High School DxD: Ragnarok After School

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

If you’ve read the previous volumes, you know what the plot of High School DxD is: breasts. Everything else is secondary. That said, it is a shonen battle manga, which means that the breasts are not even there to titillate the reader or make them horny. They’re there as a weapon in Issei’s arsenal. Indeed, every new book brings with it a new breast power-up, and so we may as well talk about Issei loving breasts the way that we talk about Izuku using All Might’s Smash moves in My Hero Academia. It’s also very telling that, in universe, Issei’s shtick is popular with little kids rather than women. The kids don’t really get the sex part, they just see him busting out cool moves. It also shows off Issei as someone who really should mature a bit more before he starts getting his harem… something he seems to know anyway, rejecting Akeno’s offer to sleep with him because she “looks sad”. If you’re going to do a harem, do it properly.

Our heroes have been busy lately, as a bunch of heroes/terrorists keep showing up to try to fight them. The motivation of the other side is rather baffling till they figure out that they’re trying to force Balance Breakers by repeated combat. Which is, well, a tad unethical. That will have to wait for future books, though, because Odin is in town, supposedly here to meet with the Japanese gods but more accurately to go on a pub crawl and look at large-breasted women. (Notably, his hot Valkyrie bodyguard, Rossweisse, is not good enough – indeed, he abandons her at the end of the book.) Not everyone wants Odin to talk with other gods, though, and Loki shows up prepared to stop things by force if necessary. And he’s brought Fenrir with him. As a result, well, the subtitle of the book is accurate.

We finally get Akeno’s backstory here, and is it a bit disappointing at how normal it is. Well, as normal as a backstory can get when your relatives murder your own mother in front of you, but it really boils down to “I hate daddy because he’s never home” to a much larger degree. That said, things get resolved a bit too quickly here, and it feels like the author, having shown us how Akeno acme to hate her father, now feels it’s not necessary anymore. As for the rest of the book, well, lotsa fights. Indeed, we even get enemies teaming up, as in order to stop Loki, Vali and company are brought in, with him agreeing to put off his fight with Issei in order to fight someone equally badass. I did like his scoffing at Issei’s idea of peace, and pointing out that would be a nightmare to people who live for battle. Not everyone wants a Happy Harem After.

This was not quite as good as previous books, feeling a bit like it was filling in time. It did introduce Rossweisse, but she doesn’t do much here aside from whine and moan, so I assume we’ll develop her in later books. Average DxD, which is to say below average in terms of normal light novels.

High School DxD: Holy Behind the Gymnasium

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 think the author just enjoys suckering people in. For most of the sixth volume of High School DxD, the series is at its default level of horny, which is to say: high, but not beyond all human reason. Sure, there are cosplay battles to see who can turn Issei on the most. Sure, there’s the endless amounts of breast comparison shopping he seems to do as easily as breathing. And yes, I probably should have guessed what was going to happen when we got to the television interview and it didn’t show Issei at all. Still, no amount of preparation could have prepared me for: the theme song. As with the previous volume’s “I can talk to enemy breasts and get them to divulge secrets”, it goes above and beyond in making you wonder what the hell the author is thinking. I have to assume that the author thinks that all this is necessary as otherwise it’s a generic shonen battle manga. Which is a shame as the battles are absolutely fine.

The start of this novel is sparked by two things: Irina returns and transfers into the school, now a full-blown angel but seemingly exactly the same as she’s always been. The other is the upcoming sports festival, where Issei and Asia have to run the three-legged race together. This is difficult, as they’re overly conscious of each other’s bodies, and also because the demon who Asia healed at the start of the series is back, and he wants Asia for himself. The answer is a Rating Game, which is a bit of a surprise so soon after the last one. Unfortunately, that’s far from the only surprise, and our heroes end up fighting against a horde of demon mooks in order to save Asia from a hideous fate at the hands of a demon who turns out to be even worse than we thought – and we already hated him.

I will admit, much as this is Asia’s book, she is mostly a straight up damsel in distress here, though I did like her slapping Diodora for insulting Issei. Unfortunately, she’s still in ‘meek healer’ mode, so her role in this book is to get kidnapped and threatened with rape. This made me grumpy. Other than that, it’s a perfectly good book in regards to the standards of High School DxD, which bear no resemblance to other light novel standards. Issei gets to be cool a few times, and has started to think on his feet much better. The solution for getting Akeno to one-shot kill all the bad guys was hilarious. The theme song, jaw-dropping though it was, was also pretty funny, I will grant you. I have to hand it to High School DxD, it does not do anything in half measures. It is here to talk about tits and it will talk about them until it is blue in the face.

This is apparently the end of the second “arc” of the series, and does include several tantalizing setups for later events. Overall, it was decent. For a value of decent that is a High School DxD book.

High School DxD: Hellcat of the Underworld Training Camp

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

(with apologies to Professor Peter Schickele)

Each time I read a new volume of High School DxD I am filled with this feeling of anticipation, a feeling of exultation, a feeling that… this new volume can’t possibly be as horny as the last one. But so far… Yeah, I know, shut up, Sean, you’re yelling at a series for 13-year-old teenage boys for talking about tits too much, and I get it. I try to recalibrate my standards for these books. Heck, the hot springs scene was even mildly amusing once those standards are recalibrated. But God Almighty, the way that Issei levels up or gets more powerful in this series makes your jaw drop. Leaving aside that the key to unlocking his new super move is to poke Rias’ nipples, there is everything about the climax of the book, where a dying Issei suddenly attains the zen-like ability to hear women’s breasts talking as separate personalities. I… what was the author on when he came up with this? I can’t even say “Oh, Japan” here. WHAT?!?!

Koneko’s on the cover, and actually gets some backstory here, though she gets less to do than I’d like. Our main cast travel to the underworld to train at Rias’ vast estate, meet her parents, and end up fighting a new Rating Game against Sona and Saji, the student council faction. Sona wants to make demon society less class-based, and is being ridiculed for the very idea, so naturally her team wants to win badly here. That said, our heroes are the protagonists. Can they be powerful enough to get past Sona’s cleverness? Maybe, but it’ll take Issei having to fight a dragon everyday, as well as Koneko having to confront her past… literally, in the form of her sister. And of course there’s Saji, who is to Sona what Issei is to Rias. He has a dream of being a teacher… and is very pissed that Issei has groped more boobs than he has.

If you leave out the tits, this is a very normal shonen battle manga. Issei is told that unlocking his Balance Breaker is the sort of thing that’s usually done in a crisis position with strong emotions behind it. We then get what is obviously meant to be just that, with Koneko’s sister attacking her and Koneko feeling tremendous self-hatred. If Issei were in Strike the Blood, this would be where he would talk about “:this is my fight!” and level up. But Issei is in High School DxD, so it’s not enough to be feeling righteous fury, he also has to be getting super horny. Hence the nipple poking. The fight between Issei and Saji is the best part of the book, pure shonen manliness and shouting about each other’s dreams… then Issei gains the ability to hear women’s breasts talking, and any drama and excitement drains out of the body.

As for why I’m still reading this, I’m not really sure. I want to actually see what happens next? Unfortunately, what happens next will likely involve more ridiculousness. But as long as it also has cool fights and some romance that isn’t pure sex, I’ll probably get the next one.