High School DxD: Lionheart of the Academy Festival

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

Generally speaking, when harem series have to ask the question “why is the guy not understanding that all these girls who are literally naked in his bed saying “take me now, big boy!” kinda like him?”. The reason for that is that in most of these stories the answer is the same. It’s a variation on “don’t be silly, no girl will ever like me.” Harem protagonist never comes without a heaping helping of self-loathing, it would seem. Fortunately for High School DxD, it can actually give Issei a real reason for all that self-loathing beyond “because the plot requires it”. His first girlfriend, the one who he finally thought would be the girl that did not see him as a creepy pervert loser (which, sorry Issei, he is) rejected him bluntly multiple times. Oh yes, and turned out to be evil, tried to kill him, and was murdered in front of him. So when you ask “why does he not understand why Rias is so mad in this volume”, the answer can be, frankly, “trauma”.

We’ve had the sports festival and the school trip, so clearly it’s time for the culture festival. Maid cafe? Haunted house? Why not do both? As the Occult Research Club prepares to pull out all the stops, they also have a fresh new Rating Game, against an up and coming team whose leader, Sairaorg, has no demonic powers, but has to get by with his charisma and his brute strength. He is, frankly, a perfect opponent for Issei, and the fight takes up the entire second half of the book. Unfortunately, there’s trouble in paradise: After being as subtle as a truck and failing to get her feelings across to Issei, Rias spends most of the book miserable and thinking that he doesn’t actually love her. He’s not helping things by not understanding why calling her “Prez” feels like distance. Can they make up in time to win the match?

I haven’t mentioned breasts at all yet in this review, so I want to sadly reassure fans of the series that they’re still ridiculously essential to the plot, with the funniest fight in the book revolving around a woman taking off her panties before her bra, something that absolutely infuriates Issei. As for he and Rias, frankly, the two are more similar than you’d expect, and of course are the main couple of this series. And yes, finally we can say “couple”, given that we get an incredibly overdramatic and public confession (it’s High School DxD, where everything happens in front of the biggest crowd imaginable) which, more importantly, is followed by a quieter but just as firm confession when it’s just the two of them. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this is a “marry everyone” kind of series, but it has to start with Rias, and now it has.

That said, haven’t things gone a bit too well for our heroes lately? (Well, except Akeno, who got annihilated in about ten seconds. Sorry, Akeno.) Gosh, I hope nothing absolutely tragic happens in the next book…

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