Story: Gakuto Mikumo
Translation: Jeremiah Bourque
What they say
Aya Tokoyogi and six other hardened magical criminals have broken out from imprisonment. Their goal to completely erase the ‘Witch of the Void,’ Netsuke Minamaya, from existence. How these events will unfold in the Demon District will depend on the actions of the strongest vampire to ever exist, Kojou Akatsuki.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Having finished the conclusion to the two part arc of Strike the Blood, which began in volume 4, I can say that volume 5 did not disappoint me in terms of story development or action. Akatsuki Kojou, the Fourth Primoginator, has just been stabbed by Snow Drift Wolf, the spear wielded by Yukina Himeragi, which is able to nullify all forms of magic and is therefore capable of killing even a Primoginator. This was done to force Yuuma Tokoyogi, Kojou’s childhood friend, to leave his body after she had possessed it. However, now they have a problem.
Natsuki Minamiya, the famed Witch of the Void, has been stabbed through the chest by L’Ombre, the Guardian of Aya Tokoyogi, Yuuma’s mother and the leader of LCO, which is an evil organization for witches and sorcerous criminals. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this story is actually the background of Guardians. A witch’s Guardian is basically a demon who has forced a witch to form a contract with them, imbuing the witch with power in exchange for eventually taking their souls. I think the idea for how a witch is created in this series is one of the more original ideas I’ve seen.
Yuuma, who we learn is a clone of Aya created through parthenogenesis, which is reproduction from an ovum without fertilization—basically, Yuuma is a test tube baby—has her Guardian ripped away by Aya. This is one of the crueler aspects of the volume. Aya is technically Yuuma’s mother. However, it’s clear from the get go that she sees Yuuma as nothing more than a tool, a means to an end. What’s more, without her Guardian, a witch will eventually die, and the only way to get Yuuma’s Guardian back is for a witch of equal or greater power to restore it.
In other words, they need Natsuki.
But Natsuki Minamiya has had all of her time taken away, not only making her powerless, but reverting her to that of a five year old girl. If that wasn’t bad enough, then on top of Aya, Kojou and Yukina have to deal with several escaped prisoners from the Prison Barrier that Natsuki had been the jailer of. Out of all the volumes so far, Fiesta for the Observer is definitely the one with the highest stakes, making it one of the most exciting volumes of the series.
Part of what makes this particular volume so great is that it showcases the strength of all the female characters. In other words, Kojou’s harem. Even Asagi, who has no combat abilities, plays a large roll in defeating one of the escaped prisoners by showing off her talent as a cyber hacker and using her intelligence to lure the escapee into a trap. It’s actually these ladies who make the series really shine. All of them are quite strong, capable of taking on dangerous foes that not even the Itogami Island Guard can defeat. Their distinct personalities are backed by creating dichotomies within their actions and thoughts, mostly in regard to their feelings for Kojou.
Furthermore, this volume contains a lot more intriguing information and possible foreshadowing. There are numerous plot twists and strange developments that make it impossible to guess exactly where the story will go from here. We’re given possible information about Yukina’s origins, learn that Snow Drift Wolf’s true power might be different from magic nullification, and are given hints about a potential enemy that may or may not end up being the last antagonist of the series.
If there was one thing that I did not like about this volume, and the series in general, it would be the stifled romance. Harem romances are always an interesting conundrum. A balance has to be struck between the harem members, keeping them on even footing so no one can figure out who the protagonist will get with in the end. Gakuto Mikumo has done this by presenting two issues that keep any of the characters from getting closer to Kojou.
First is Kojou’s own denseness.
This is my biggest issue with harem romances. Most of the protagonists are so dense it borders on stupidity, and Kojou is one of the dumbest when it comes to the feelings of his harem. Several girls have already kissed him on the lips. Despite this, he still doesn’t seem to have realized that they love him. There was a threadbare excuse to try and justify this in the last volume, but honestly, it takes a special kind of idiocy to not get the hint at this point in the game. Now I can only think Kojou is either dumber than a box of rocks, or he’s suffering from an intense bout of denial. Neither of these make for a good story element.
The second issue is the girls inability to confess.
I don’t think this would be a problem if only one or two of the girls had this issue, but when every single female who expresses an interest in Kojou can’t confess their feelings, it becomes a plot device. This is frustrating. By making these girls too shy to confess their feelings, it creates a stagnating romance that will only get more annoying as time goes on. How many volumes will people have to wait before someone finally works up their courage? How many more times of “it’s not like that!” will these characters have to scream when they’re caught in a compromising situation with Kojou? Part of me just wants these girls to go up and say “I love you!” to Kojou simply so we’re not stuck in limbo.
Outside of the romance, which is beginning to get annoying, volume 5 of Strike the Blood is a highly entertaining story. It has intense action, surprising plot reveals, an excellent story with high stakes, and shows off the talents of the main cast well. As a harem sci-fantasy Japanese light novel series, this is definitely one of the better reads, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A+
Age Rating: 13 & UP
Released By: Yen On
Release Date: January 24, 2017