Story: Gakuto Mikumo
Translation: Jeremiah Bourque
What They Say
Itogami Island is abuzz with preparations for the Halloween festival, and who should be visiting for the occasion but Kojou Akatsuki’s friend from elementary school, a girl named Yuuma Tokoyogi. But as Kojou reunites with his friend, his homeroom teacher, Natsuki Minamiya, goes missing! Meanwhile, a strange space-time distortion is turning the sanctuary of Itogami Island into a labyrinth from which escape is impossible. And what’s behind the physical changes that come over Kojou whenever he has physical contact with Yuuma? The long-awaited fourth volume of the light novel series Strike the Blood is here!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As always, we’re introduced to the big problem for this volume in the opening, with Sayaka and La Folia ending up randomly warped across the island with no explanation. But as it turns out, we have something else a little fun in the setup, as Itogami City is preparing for a huge festival called the Hollow Eve Festival, obviously based on Halloween. I really love this idea, as it’s a great fit with the whole demon sanctuary setting, and offers up the potential for adding some real nice flavor to the proceedings. And yet, it plays almost no role whatsoever in this book outside of being noted as a big event, which feels like a huge waste. With that said, though, it may still be played with in coming entries, rather than just being a cheap excuse for some cosplay as it is here.
Anyway, the volume once more gets rolling incredibly slowly, going through the usual tropes of sexual/romantic antics that are impossibly cliché and you’ve likely seen before a million times. And it’s got a super freaking awkward incredibly sexualized bit of Kanon ending up in bed with Kojou. Like, Yukina’s been here from the start for using middle schoolers as sex appeal, and it still feels gross, but there’s something about the extra unnecessary nature of this and the level of description that pushes it extra far over the edge.
With all that of the way, the book finally kind of hits the true starting line as we’re introduced to Kojou’s visiting friend, a girl by the name of Yuuma Tokoyogi. And it’s worth noting that she gets the old “oh my gosh, your friend was a girl?!” treatment that you’ll see coming from a mile away if you pay attention at all to the awkward language required to make that work at all in English. But yeah, this launches into another “hanging out” sequence, which is kind of fluff as you’d expect. Though with that said, I seriously wish it focused a little more in order to actually help us get to know Yuuma. But instead it’s filled up with some meh movement behind the scenes from Asagi and company, plus another “fanservice” bit where the warps of course send Kojou into the bath that Kanon and Astarte are in. Oh, and there’s also a weird thing where Eustach is warped into the present from the past. I guess that at least makes the danger a little more clear than the space warps, but it seems kind of odd to do when it’s literally never used again in that way.
Finally, halfway through the damn book, our heroes are actually drawn into something, as Yuuma switches bodies with Kojou. And even then, it feels like the book can’t even freaking commit to doing something slightly different and playing in the tropes an event like that brings. So as such, it’s instead treated as a basic plot point to be added to the pile, and nothing of interest is really done with it. And from there we at least finally go through the paces as our heroes try their best to stop Yuuma’s plot with minimal damages.
Still, if nothing else, it ends on a strong cliffhanger, so that’s something.
As always seems to be the case with this series, we’re treated to yet another book that feels like one big bundle of wasted potential. There are a ton of potentially intriguing plot threads, but they’re left starving and underdeveloped while page after page is instead spent on repetitive and cliché fanservice scenes largely focused on middle school girls. And even if that’s your sort of thing, it’s still hard to call what’s done here worthwhile, as it could be doing such things alongside the more interesting situations set up and left underused in the back half. The real tragedy here, though, is that even Yuuma doesn’t get enough play here, despite being the crux of the plot. It takes way too long to even get her introduction, and even once that happens we don’t get much of a chance to know her before things get rolling. And as a result, we’re left with a book that expects us to be interested her without giving anything to really work with. It’s an absolute shame as some careful trimming of fluff and using that space to flesh out the characters would’ve resulted in a pretty intriguing entry in the series rather than this mess. With all that said, though, the book ends on an interesting note that seems like it may salvage some of the setup here, so there’s still some hope that this series can be dredged up into something worthwhile.
Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 20th, 2016