By Ichiei Ishibumi and Miyama-Zero. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.
To a certain degree, all “harem” series (at least those with multiple girls all in love with the same guy) all suffer from the same major flaw, which is that the guy has to be fairly normal and dull. It might seem surprising that I’m saying this about Issei, someone who literally cannot go three pages without talking about tits some more. but it’s true. All the girls love Issei. They get jealous when he’s with another girl. They fight over him. They offer up their virginity to him. And why? Well, he’s nice to them? I mean, with Asia I get it, he literally is her savior. You could say the same for Rias, though it’s a higher bar to clear. But Akeno? Xenovia? Why does this lecherous dipshit who won’t even grope anyone without passing out offer such temptation? Well, frankly, it’s probably what he’s got inside him. The sacred gear, and the dragon that comes with it, make Issei an important player in the battle between the angels, fallen angels, and demons. That is… if there is a war.
No, Akeno is not the titular vampire (and I apologize for having to use the word titular when discussing High School DxD). I thought this might be her “focus” book, but while we do get some hefty revelations about her past, it’s clear her time is still to come. No, the new character here is Gasper Vladi, who is the vampire of the title, and who ticks off several more “light novel cliche” boxes. He’s a boy who everyone mistakes for a girl; he’s got cripplingly low self-esteem and a fear of interacting with others, and he’s ludicrously overpowered, as he can cause people to freeze in time… though, like Issei, his power has more weaknesses than strengths right now. That said, while trying to coax Gasper out of his shell, Rias’ group also have to deal with a peace conference, which risks blowing up before it begins.
Despite the previous paragraph, there’s not a lot that happens in this book compared to the previous three – it’s a lot of setup for the next few books, as we introduce a couple of major players who look like they’ll give Issei trouble (though one of them turns out to be more of a mecha otaku than anything else). Indeed, I was more surprised at things that didn’t happen. The book starts off by telling us about parent-teacher conferences, which will not only feature Issei’s parents going but also Rias’. Any other light novel series would make this a book of its own, but here it takes fewer pages than the pool battle between Rias and Akeno to see whose breasts get to be groped by Issei. The series manages to work for its target audience because it not only assumes its readership are horny teenage boys who don’t have the guts to cop a feel, but that all the women in this series are essentially ALSO that. It’s… weird.
Still, the one fight we got was pretty cool, and if there’s any series you can’t get mad at for staying on brand, it’s this one – there are breasts in High School DxD? Who knew? Recommended for those who read the fan translated PDFs years ago.