When the Strike the Blood anime originally aired back in late 2013 I was quite fond of a lot of the ideas the series had, so when it finished its run I was really eager to experience more of the story. Because Yen Press hadn’t been releasing as many light novels as we’re treated to now, I’d hoped for the anime to be continued at some point. Thankfully since then light novels have had a bit of a boom and when Yen Press published the first volume of Strike the Blood I rushed out to pick it up. Sadly, I’m not all too sure that the light novel series lives up to my original love for the anime.
The story of Strike the Blood takes place on Itogami Island, which is where humans live amongst monsters of various kinds. One of these monsters is Kojou Akatsuki, a vampire… but not just any. Kojou is also the 4th progenitor, the progenitors supposedly being the most powerful vampires in existence. This wasn’t always the case, however. Just three months before the beginning of our story, Kojou is your normal, everyday high schooler until he is suddenly transformed into a vampire. Just how all of this came about is unknown because Kojou can’t actually remember, nor does he care to. He’d much prefer to continue his life as it was.
Due to Kojou’s status as the 4th progenitor it’s felt that he shouldn’t be left to his own devices, thus a young girl named Yukina Himeragi is sent to keep an eye on him. Yukina is a Sword Shaman from the Lion-King organization, who try to keep the peace between the humans and demons. She’s sent with the task of deciding whether Kojou is harmless or a risk to the world. If deemed dangerous, Yukina’s been given the permission to kill him. Our Sword Shaman may be only fourteen years of age but due to being trained since she was a child, Yukina displays impressive levels of skills in terms of fighting.
The setting for Strike the Blood is perhaps not the most original concept but it paves the way for a decent amount of stories. Much of Volume 1 is filled with setup and lengthy explanatory paragraphs, but once things get going, they run pretty smoothly. It doesn’t take a great deal of time for Yukina to establish that Kojou is no danger to anyone and they quickly become friends, even if Kojou would rather he didn’t need to be watched by her 24/7. However, it’s not long before Itogami Island is threatened by a great evil and Yukina and Kojou are dragged into trying to save the day.
I find that there’s a lot of fun to be had in Strike the Blood but reading the novel leaves me with the realisation that the series does have its problems. Kojou is an extremely overpowered character right from the beginning. Sure, initially he can’t use the twelve familiars that he received from the previous 4th progenitor but he’s still pretty powerful due to being a vampire. It’s not long before he’s able to control one of the familiars either. It’s a bit of shame really as by the end of the Volume 1, you’re left with the feeling that no matter what Kojou faces he’ll probably always come out on top – especially when it appears that a progenitor can’t actually die. This may not be the case forever but I suspect for the foreseeable future Kojou will not lose any battles as he gains control of more familiars. Yukina is a pretty powerful character as well and while she has a lot more weaknesses than Kojou, when the two decide to team up it doesn’t feel like she is in any real danger.
With Strike the Blood being author Gakuto Mikumo’s third major work (his first being Asura Cryin’) I’m quite surprised that Kojou and Yukina are as over-powered characters as they seem to be, but perhaps there is a surprise in store for me further into the series. Beyond these two mighty characters, I think Gakuto has written an interesting story in Strike the Blood. While the first volume leaves a lot to take in, it also all makes a great deal of sense in what it’s giving us. It’s easy to come up with an idea like Itogami Island and wave away all explanation about why such a place exists, but it feels like Gakuto doesn’t shy away from explaining anything in terms of the island and how the humans and monsters came to co-exist. In time I think he’ll build a really fascinating world, I just hope his ability at world building will also transfer over to creating more interesting characters or character development.
There is something of importance to note that happens about three quarters of the way through the book. Kojou becomes injured during a fight and awakens to a worried Yukina, who has rested him on her lap since he fell unconscious. Kojou moves to sit facing Yukina but ends up slipping and falling on top of her. Instead of moving off her, he stays there pinning her down for what I felt was far too long. Even worse, at one point during this scene Kojou runs his tongue down Yukina’s neck. Yukina doesn’t want him there and complains, all of which Kojou ignores while informing her how cute she is and so on. This makes for uncomfortable reading. Not long afterwards, matters are made even worse when Yukina actually offers her body rather seductively to Kojou in order to encourage him drink her blood. It could be a lot worse than it was, especially as Kojou never undresses her or anything of that nature, but it left me with a bad taste. I hope that Strike the Blood doesn’t repeat anything like this with Kojou in the future as I liked his character quite a bit until that moment.
Strike the Blood’s illustrator, Manyako, does a fairly good job with the art scattered throughout the novel. The female characters in the series look a little generic but I find that Kojou is nicely designed, even if his clothing is far more plain than the uniforms worn by the girls. Perhaps one oversight is that Kojou has very light blue eyes, which work wonders for the colour pages on offer but can be a little hard to see on black and white. I think with the wide range of monsters in Strike the Blood that Manyako will get a lot of chances to truly show off his skills, considering right now all we really have to say ‘yay’ or ‘nah’ to is his basic character designs rather than anything of real note. I’m looking forward to more of his artwork as Strike the Blood continues.
Overall, despite a few bumps, I have come away from Strike the Blood looking forward to the next volume. I fear that I’ll get bored if Kojou remains unbeatable or if anything else uncomfortable happens between him and Yukina but I think there is also the makings of a pretty nifty story, so I’m happy to give it a chance for another volume or two. If you like fantasy stories and don’t dislike vampires then you’ll probably find something to enjoy here, and, for all of its problems, it’s still one of the better light novels of this genre on offer.