High School DxD: Diablos of the Old School Building

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

Sometimes a series is released at exactly the right time to catch fan’s interest, gain momentum, and rise to the top of everyone’s list. Had High School DxD’s light novel come out in North America in 2014, around the same time as Yen On debuted Sword Art Online, I’ve no doubt it would have been quite popular. Indeed, the manga version came out around then, and I assume was probably popular. It’s got cute and sexy demons, battles between heaven and hell, harem building, some cool battle scenes, and lots of fanservice. That said, this is coming out in late 2020. It’s even late in being released after the announcement – everything else announced last year by Yen has long since come out, this was the lone straggler. As such, it can be hard to get into the mindset of remembering that this was quite influential and popular at the time, and not think “what’s the fuss all about?”. Particularly in regards to Issei, who is supposed to be a more perverse than usual LN hero but comes across as pretty nice, really.

Issei is a typical high school student in these sorts of series. Messy brown hair, thinks mostly of boobs, and has two male friends who are even worse than he is. Then one day… a girl confesses to him! Such bliss! Sadly, she turns out to be a fallen angel in disguise, and kills him dead. The remaining 155 pages are blank. Well, OK, no. He’s resurrected by his upperclassman Rias Gremory, who turns out to be a demon… and now Issei is as well. Turns out Issei has a Sacred Gear, i.e. a superpower. Quickly joining the Occult Research Club, which is a front for Rias and her fellows (sweetly sadistic Akeno, tiny and stoic Koneko, and token guy Kiba), Issei goes around trying to make deals with humans – i.e. demonic contracts. He’s not all that good at it, to be honest. Then he meets a young nun, Asia…

This is pretty solidly written all around, to be honest. The fanservice, while present in the illustrations, doesn’t really make its way into the text – there was less “boobies!” talk than I expected. Issei is the classic “I talk about girls all the time but am secretly a nice guy” protagonist. The rest of the cast is not as fleshed out – there’s hints of tragic backstories that will no doubt be covered in later books, but the only one we get here is Asia’s. The villain is the fallen angel who tricked Issei in the first place, and she’s the classic bad guy, to the point where Rias notes that Issei defeating her could only have happened because she talked too long and let him power up. I’m not a fan of the overly moe art style, but that’s not too much of a problem.

So the series ends up being pretty good, and I’ll probably read more, but after a number of years of titles that explore the same sort of characters, it’s not really groundbreaking at all. The most startling thing might be the fact that the cast seems to genuinely like the hero, so recommended for those who hate tsunderes, who are absent here.

Also, what does DxD stand for?

High School DxD, Vol. 1

By Ichihei Ishibumi, Zero Miyama, and Hiroji Mishima. Released in Japan by Fujimi Shobo, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dragon Age. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Given that the front cover of this new series features a cute young woman with bat wings, and the back cover features that woman plus another one hugging a slightly drooling young man, you can possibly guess not only the genre of this series, but also the plot. It’s your classic harem comedy, with lots of added fantasy this time, where the goal is to see how many different types of women you can have fall in love with the hero without any actual fornication occurring (as even Dragon Age would likely pass on that). So given that, what does High School DxD offer that separates it from Haganai, or Haruhi Suzumiya, or Zero’s Familiar, etc.?

highschooldd

Issei, our hero, seems fairly typical. He’s more at the lecherous end of the scale, constantly going on about breasts and talking about the fact that his dream is to one day have his own harem. Typical loser high schooler, which is why it’s something of a surprise to see him on a date with a gorgeous beauty as the story opens. Who then grows huge black bird wings and stabs him through the chest with a spear made of light, killing him dead. Luckily, he’s in the right series, as he manages to get resurrected and turned into a devil by Rias, the queen of the school and also, as it turns out, a devil. He’s now recruited to her team, along with several other stereotypes, in order to grant wishes for people in exchange for a price.

There’s a bit of discussion of Angels, Fallen Angels and Devils, and, as is typical with Japanese manga that discusses wars between Heaven and Hell, the narrative is firmly on the side of the devils. To be fair, our villains are all carefully chosen to be ‘Fallen’ – a Fallen Angel and an excommunicated exorcist – But I’m fairly certain that when the Angels themselves are introduced, we’ll be seeing them as the enemy as well. I was less impressed with the discussion of Sacred Gears, which is essentially the superpower that each devil has. Humans have them too, and it’s noted that all the really famous people through history are famous because of their Sacred Gear, rather than through, y’know, actual human effort. I’ve always disliked this school of thought, and didn’t like seeing it here.

There is a LOT of fanservice here, as you would expect. Rias is naked quite often through this volume, and does not appear to be remotely embarrassed about Issei seeing her naked body. We also have Akeno, a classic yamato nadesico type who turns out to be a sadist deep down (another common trait in hentai manga, and thus in this toned down harem variant), and Koneko, an Ayanami Rei clone. Interestingly, the last member of our team so far is Kiba, who is male, and reminds me of Koizumi Itsuki from Haruhi a whole hell of a lot, right down to Issei constantly denigrating him in his narration. I assume Kiba will NOT be joining Issei’s harem, though I could be surprised.

At the end of this volume, notably, Issei has not saved the day even once, and his power is shown to be so low that everyone boggles at it. This will change. It’s that sort of story. Not sure if we’ll add victim of the volume to the harem team (she’d fit right in, being a clumsy nun sort of character), but we will no doubt find out in the next volume. As for the series itself, it’s recommended to those who like harem fanservice series with a light fantasy tinge, though given the pages expended on worldbuilding here, the fantasy may be more important than I expect.

Also, I have no idea what the DxD is supposed to mean.