Strike the Blood, Vol. 15

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

I’ve often talked with this series about how it feels slightly fake, how it’s written by a computer, and how it was written not as a story in and of itself but a story to become an anime. All these are still true. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad, and sometimes, when the computer writing it has a particularly good bunch of data to work with, it ends up with a really, really good book. Such a book is the 15th volume, which might as well be called Strike The Blood: The Movie. It’s the longest book in the series to date by far, and that seems appropriate given the subject matter: the secret cabal that runs the world (yeah, I know, I know…) has decided that too many dangerous things are going on on Itogami Island and, more importantly, too many dangerous people are there, including Kojou. So they’ve sent in a fleet of magic battleships and airships to destroy the island and everyone on it.

The author calls this book the “end of Part One”, and you can see why. There’s a lot of big, plot moving things going on here. Nagisa finally discovers the truth about her brother, though her reaction to all of this will have to wait for next time, as she’s also nearly killed due to the other soul inside her. Kojou finally manages to control his beast vassals and also get all of them, meaning he’s now come into his own as the Fourth Primogenitor. He also publicly declares that Itogami Island is his “territory”, putting it in a class of nations that cannot simply be wiped off the map because they’re inconvenient. And oh yes, Asagi and Vattler join forces to declare war on the people declaring war on them, a pairing so unlikely that everyone and their brother boggles at it.

Why is Asagi doing this? Well, we find out in a great fight scene between her and Yukina, which I wish had been longer. Yukina is fighting to protect Kojou, the Fourth Primogenitor who is using his great power to save others and will one day be the most powerful force in the world. Asagi is fighting to protect Kojou, the high school kid and her friend/crush, who she wants to continue to have SOME semblance of a normal life. As you might expect, they both have valid points but Yukina’s are more valid. You can’t walk back what Kojou is now (though we do get an amusing epilogue where he’s forced to do makeup homework because he missed a month of class negotiating peace treaties). As for Vattler, it will come as no surprise to regular readers to find out he was behind all this, but I was surprised at the eventual outcome of his fight with Kojou. Which is about the 13th major fight Kojou gets into in this book, which is filled with old cast members returning once more.

The series just ended in Japan at 22 volumes, so Part Two, whatever it is, is not going to be as long as Part One was. And for those waiting to see who wins the “harem” wars, La Folia points out what is likely going to be the obvious solution, though that may simply be because it benefits her most. In the meantime, Strike the Blood remains shallow fun, and this book is particularly fun.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 14

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

This is definitely a stronger volume than the previous one. It starts off by slowly removing all of Kojou’s allies, which gives a nice feeling of impending doom. Asagi is supposedly helping with the rebuilding the island needs by being… a pop idol, but anyone who’s met Asagi knows this is fake. In reality, she’s being held hostage. So is Motoki, who is recovering from his grievous wounds from last time, and thus can’t put up much of a fight when he’s used in a corporate struggle. And even Yukina ends up being a liability when, due to the various events that have been happening since the start and her own superweapon, she’s now turning into a faux-Angel, just like Kanon was. Fortunately, Kojou still has his own typical battle plan, which is use his Beast Vassals, see them fail, get nearly killed, and drink someone’s blood to power up. So far it’s been a sound strategy. Of course, there’s a little catch here.

The subtitle for this volume is Golden Days, which is how Yukina views her time here with Kojou. Leaving aside her romantic feelings for him, this is the closest thing she’s ever had to a normal life, something that Sayaka and Yukina’s mentor Yukari both point out. Yukina’s past has been shown to us on occasion in bits, and we certainly have no doubt that this is true. As such, despite his good intentions, when Kojou readily accepts that, in order not to be turned into a faux-Angel, she’ll never be able to see or help him again, she is very quick to reject this. It’s a lot of good, solid scenes. As for the solution to the problem… well, it’s sort of a macguffin, really, but I suppose we could do worse. While “fiancee” may be a bit much (mostly as it would require Kojou to admit to actually having romantic feelings for a girl without another one beating him up), certainly they’re much closer after this, and Yukina can stick around.

There were a few things I wasn’t as thrilled with. As ever, Strike the Blood’s attempts at humor are terrible, and the whole “this isn’t really a pregnancy test but” joke, even with it signposted a mile away, still made me roll my eyes. Asagi’s skills are shown off here, but – as she herself is quick to point out – all she did was sit around for two weeks. I like books that are more Asagi-heavy. And of course, despite having stronger scenes in general, the overall plot of this book is remarkably similar to about five or six others in this series – I’ve joked before about it being written by an AI, and the joke still holds up. It is designed to be made into an anime. I like the characters, but, except for Yukina a bit here, they simply don’t have the depth to elevate this series above “satisfactory”.

Still, satisfactory is not bad, and this book should please those who enjoy Strike the Blood, particularly Yukina fans, which I’m sure there must be one or two of. Next time we get the “end of Part One” of the series, but I’ll believe it when I see it, to be honest.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 13

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

The author mentioned in his afterword that this volume was meant to be something of a return to “traditional” Strike the Blood volumes, and it certainly succeeds at that. We’re back on the island, which is under attack by a terrorist organization that seemingly has all the cards. Half of Kojou’s allies are taken out, and he’s weakened by a Beast that can do something no one else had thought possible. Fortunately, by biting Yukina, as well as another girl, he’s able to save the day. And Yukina gets to say “No, senpai, this is our fight!” It’s all here, all present and correct. Unfortunately, that also includes the less-than-stellar parts of the series – for the first time in a while, I was thinking of this as book-by-numbers. This series has a tendency to feel like it’s a novelization of an anime rather than the other way around, and plot, characterization and action scenes are so smoothly written and precise that they come across as dull some of the time. Nothing is particularly surprising in this book.

The head of the terrorist organization has a past connection with Natsuki, something that cries out for a flashback or more detail but sadly no. He’s also a rather crap terrorist, trying to get Kojou to join him by mentioning that some of the Island’s leaders are evil while also causing events that will kill massive numbers of innocents and yeah, sorry, your #2 love interest also has to die too, but join us anyway. Needless to say, this doesn’t go well, and he ends up being killed off by one of the evil leaders of the island, whose identity is meant to be a shocking surprise but is not. The other members of the terrorist organization are essentially plucky orphans who no one ever loved, and I’d feel sympathy if we got more time with each of them, which we don’t. The other leader is December, who does manage to be interesting, but she’s also a spoiler, so I’ll just end it there.

I was going to complain about Nagisa briefly being in peril for no reason at all (actually, there is a reason, and it’s relatively benign, but we don’t figure it out till the end of the book), but then I realized that this is essentially “Peril: the Series”. Nagisa is obviously #1, but Natsuki also gets to be removed from the field for a while, and the author even jokes about “Asagi having another bad day”. The only ones NOT in peril are Sayaka, Shio and Yuiri, who actually manage to save the day to an extent. Speaking of Yuiri, I’d like to remind the author that he is absolutely shit at writing humor, so stop it. I’d rather read A Certain Magical Index’s humor than yours. That’s how bad the “he sucked my blood/took my virginity” scenes were. Stay in your “action adventure” lane, please.

There were a few elements here I liked, including seeing Astarte do something again for the first time in like ten books. But sadly this attempt to go back to the basics of Strike the Blood reminded me that the series’ basics aren’t all that interesting. Go outside the box again, please!