High School DxD was a light novel written by Ichiei Ishibumi that was turned into anime and manga—and little has changed between the cartoon and comic versions. Unabashed pervert Issei Hyodo transfers to Kuoh Academy, formerly an all-girls school, with only the purest of intentions: to get laid. Issei’s dream of presiding over a harem of lovely ladies is jeopardized by the female student body’s utter disinterest in him, but luck seems to swing his way when a cute girl named Raynere asks him to go out with her. Unfortunately, their date quickly turns into a nightmare when the girl reveals herself to be a Fallen Angel, killing Issei on the spot.
With his dying breath, Issei inadvertently summons Rias Gremory, a beautiful red-haired demon who rescues him and enlists him in her service. When the smoke clears, Issei learns that Rias is the daughter of a prestigious demon clan that works to collect human souls through contracts while evading attacks from God’s angels and the original Fallen Angels, who have their own plans for harvesting human souls. Issei is no longer defenseless, as his alliance with the demons has awakened his Sacred Gear, an energy that manifests itself as a dragon gauntlet and grants him extraordinary power. Issei lives among the demons, who manage an Occult Club at Kuoh Academy to mask their activities. Rias is backed by the sadistic Akeno Himejima, fierce but soft-spoken Koneko Toujou, and the “prince” of Kuoh Academy, Yuto Kiba.
Having watched the animated version of High School DxD before reading the manga, I did not expect any significant differences between the two adaptations. Only one major shift stands out in the depiction of Rias Gremory: anime Rias is reserved to the point of haughtiness, while manga Rias smiles a lot more often and frequently appears without her clothes. The anime incorporates stories and plot lines from the first three manga volumes, including Issei’s hilariously disastrous first night fulfilling demonic contracts, and his encounter with Asia Argento (no relation to the actress). Asia is a strange and fascinating character, a naive nun who fell in with the Fallen Angels because of her power. Raised by the church because of her ability to heal the injured with her own sacred gear, she is cast out after she heals a demon. When she is rescued by Issei after Raynere kills her for power, Rias revives her and takes her in. Despite her new demonic affiliation, Asia still retains her saintly nature and devotion to God.
No matter the format, High School DxD has two things going for it: a unique battle system and loads of fanservice. In this world, chess is a metaphor for combat, which is presented most effectively in the manga. The members of the Occult Club serve as support for Queen Rias with Koneko as the Rook, Yuto the Knight, and Asia as the Bishop. Issei’s status as a Pawn is used to comedic effect, but under the rules of chess, Rias believes that Issei will realize his destiny as a wielder of the Sacred Gear and “promote” to another combat role. There are other characteristics of the cast that have translated better on screen; for example, the anime takes all the time it needs to demonstrate Akeno’s enjoyment of the pain she inflicts on others. In the manga, meager lines and fleeting moments offer mere hints of the kind of sadistic pleasures Akeno embraces. Nevertheless, the printed version of the story offers many panty shots and Rias is practically an exhibitionist, wasting no time getting out of her shirt.
The first three volumes of Ishibumi’s manga offer little that hasn’t already been adapted for television. Some of the characters’ personalities are different in small ways, but the stories and situations from the show are identical to the comic. I ended my review of the animated version on a dour note, but after spending more time in this version of the world, the franchise is starting to grow on me. Although manga Rias is more likeable, FUNimation’s English translation is funnier and the characters have more opportunities to shine. Unless viewers are clamoring for more High School DxD, there’s no reason to invest the time in reading through what is ostensibly the anime’s first season.
High School DxD, vols. 1-3
by Ichiei Ishibumi
Art by Miyama-Zero, Hiroji Mishima
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780316407366
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780316376822
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9780316334822
Yen Press, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 17+