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…

High School DxD: Pandemonium on the School Trip

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 may be the least horny DxD volume to date. Which, trust me, means it’s still ridiculously horny, and filled with consensual groping and non-consensual destruction of clothing. But the title is actually High School DxD, and this volume wants to remind you of the first part, as Issei and his class are going to Kyoto. And they actually do make an effort to put in the “look, I did the research” work. There are, of course, supernatural bad things going on on their trip. And they naturally seem to center around Issei. But his teachers say to leave it to them, and to try to have a normal fun school trip. Which makes sense. Most of our protagonists are either demons, fallen angels, or angels, and “high school romcom” is theoretically not high on the list of things they have to do. Unless you’re High School DxD, of course, where Issei cannot walk two steps without having another gorgeous young woman fall in love with him. This volume’s candidate is very young indeed.

As noted, everyone’s off to Kyoto!… well, almost everyone. Rias and Akeno are, of course, one grade higher than Issei, so aren’t going, much to their annoyance. That said, everything is official and they even have special thingummies that will allow them to visit the very religious temples without, y’know, bursting into flames or the like. Things are going well… despite a growing rash of breast gropers among the populace. And the elementary-school aged fox girl who demands that Issei give back her mother, who has been kidnapped. That said, if you recall the events of the seventh volume and wonder “if this perhaps the work of the guys trying to reverse engineer balance breakers so humanity can fight angels and demons?”, you would be absolutely correct.

I will admit that the human side does have a point here, in that if you happen to know about angels and demons and dragons and the like, and they’re all fighting each other, you start to feel like a pointless statistic in comparison. That said, if you want humanity to triumph, I’m pretty sure “terrorist acts” is not the way to go. As for Issei, he’s getting better not only at fighting but also at leading, which is good because without Rias the group seems to lack anyone to give them strategy beyond “hit things very hard”. (Or heal things very hard, in Asia’s case.) I was also amused to see that Issei’s power is very similar to Izuku’s in My Hero Academia (which came out well after this book), complete with prior users who give him cryptic advice. And are also a fan of his signature breast moves. Which is a real sentence that I just typed out, and I still can’t really believe that.

So we’ve had the sports festival, and the class trip, so I think I know what’s coming next. Till then, enjoy a solid volume in this horny series.

High School DxD: A Demon’s Work

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 I’ve been able to skate by on these High School DxD reviews because I can usually somehow get past all of the boob talk and the “funny” comedy antics and even more boob talk to find something I can actually discuss like a reasonable reviewer, be it the fights, the character development (it does actually exist), or the overall plot of that particular book. So, you’ll have to pardon me if this review in particular seems to be a little lacking in content, as this is a short story volume. Meaning there is no overall plot, and no character development. Oh, and almost no fighting either. In its place, we have even MORE boob talk and “funny” comedy. As such, we are forced to fall back on the usual rule of light novel short story volumes: the longer the story, he better it actually is. That holds true here, as the last story in the book is the longest and one of the few that deserves attention.

In this book: 1) Issei and Rias try to help a woman who summoned a demon to help her love life… but she’s American, and her idea of Japan is more samurai-oriented. 2) Issei and Asia are told they need to get familiars, but Issei’s choices are all super powerful rather than super sexy. 3) Issei explains to the club the story of how he became obsessed with breasts, which involves a creepy old man corrupting a child. 4) The club has to play a tennis match against a rival in order to complete a club activity report. 5) Asia and Rias are turned into little kids by a spell gone wrong. 6) Azazel accidentally clones Issei three hundred times, and the clones are even more breast-obsessed than he is. 7) Sirzechs and Grayfia show up at Issei’s, and remind Rias that she has to perform a ciming of age ritual with a loved one… i.e. Issei.

There are precisely three stories in this book that cannot be summed up by the words “Oh my God, fuck off.” The first story is actually pretty funny, especially Susan’s misplaced sense of what Japan is actually like. The story of Asia and Rias as kids is at least mildly cute, and features Azazel abusing Issei in a much more acceptable manner than the other story he’s involved in. And the final story is the most involved. We meet the other Demon Kings for the first time, and we get another example of the “they are wearing an obvious disguise but no one notices this except the protagonist” joke, which always seems to work for me for some reason. Other than that, please see above. High School DxD may be unabashedly horny, but I have my limits, and they were pushed hard here.

Despite the presence of one or two non-sucking stories, this is a volume that can easily be skipped, IMO. Next time we should get a school trip… and hopefully a plotline.