Strike the Blood Vol. 2: From the Warlord's Empire - Light Novel Review

As if he didn’t already have enough trouble just with girls, Kojou Akatsuki has his hands full when an envoy from the European primogenitor known as the “Lost Warlord” arrives on Itogami Island. The series which inspired the hit anime adaption continues!

The Lowdown

Life has slowly gone back to normal for Kojou Akatsuki after he saved Itogami Island from Rudolf Eustache. Even though he remains the Fourth Primogenitor and the world’s mightiest vampire, he and his watcher Yukina Himeragi have continued to get along relatively well as they attend school. However, this peacefulness is interrupted when a large yacht arrives carrying Dimitrie Vattler, an envoy seeking out Kojou for the “Lost Warlord”. Unsure of what Vattler wants, Kojou agrees to meet with him but finds that this envoy’s watcher, Sayaka Kirasaka, may also want him dead. Meanwhile, computer expert Asagi Aiba slowly realizes that she might have feeling for Kojou even as she grows more suspicious of the nature of his relationship with Yukina.

How Was It?

Strike the Blood Vol. 2's story is fun and holds up decently well on its own, but this is mostly in a superficial sense that isn’t particularly memorable. Kojou’s adventures continue to be a series of vaguely interesting events that tread on the right side of the readability line, and his struggle to master his beast vassals and stop yet another threat to the Itogami Island is well-structured, moving at a good pace. It’s all predictable, and although I never felt like I was in danger of being surprised by anything that happened here the plot managed to hold itself together to deliver some good action scenes.

I was impressed with how readable the action scenes continue to be in this series, as author Gakuto Mikumo is able to write these scenes in a straight-forward manner which made it easy to visualize what was going on. An excellent early fight scene where Yukina and Kojou unexpectedly take on two attacking beast vassals at school was exciting, and I enjoyed how clearly this scene was written while conveying the magical aspects of the fight clearly. The book’s climactic fight-scene is similarly well-written, functioning as an appropriate culmination of the volume which is exciting and makes effective use of the powers Kojou spends much of the book ruminating on. Overall, this volume’s fight-scenes are probably a lot better than they have a right being considering the predictability of the plot, managing to drag this volume to an overall recommendation in spite of its other problems.

Although there have been plenty of books that have overcome predictable plots to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, Strike the Blood Vol. 2 is severely held back by its characters. Although their banter isn’t bad, the story comes off as an emotionally sparse read because everyone in the cast outside of Asagi and Sayaka all just sort of do things for the purposes of the plot without any context for why they act or any trace of emotion to be seen. This is troubling in the case of Kojou and Yukina, who some of the blandest protagonists I’ve ever seen and seemingly have no identifiable character traits beyond being a stoic teenagers. Asagi’s story arc is actually one of the bright spots of this volume, as we see her feelings towards develop in a believable way over the course of this volume. This has some meaningful plot consequences that gave this volume to only bit of emotional payoff to be found.

On the other hand, Sayaka shows plenty of personality but quickly becomes one of the worst characters in the series who seems to exists as a one-note character for the sole purpose of threatening to kill Kojou repeatedly. Although this comes out of her affection for Yukina, her character sticks out more for a number of mindless threats and stupid lines she spouts out of the blue (exclaiming at one point “what if I get pregnant from breathing the same air as you?”). The book later tries to clumsily turn her realization that Kojou is actually not that bad into some type of meaningful epiphany, but this comes off as flat given she arrived instantly at that conclusion after seemingly not being able to go a page without threatening to kill Kojou twice. It’s disappointing that Strike the Blood’s characters are so poorly developed, as the plot would have been much more interesting if most of them displayed even a semblance of a personality in this volume.

The series is painted as a fairly serious sci-fi adventure most of the time, but this tone is disrupted by a persisting undercurrent of pandering sexuality (with Sayaka’s quote above being an excellent example). This wouldn’t be a problem if it existed to complement the characters or the story in some meaningful way, but it really just feels like distracting pandering that is so reliant on genre tropes that it gets tiring extremely quickly. Naturally, we don’t get more than 20 pages in before Kojou runs into Yukina in his house while she is changing in an incident that is fairly representative of trope-reliant sexual“light-novel silliness”. These scenes are a problem because they do absolutely nothing to develop the characters, and it almost feels like the author looked to his checklist of genre-tropes instead of trying to come up with comedic scenes that actually come about naturally.

Final Thoughts

Strike the Blood Vol. 2 is a decently fun read, but ultimately feels disposable in the sense that it offers little of particular note that I anticipate really remembering in a few months. The story is predictable but well-paced with action that holds up fairly enjoyably in terms of its readibility, keeping things just interesting enough to keep the book from becoming a drag. Although I genuinely enjoyed Asagi’s arc in this volume, there’s no getting around the fact that the rest of these characters are as flat as cardboard, holding this story back from having a feeling of true consequence and truly engaging me. In the end, the strengths of this volume kept me engaged enough to enjoy the volume in spite of its problems, but those looking for something more memorable in their reading should proceed with caution.


Strike the Blood Vol. 2: From the Warlord’s Empire was published by Yen Press on January 19th, 2016. Authored by Gakuto Mikumo and illustrated by Manyako, the series is currently ongoing and published by ASCII Mediaworks’ Dengeki Bunko imprint. The series received a two-cour anime adaption in 2013, and volume 3 is scheduled to be published in English on May 24th, 2016.

Verdict:

C+

Date of Publication: January 19th, 2016

Translator: Jerimiah Bourque

Author: Gakuto Mikumo

Publisher: Yen Press



Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka