By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen Press.
The author of Strike the Blood has been doing this sort of thing for a while. He started off with a series called Asura Cryin’ that spawned two anime series, and another, Dantalion no Shoka, that also was made into an anime. And indeed Strike the Blood has met the same fate. This is not particularly surprising after reading the first novel – it’s a book that seems tailor made to be turned into a manga and anime. The heavy supernatural element, cool hero and heroine with vampiric powers and big honking magic spear respectively, cute younger sisters who are more than they seem, aloof best friends who secretly are in love, and even a genki younger sister with a secret to hide. Everything you read here will make you think of how it will play out on the the screen. Which is a problem in some ways.
To be fair to the book, it handles everything well, as you’d expect from a seasoned writer with a large number of books under his belt. The hero and heroine are both very likeable, and while they have a few standard anime traits, they’re both subdued enough so that you don’t really get irritated by it. Yukina in particular is intriguing – she seems like your standard tsundere who would get mad at the hero constantly, but this is warring with her aloof, stoic, and overly serious personality, making her far more interesting. She also makes a fairly fast judgement about Kojou, the vampire she’s been sent to watch/deal with, realizing that he’s really not out to rule the world, but just to have a normal high school life. Indeed, Kojou just gaining his immortal vampire powers a few months ago is the backstory here, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it later on.
This being a light novel, there’s some fanservice, but it’s the kind that actually flows out of the text and the genre (there is a harem element here). I could have done without the standard ‘note what color her panties are’ gag, though, especially as, also typical with recent light novels, our heroine is about 3-4 years younger than she should be. The hero does suffer some physical and psychological abuse from girls thinking he’s a pervert (he’s not), but if this bothers you, remind me why you read Japanese light novels or manga at all?
So in the end I read a solid novel with decent characterization and good action scenes, yet still came away from it feeling unsatisfied. And I think the reason is that it all felt far too calculated. There is not one thing in this first volume that I didn’t guess or suspect would happen, not one honest element of surprise. I’ve been reading a lot of unoriginal light novels lately, but most of those have at least been allowed to have ambition or a purpose to their prose, a sense that the author has something he needs to share with you. With Strike the Blood that purpose seems to be ‘here’s my new series, go buy the manga and anime as well’, and that saddens me. I’m hoping a second volume will prove me wrong.