Strike the Blood, Vol. 22

By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Bourque.

Strike the Blood remains, to the end, a very good action series and a really lousy harem series. Kojou, despite the bloody nose indicating arousal, is one of the most asexual harem leads I’ve ever read about, and frankly I have no idea how he’s going to sire the two future children that we know about. The scenes towards the end where he does some sort of weird vampire mojo thing and makes all the girls have an orgasm (not explicitly stated, but implied) made me roll my eyes. But when it’s being a Shonen Jump style series, or when it treats his cast as an extended family, it’s much, much better. This pretty much wraps up all the outstanding plotlines with the exception of “who does he end up with”, which is left vague but implied to be twelve wives. Only one of whom bothers to say the words “I love you” directly to him in this book, so nice job, Asagi, you’re the winner in my eyes.

Yeah, for those hoping the final volume would have the entire cast on the cover, or at least more than one girl, I don’t know what you were expecting. In any case, the terrorists who have been driving the final arc’s plot are here, and they want Itogami Island. Kojou, who now has vampiric blood vassals again, is the logical choice to negotiate with them, though it’s worth noting that the obvious solution as to how to stop the terrorists is in fact “destroy the island”, not good. Meanwhile, Avrova is attending an upside-down high school in the sky… which makes no sense until halfway through the book or so… and then there’s Japan, who of course have several agents working for the government on the island, who saw what I said two sentences ago and agree with me.

Without question, the best scene in the book is halfway through it, when Natsuki, Yukina and her mentor, and Koyomi head down to the keystone holding the island together to destroy it. They can evacuate everyone in time, and with no island, the terrorists lose. The trouble with this idea is that literally everyone else hates it and regards it as giving up on Kojou, so the rest of the cast go to war against them. (This includes Sayaka, who is mind controlled into fighting, but it’s implied she would have agreed.) Seeing Yukina’s anguish and frustration as she ends up fighting half of Kojou’s love interests at once could almost sum up the series. As for the rest, yes, we get the “no, sempai, this is our fight!” line, so we’re good. The Nod stuff was a bit less interesting, with apologies to Those Two Girls And Their Dragon. It also comes with an almost literal Deus Ex Machina, as the daughters from the future help to do a spell that essentially makes everyone forget who Kojou is again. Well, except his love interests, of course.

The author says this series went on much longer than expected, and I can’t say it was entirely deserved. Still, in the end, Strike the Blood was exactly what it wanted to be, an action adventure series with vampires, girls kicking ass, and the occasional “whoops I walked in on you in your underwear” harem bullshit. Who could ask for anything more?

Strike the Blood, Vol. 21

By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Bourque.

For once I have actual things to talk about in this volume of Strike the Blood, which is fairly low on cool action sequences. And by “fairly low” I mean there are still about 50% action scenes in the book. However, Kojou being depowered means that he can’t participate in them – indeed, for once, HE is the damsel in distress, as he makes a Faustian bargain that ends up biting him in the ass… gosh, where have I heard that before? So it’s up to Natsuki to get the band back together, as all of the girls who are in love with Kojou and also superpowered (and yes, this includes the two grade schoolers, though at least an objection to this is raised) band together to offer themselves as blood servants. All this so that he can control the new beast vassals inside him, regain his vampiric nature, and this series can FINALLY wrap up in the next. book.

There’s a bit of poignancy at the start of the book, as Kojou is forcibly reminded (by his childhood friend, no less) that giving up his powers means he is no longer the protagonist and therefore he needs to just go away. Of course, that does not stop him trying to think of ways to save Avrora, and he’s helped in this by the First Primogenitor and his servant, who could use a good laugh… erm, I mean, genuine have a desire to see Kojou succeed. Unfortunately, this goes so badly that Kojou has to literally be put on ice for twelve hours while Yukina and company try to gather twelve blood servants who can help to fight and quell Kojou’s twelve new beast vassals. Unfortunately, some of them are easier to persuade than others.

I’ve talked before about how Strike the Blood’s humor frequently is painfully unfunny,l though it’s gotten better recently. (It’s hard to top the record holder in “bad humor in light novels”, A Certain Magical Index.) As for this volume, well, it has a really solid joke that made me laugh. The way that Asagi gets the Second Primogenitor to cooperate with them is genuinely hilarious and also true to character. I will therefore forgive the “we have to fight while dressed in bunny girl outfits” bullshit, which is as lame as it sounds. And doesn’t work. Honestly, girls, it’s been twenty-one books and you’re still trying to figure out what makes Kojou aroused? Even hardcore yanderes would have given up and and found another love interest by now. We also seem to be confirming, in case you hadn’t guessed, that future Kojou is going to have multiple wives – my guess is twelve, though hopefully they will not include his sister. Or his teacher. Or the tank-driving grade-schooler. (Sadly, pretty sure it will include the succubus grade-schooler.)

Strike the Blood is never going to rise above the level of “solid”, and this volume also had some boring parts where it tried to give backstory and explain the villains, which I expect few readers care about. But it sets up the finale and gives the anime fun stuff to animate. That’s really all you can ask.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 20

By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Bourque.

I’d like to welcome you all and thank you for coming to another one of my attempts to review the latest volume of Strike the Blood. If you’re reading this, I assume that either you are a hardcore fan of the series (and have therefore, no doubt, seen the anime that has already adapted this volume) or you just enjoy reading about me trying and failing to get 500 words out of a series whose main plot is “cool action sequences for 279 pages”. It’s always felt like a novelization more than a novel, but here in English, where we’re reading the novels after the equivalent anime, it’s even more apparent. This is, essentially, the final arc, Part 2 of 4. It will therefore not surprise you that it ends with a bit of a downer, though honestly not as much as previous books. That said, fans will feel relieved to hear that Kojou says “my fight” and Yukina corrects him with “No, senpai, this is OUR fight”, so all is present and correct.

As noted, for the most part this is the second part of what we saw last time, so there’s still a lot of Itogami Island being divided into factions that are fighting for supremacy. We do, however, get the reason that this is happening: Avrora is alive again, and that means Kojou does NOT have all 12 beast vassals… meaning he’s essentially about to spiral out of control. There’s two main ways to solve this: kill everyone on the island by removing their memories and reason (bad), or kill Avrora (kind of what they’ve been trying not to do for the last several books). This therefore sets up most of the book, which is a lot of plotting, counterplotting, and friends turning against each other for the greater good and then feeling like absolute crap about it afterwards. That said, Kojou’s actual solution SEEMED like a good idea at the time, but…

The end of the book, i.e. Kojou’s fate, is honestly something I thought we’d have gotten about a dozen novels before now, so I’m relieved to see it here right before everyone gathers for the big finale. It’s still a powerful moment, mostly because it’s so quiet, just him and Yukina sitting watching the horizon after completely failing to stop the end of the world. Also a surprising scene, and showing that the author is perhaps getting a handle on light-hearted stuff at last, is Kojou in the shower, struggling against his vampiric instincts, and then Kanon, Shizuri AND Yukina all offering him their bodies. Separately. Which means it briefly turns into a British farce. That’s not the surprising thing, the surprising thing is that Kojou doesn’t get beaten up for it. Perhaps we have graduated from the Rumiko Takahashi school of slapstick.

Presumably next time we will be headed to the big island in the sky to have yet more exciting battles that are very hard to review. Till then, please enjoy another Strike the Blood. It is what it is.