy in the classroom with Vattler’s minions, mostly as it once again felt cookie cutter, Strike the Blood’s worst fault – you have a feeling his editor had a line [INSERT COMEDY HERE] at the first pass. Once Natsuki passes out and the drama starts up again, though, it’s reasonably gripping and entertaining. Despite its lack of risk-taking, the series does fights well, and that’s true here too. The villain (if she is one) is a reasonably clever fake-out, which makes you wonder if the series is going to be turned completely on its ear. It’s not, but it does come with one big benefit – Asagi is present to see both Yukina and Kojou whip out their powers, and does not lose her memory, get knocked out, or otherwise forget afterwards. I’ve wanted her to find out the truth for 7 books now. Her reaction (as Yukina observes) is understated, but she explains why that makes sense. More to the point, setup for the next big arc hints that Asagi’s secrets are about to become big news. Will she learn about her own supernatural abilities?

This isn’t going to pick up any new readers, and old readers will be continuing the series anyway. But as for me, I’m just happy not to have to end a review with “well, yeah, it’s Strike the Blood, whatever”. This was solidly pretty good. 7 out of 10, maybe? Oh yes, and it gets bonus points for Kojou saying “this is my fight” at one point and Yukina not actually responding “No, sempai, this is OUR fight”, even if it feels like it’s only not there as the author forgot.

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