Strike the Blood, Vol. 19

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

Readers of the Strike the Blood light novels have always had a somewhat annoying problem, which is that we can never quite catch up to what’s been animated. For a while it looked like the novels would pass the anime, but then all these OAVs came out. It’s been especially noticeable with the last two books, both of which are expansions of original OAV storylines that came out years ago. You’d think, now that we’re only four volumes from the end, that we’d bee home free, but no: this volume and the next two came out in animated form last year. And, let’s face it, probably the only person still reading Strike the Blood who has NOT seen the anime is me. Most fans are likely simply reading the books to see what bits were cut out. I’m going to guess that the answer is not much, because as always this reads like a novelization more than a novel, and is almost entirely action.

Returning from the off-island events of the last book, Kojou and company find that the entire island is isolated – and appears to have been tu5rned into a survival game. This is being done by the Order of the End, a mysterious and powerful organization who can nearly murder a shaman princess, kidnap the Witch of the Void, and otherwise be the latest unstoppable opponent for Kojou to stop. They’re also led by The Blood, the very awkwardly named man (who also says his real name is Kenon here, though Kojou still annoyingly calls him The Blood) who is now pretending to be the Fourth Primogenitor. The obvious thing to do is to have Kojou go public, but he’s still trying to cling on to normal life till he can graduate. So he’ll do what he does best: muddle along, fight and find that it doesn’t work, rant and rave a lot, and win anyway. Though not yet, as this is more than one part long.

First of all, props to the author: Having Asagi save Yukina from certain death by turning the ocean into Strawberry Jell-O, then having to flee across it before it snaps back to reality, is one of the best things in the books to date, including her relief at it not being pudding, which would have been lethal. Other than that, there’s not really much to talk about here. It’s clearly only the start of the story (there’s no “this is OUR fight!” to be seen) and, well, it’s a lot of fights. Yume, the succubus from earlier books, is back protecting her school, and does cool things. The First Primogenitor, who we saw in the cliffhanger for the last book, is also around, along with his minion/girlfriend, and he’s fairly begign – so far. And the goofy humor is mostly kept to a minimum here – Kojou panicked when Kanon’s father sees them both in bathrobes in a love hotel; Sayaka getting summarily dumped out of La Folia’s airplane at 10,000 feet. It’s a decent action book.

But there’s no depth to it, which is why I always find these reviews hard. It has its highs and lows, but in the end Strike the Blood will always be what it is on the surface.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 18

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

I think the author is finally, as we near the end of Strike the Blood, getting the hang of things. As such, I will stop implying that the entire book is written by an AI bot, as I have in previous books, and give credit where credit is due. This is the second of two books expanding on an OAV that came out years earlier, and manages to pull off something we haven’t really seen done before due to the nature of Kojou’s vampiric abilities – mind controlling him to become evil. (You’ll pardon the spoiler, but anyone who is reading a review of the 18th volume of a series and also hasn’t seen the earlier OAV is probably limited to one or two people.) The book manages to divide itself fairly well into halves, with the first part being a political romance of sorts, and the second half being our usual action movie. La Folia gets a large role, which is great, and Sayaka does as well, which… is not so great.

Kojou is in a good mood, as he’s headed up to the long holiday break, where he can finally relax and not have to worry about saving the world… or so he thinks. Instead, La Folia invites Kanon to a ceremony in her home country of Aldegia so that she can try to mend tensions between Kanon and the rest of the family, and Kojou and Yukina to essentially be her bodyguards. (Asagi, Yabe, and Nagisa also tag along.) Of course, this is merely part of a larger plan, which is to get out of various arranged marriages set up for her by saying Kojou is her fiancee. Part one of her plan goes far smoother than anyone intended, possibly as Kanon is a giant sweetie pie. The second part goes OK, despite the fact that La Folia’s father is one of those huge, killer dads who will never let anyone date his daughter and has a giant sword to back him up. And this is all BEFORE the terrorist plot, when La Folia and Yukina are kidnapped… and Kojou is brainwashed.

The last book made it pretty clear that Kojou, in the future, has more than one partner, and this book hammers home that this is perfectly valid for vampire Primogenitors. As such, anyone who was rooting for someone other than Yukina will be pleased to know they’ll still get a place at the table. (Well,l no, they likely won’t, as I sense Strike the Blood fanatics don’t like Yukina much.) In any case, La Folia is perfectly happy to share, especially as Kojou cannot help but be the best guy she’s ever met. He’s like that. As for Sayaka… her absence from the series for so long had made me forget how much of a comedy jealous dumbass she is 90% of the time, honestly. Sorry, Sayaka. I have also told the author multiple times that his humorous scenes aren’t funny, so props to him: the scene with brainwashed Kojou acting like a Byronic hero and spouting lines so cringeworthy that Asagi and Yabe took actual damage? That was really, really good.

As with a lot of recent books in this series, the epilogue serves to set up the next book in the series, with will be back on Itogami Island and no doubt will continue to make it completely uninsurable. In the meantime, Strike the Blood fans, especially fans of La Folia, will be quite happy.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 17

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

This is the first of two books that will be adapting stories that originally came out back around the time of the first anime, from 2014-2015. This one was also originally a 7-page short story, but, needless to say, has a lot more going on now that it’s around 250 pages. (Remember when Strike the Blood books were short?) It’s not too much of a spoiler, really, so I will note that this is a ‘daughter from the future’ sort of plot, and honestly I am a sucker for those sorts of things. That said, there’s also a lot more added here to tie in to the rest of the series and to set up events going forward. Shizuri is now officially a main cast member, getting quite a bit to do, and we also see Yuiri and Shio showing up again. As for the enemy, well, it’s fairly light as Strike the Blood enemies go – it’s a rampaging demon beast. Still enough to cause massive amounts of property damage, of course.

After beating up Kojou and Shizuri’s two allies from the previous book, the demon beast has to be taken down – and Kojou can’t do it, as the beast basically feeds on magical and demonic energy. Yukina is able to temporarily defeat it, but – as the subtitle of the book suggests – this causes her main weapon to be destroyed. This is bad news all around, as she’s now being summoned back to Lion King Agency Headquarters and Yuiri is going to take her place watching Kojou. Both Yukina and Kojou hate this, but are still both in the “what do you mean we’re not in love with each other?” stage of things, so there’s mostly a lot of moping. To Yukina’s additional consternation, there’s a fake Yukina running around as well. Looks just like her… except Reina is a vampire, knows a lot more about everything than she should, and sometimes calls Yukina “mom” by accident.

Reina is the most fun part of the book. As you can probably guess, she doesn’t seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she’s certainly got powers out the wazoo, and is here to make sure that Yukina is NOT recalled from the island… which would lead to her fading out of existence. I also liked Asagi trying to be a bit more proactive and creating a school club that’s on the lookout for demonic activities – if nothing else, hopefully this will help Kojou have fewer days absent. There’s also a lot of politics behind the scenes – there are those who want Yukina gone because, since she has no family to threaten, she could easily turn against them, not to mention her status as a Blood Bride. And, of course, this being Strike the Blood, half the book is fights, which are well-written as usual, and I’m sure look very good animated. Oh yes, and there’s evil twins.

So, overall, given I’m not making fun of it, I’d say this was on the high side of Strike the Blood volumes. Next time we see Kojou going to a party of La Folia’s, and hopefully get Sayaka, who has been absent from the story for I don’t know how many books, back in the equation.