By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Bourque.
After the last volume, which as I noted was “Strike the Blood: The Movie”, the first third of this book is very jarring indeed, as it seems to reboot the series with an entirely different cast. Kojou is on a different island – with his memories wiped – and has a different guardian, different companions, and they seem to spend their days learning how to be attack mages and dungeon crawling. He occasionally has brief flashes of his old life, but for the most part remains blank about it. And all is well, apart from the very obviously evil teacher and the fact that the ghost of Yukina keeps showing up and scaring students. Needless to say, it turns out that Kojou is NOT on a series reboot, but is instead trapped in a game – sort of. Also not really. The actual plot manages to bring back an organization from much earlier in the series, as well as the girl now dedicated to wiping out said organization. And, needless to say, has lots of cool fights.
The most interesting thing in the book is the introduction of Shizuri, Kojou’s new Watcher in this other world and the Girl Of The Book. It’s interesting that it starts off with her being a blatant Yukina clone, almost to the point of parody, but that actually ends up being what makes her work for me. OK, Shizuri is more ‘tsundere’ than ‘kuudere’, but in other ways they are much the same. This makes it easier to care about her more than the other two members of Kojou’s class group, who don’t have obvious analogues. Her backstory is suitably tragic, and, needless to say, she gets her blood drunk by Kojou at the end, meaning she is probably going to be added to the harem pile, which is already ridiculously high. I do wonder how she’ll fit in with the rest of the cast, particularly as the series has now ended in Japan, so we’re not far away from the final volume.
The reappearance of Yuuma is also a surprise, mostly as I’d forgotten she existed – as had most readers, I imagine. She is a refreshing dose of cool in a series whose heroines mostly tend to live or die on how much they can be angry at Kojou, though it’s unclear whether she’s merely back for this volume or will turn up again. I will argue that I was sort of hoping that one of the big plot beats of the last book – Nagisa now knows Kojou’s secret – would be brought up here. Having her hospitalized a month later and not really talking with anyone except Shizuri is kind of kicking the problem down the road. And, as always, the author’s attempts at humor are not very funny. “haha, you’re going to have to repeat a year because of constant saving the world” is eyebrow-raising, not laugh inducing. Though I was amused that 6 months in the other world taught Kojou to study.
Anime fans may be more spoiled than novel fans on the next book, as it appears to finally bring in the Children From The Future. Till then, this was a better than average Strike the Blood.