High School DxD: The Phoenix of the School Battle

By Ichiei Ishibumi and Miyama-Zero. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

Sigh. The second volume of High School DxD, I’m pleased to say, has the same strengths that the first volume had. Unfortunately, the weaknesses the first volume had are also here, and they’re far more in your face. This is the perfect series for horny 15-year-old boys. There’s a likeable cast, a premise of “which of the many hot women who desire me shall I choose?”, a lot of very cool fights, and smug punchable villains who are basically the ‘evil’ version of your own fantasies. It’s shonen battle manga up the wazoo – in fact, when typing the title of the book I accidentally typed “Phoenix of the Old School Battle”. Unfortunately, its fanservice, which was present but not up to annoying levels in the first volume, has now reached annoying levels. Issei will not shut up about boobs, spends a page or so describing what it’s like to feel up the heroine, has powers that strip the villains of their clothing (provided they’re girls), and declares, and I quote, “Rias Gremory’s virginity belongs to me!”. YIKES.

The premise of this one is fairly simple: Rias has an arranged marriage she’s been avoiding, to Riser Phenex, a high-born noble demon. She very clearly does not want this, and would rather stay in high school with Issei and company. So a duel is arranged between Rias’ group and Riser’s – if Rias wins, she can keep doing what she wants, if Riser wins, they’ll get married. Issei, naturally, is ready to fight for Rias, both because he’s got the hots for her AND because he’s rather upset that she’s not being treated like a person. Unfortunately, Issei, as he is now, can’t beat anyone, as is made painfully clear. There’s only one thing for it: we’ve got to have a training arc. And even after that’s done, we have to deal with the fact that Riser has the abilities of the phoenix, making him basically unkillable. How do you defeat someone like that?

This book is very much content to take as long as it wants to to tell its story. We do get more of the rest of the cast here, but they’re still relatively one-dimensional – Akeno is the ojou and secret sadist, Koneko is the short grumpy one, and Kiba is an odd combination of Koizumi, Shirou and Saika. We are briefly threatened with some backstory for Kiba in the middle of one of the big fights, but threatened is as far as it gets. I assume we’ll get more depth to them in later books, but for now they’re pretty cardboard. As for Riser and his crew, he’s meant to compare with Issei’s own harem dreams – Riser has a harem, who it’s clearly implied he’s sleeping with, and which contains various cute fetishes – twins, sword chicks, etc. – even his own younger sister, because what’s a harem without incest? And, well, that gets me back to sighing, really.

Again, fans of this series will love this. And if you’re a teenage boy, feel free to read this, as the chance of actual sex happening in it is zero. For those of us outside the age range, though, High School DxD is a series with an interesting premise and characters that can’t resist being perverse in the exact way teenage boys are.

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