High School DxD: Supplementary Lesson Heroes

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

I’ve talked before about how difficult I find it to review this series without just constantly saying the same things over and over again. There’s only so many times you can say “this is just combining shonen battle manga with ecchi harem manga” before the audience starts to nod off. And it’s the same with this book. Boy, those sure are some cool fights. They sure do bust out new special moves they got after training hard. And yeah, Issei really likes tits, news flash, film at 11. With this one I thought I’d have a bit more to work with, given the last volume ended with Issei being killed off. As I read it, I also realized that I could talk about how all the women were sidelined so that the male characters could get all the important fights. I could talk about that as well! Then the author, in the afterword, says “hey, did everyone notice the women were sidelined and the men got all the fights?”. So back to the first of those points, I guess.

As you might guess, the bulk of this volume is narrated by Kiba, given that Issei is dead. Kiba is devastated by this, of course, but he’s also the only one who is not romantically in love with Issei (possibly… more on that running gag later), so he’s the only one who can actually tell us what’s been happening and what’s going to happen next without having it just be silence or sobbing. Because the Gremory Family is shattered. Rias and Akeno won’t leave their rooms, Koneko, Ravel and Asia can’t stop crying. Fortunately, the rest of the family is off getting extra training/powerups after getting the crap beaten out of them, so they’re not there to be devastated by the news. That said, even from the end of last volume we suspected Issei would be back. After all, the dragon has not found a new person to give its power yet. And the Evil Pieces are still linked to Issei. Can he possibly return from the dead? In a way that doesn’t involve breasts?

Believe it or not, the answer to that last question is mostly yes, though there is a certain amount of “clap for Tinkerbell” involving chanting the Breast Dragon catchphrase involved. But yes, Issei comes back from the dead, and may arguably be more powerful by the end of the book. And he gets a date with Rias at the end as a reward. As for the rest of the heroines, I hope that they take a lesson from this and try to get a bit less dependent on Issei, but I’m not all that optimistic – they are young women in love, and it is a shonen series. The heroine who comes off best in this book is, of course Kiba – and yes, he is described in the afterword as a heroine. I’m not usually fond of the whole “make lots of jokes about men being attracted to Issei but have him no homo his way out of it” as a plot device, but for some reason with Kiba it just works. It helps that he has no concrete romantic interest in anyone female.

We’re told this is the end of an arc, and the next arc will be introducing magic users and also getting deeper into Gaspar’s nature. That said… there’s another short story volume next. Gotta be patient, I suppose.

High School DxD: Ouroboros and the Promotion Exam

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

This contains spoilers for the end of Book 11, but not till the third paragraph.

High School DxD remains one of the most shonen series ever written, because it’s absolutely filled to the brim with what makes a shonen series – on both sides. On the one side we have the shonen battle manga, with lots of powerful enemies, dealing with almost certain defeat, discovering that the person you just struggled to take out was merely the weakest of the ones you have to fight, etc. It’s the classic old-school “you defeat the bad guy by everyone in the cast shouting the hero’s name in unison as they hit him” shonen. But it’s also very much the other kind of shonen, in that the hero is excessively horny and can only think of sex, the girls are all in love with him and have big breasts, and the one who doesn’t have big breasts asks him to marry her once she grows up and gets them. That kind of shonen series. And when we combine them, what do we get? Well, we get the Breast Beam, of course, possibly the most High School DxD thing ever.

Issei, Kiba and Akeno have been through a lot recently, and have many accomplishments to their names – enough that they really should be high-ranked demons. But there are procedures to follow, so first they must take the exam to become MIDDLE-ranked demons, which, because demon society bases a lot of things on humanity, consists of a written and a practical test. The test itself proves to not be too much of an issue, even for a “poor grades” guy like Issei. The problem is that they’re being forced to take in a hideously powerful infinity dragon, Ophis, because Azazel is trying to achieve a greater peace with the other factions and hopes that she can help. Ophis, for her part, just wants to sit back and observe Rias’s group. Unfortunately for Azazel, if he wants peace, he’s in the wrong series.

Most English-speaking High School DxD fans, and yes, that includes the ones who actually *buy* the books, are familiar with the series to a ridiculous degree. They know that it’s 25 volumes long, and has a sequel that might equal that. And, of course, there’s the afterword from the author, where they discuss what’s going to happen in Book 12. That said, if High School DxD was not selling as well here, maybe if it was more like Index, it would be cruelly amusing for Yen On to simply cut the afterword and pretend that this was the final book in the series. “Yup, Issei dies. Bit of a downer ending, huh?” Of course, even someone who isn’t spoiled probably doesn’t buy that Issei’s death is anything but temporary. Still, it does make the final moments in this book nicely depressing, and also makes me wonder who’ll be narrating the next volume.

Solid book in the series. Fights. Breasts. And tragedy.

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, harem series rarely 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…