Friday, January 27, 2017

Strike the Blood Volume 4 Light Novel Review

Strike the Blood, Vol. 4: Labyrinth of the Blue Witch (Strike the Blood, #4)Strike the Blood, Vol. 4: Labyrinth of the Blue Witch by Gakuto Mikumo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Volume 4 details the first half of a new arc. In the first chapter, we learn that everyone is getting ready for the Hollow Eve Festival. The entirety of Itogami Island is abuzz with preparations. Meanwhile, our resident fourth primogenitor, Akatsuki Kojou, is getting ready to meet up with his childhood friend, Yuuma Tokoyogi. But while Kojou is enjoying time with his friends, strange things are happening on the island. Natsuki Manamiya, Kojou's infamous loli teacher and the Witch of the Void, has gone missing. What's more, there are spatial distortions happening all over Itogami Island.

The spatial distortions are probably the most interesting aspect of this volume. The mechanics behind this strange phenomenon is that time and space are warping around people with strong magical power, transporting through space-time and dumping them in another location entirely. During the prologue for this volume, the War Dancer Kirisaka Sayaka and the Princess of Riehaven La Folia, have this happen to them just as they're about to board the airplane that will take Princess La Folia back home.

If that wasn't bad enough, then there are a pair of witches who have infiltrated the island, though this has nothing to do with Kojou—not at first.

A good portion of the first third of this novel is spent introducing Yuuma. Kojou's childhood friend is a charming young woman with qualities that are attractive to both sexes. During their first meeting, she somehow charms Asagi Aiba, the resident hacker genius and Kojou's second love interest, though he himself is oblivious to her infatuation with him. To be honest, I'm a little upset that Kojou hasn't seemed to get the hint. However, I understand how harem protagonists worked, and this is only volume 4, so I can only hope that something happens on the romance front within the next dozen or so volumes.

During this first portion, we learn that Yuuma met Kojou before he had become the fourth primogenitor. I do feel like there was a bit of a contradiction within this volume regarding Yuuma's background. For example, we learn that she spent most of her time locked inside of her mansion. However, it's inferred that Yuuma also went to school with Kojou. While there's a chance that the status quo changed after she met him, I somehow doubt this would be possible, considering what we learn about her later.

After Yuuma is properly inserted into the story, a shocking plot twist happens! Yuuma kisses Kojou!

Okay. So, maybe that isn't so shocking. This is a harem series, after all. However, what happens afterward is surprising. Kojou wakes up the next morning to discover that he and Yuuma have switched bodies. Just why they have switched bodies, I'm not going to tell you. What I will tell you is that the next two-thirds of this volume deal with Kojou trying to find Yuuma and some actually surprising revelations that reveal more about Natsuki Manamiya's past.

This particular volume was, while not the strongest of the four thus far, at least an entertaining addition to the series. Grammatically speaking, it wasn't bad, though it does have a bit of a problem with telling instead of showing. I'd say that out of all the light novels I've read so far, Strike the Blood is probably fourth on my list of favorites behind Spice&Wolf, Accel World, and Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-. Would I suggest reading this volume? Yes, I would, especially if you're into the same genres that I am. Even if it wasn't amazing, Strike the Blood volume 4 was an entertaining story that expands on the tale of the World's Mightiest Vampire.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Accel World Volume 6 Light Novel Review

Accel World Manga, Vol. 6 (Accel World Manga, #6)Accel World Manga, Vol. 6 by Reki Kawahara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Accel World has been one of my favorite light novels ever since I read the first volume of the series, and Accel World volume 6 didn't disappoint. In the previous volume, Haruyuki and company take part in a race on the new space elevator that's orbiting Japan. During the race, a group calling themselves the Acceleration Research Society attacks the spectators, Haruyuki dons the Armor of Catastrophe, and he almost loses himself to the armor's bloodlust but is saved by his friend Lime Bell, aka Chiyuri. This volume, volume 6, deals with the fallout of that incident.

Several new characters are introduced in this volume. Well, I call them new, but in truth they're old characters that we know by name but never appeared within the series up to this point. They are the remaining Seven Kings of Pure Color. Since these characters are introduced within the same chapter, the text is somewhat bogged down by a lot of description and details. I was both a fan and bothered by the intense amount of detail that had been given about each of the Seven Kings. I love details and detailed descriptions, but I feel like it would have been better not to have so much of it all at once.

During the meeting between the Seven Kings, we learn a bit more about Kuroyukihime, the leader of Nega Nebulus, the Black King, and the person who introduced Haruyuki to Brain Burst. I feel the most important piece of information right now is the animosity between her and the Purple King, who it's been implied was the lover of Red Rider, the previous Red King who Kuroyukihime beheaded.

Let's do a quick recap. Before Haruyuki became a Burst Linker, Kuroyukihime had rebelled against the other kings when they sewed for peace. During the peace talks, she decapitated Red Rider, and then had to fight her way out of a six-way brawl. This probably wouldn't have been so bad in a regular fighting game, but all of the kings are level nine Burst Linkers, and when a level nine is killed, all of their points are taken, Brain Burst is uninstalled, and their memories of the program are erased. This is what caused the animosity between the Purple King and Kuroyukihime to spring forth.

One of the issues that are discussed during this meeting is Haruyuki's donning of the Armor of Catastrophe. It seems the armor has parasitized itself to him. It has basically become a part of him, sort of like a parasite. This would have normally meant that Haruyuki would be given the Judgement Blow by his King, Kuroyukihime, which would uninstall Brain Burst. However, since he was able to come back from being possessed by the armor, an ultimatum is issued instead. If Haruyuki can get rid of the Armor of Catastrophe in one week, he'll be allowed to remain a Burst Linker, but if he can't, then the other kings will put a bounty on his head, which is all but a death sentence. The bounty would make every Burst Linker come for him. They would drain him of his points by constantly challenging him to duels, and when he reaches zero, Brain Burst would be forcibly uninstalled.

While this is a huge issue, Kuroyukihime says she has a plan. We don't learn what that plan is until much later in this volume, but there's plenty of new developments that fill the rest of the page. The first new development is the introduction of a new character. Utai Shinomiya is a fourth grader attending Matsunogi Elementary School. She and Haruyuki meet after he accidentally volunteers himself to clean out the animal cage. We learn shortly after that she is also a Burst Linker, and not only does she know Kuroyukihime, but she was a part of the previous Nega Nebulus before it disbanded.

As is the case with most of Reiki Kawahara's light novels, this volume has a lot of melodrama dealing with old wounds and friendship. The involvement of Utai expands our knowledge of Kuroyukihime, and it also shows how far they've come as people. One thing that I like about this series is how it develops the characters. In the first volume, Kuroyukihime feels like this perfect, ephemeral existence. Each volume reveals more of Kuroyukihime's character, eventually culminating in us realizing that she's not perfect, that she has deep scars created from her past, which, coincidentally, Haruyuki helps heal.

It was also interesting to see how the dynamic between Haruyuki, Takumu, and Chiyuri has progressed. They were childhood friends whose friendship had been broken. Volume 1 has Haruyuki refusing to speak with them. Takumu was even the antagonist in that volume. Meanwhile, Chiryuri had sat on the sidelines fretting over them. Now that volume 6 has arrived, their friendship feels much more solid. While I don't know how they acted before because it's never truly revealed, I feel like the three of them have become the friends they used to be back when they were younger.

As a light novel enthusiast, I can't say this volume disappointed me. It had a lot of action, plenty of new twists and turns, introduced a slew of characters, and left us with an ending that has me craving the next volume. This is one of the light novels that I would recommend to everyone, regardless of whether or not you're into gaming and MMORPGs.

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