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…

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.