highschooldxd4.jpgIn my previous review of the High School DxD manga, I learned to enjoy the story of pervert Issei Hyoudou and his so-called life as a demon. In earlier volumes, there was plenty of hilarity to go around, which provided a good counterbalance to the amount of adult-oriented fanservice. After reading volumes four and five, however, my interest has waned out of frustration with the indecisiveness of the lead character.

Volume four is non-stop action as the characters battle to decide whether devil Riser Phenex will move forward with his arranged marriage to Rias Gremory. A notable foil for Issei, Riser is a smug, elitist brat who enjoys fooling around with his collection of female pawns, knights, and bishops. Their battleground is a version of Kuoh Academy set within a parallel dimension, which gives the combatants free rein to use the full potential of their Sacred Gear. Although Issei and the Occult Club fight valiantly, they are no match for Riser and are forced to resign. Not wanting to see Rias forced into a position she cannot escape, Issei sacrifices a part of himself to the red dragon that resides in his Sacred Gear, resoundly defeating Riser in an epic rematch. Rias is free from her marital pledge and rewards Issei with a passionate kiss; even more surprising is her intention to move into his parents’ home during a school closure, leading nun-turned-devil Asia Argento to move in alongside her.

In volume five, the Occult Club adjusts to life after battle, engaging in typical high school fluff like the upcoming athletic event that pits the clubs against one another in friendly sports competitions. In between practices, Asia, Rias, and Akeno take every opportunity to declare their interest in Issei. Despite his boasting and frequent fantasizing, Issei often shies away from their invitations to intimacy, especially from Asia, who throws herself at our hero whenever she sees another girl doing the same. Ultimately, the volume serves as a means to flesh out the backstory of Kiba, the only other male in the Occult Club. When a childhood photo of Issei and an old acquaintance reveals the existence of a holy sword, Kiba’s past comes rushing back to haunt him. Distracted during practices, Kiba reveals himself to be the lone survivor of a terrible, church-approved purge after a failed attempt to train children to wield seven swords created from the shattered remains of the legendary Excalibur.

Both volumes offer a great deal of action and insight into Issei’s powers and the events that led a red dragon to inhabit his Sacred Gear. This is more than enough to make High School DxD stand out from every other power-based high school action/adventure series. What gets me down is the lack of commitment from the main character, even when his most cherished desires are handed to him on a silver platter. The author painstakingly introduces a character who is an unrepentant pervert, enjoying adult films and magazines and even sharing them with his equally-perverted friends. He wears his intentions towards women on his sleeve, so much so that when his attitude presents itself in combat, the other members of the Occult Club apologize on his behalf. Now that he has maintained some degree of mastery with his Gear, he infuses his love of the female form into his combat repertoire and develops a special move that causes his target’s clothes to explode at the slightest touch of his hand. In short, Issei is positively shameless. Between Rias sharing Issei’s bed in the nude and Akeno’s special “treatment” to stave off the curse Issei unleashed, it seems like he finally has what he has sought on every other page: to be the king of his own harem.

But, he doesn’t do anything. In fact, when the girls throw themselves at him, Issei suddenly develops an almost puritanical resistance. Though the reader is provided with a visualization of Issei’s thoughts on what he’d do with Akeno and Rias—he even goes so far as to declare to Riser that Rias’s virginity belongs to him!—he immediately grows nervous and timid with such closeness. His reactions to Asia’s advances make sense because he thinks of her as a sister, but with the other characters, his hesitation is frustrating. I don’t care whether Issei becomes a decent guy or a sex fiend set on the loose, but the decision must be made one way or the other because right now, he’s all talk.

Like the earlier books, High School DxD earns its Mature rating in numerous scenes depicting the girls of the Occult Club in various curve-enhancing positions. The series has always had plenty of creative ways to get the girls out of their shirts, but now that Issei has the ability to remove clothing with his touch, expect a lot more nudity in the future. The manga is at its best in combat mode: the action scenes are well drawn and I really like that the battles are presented as a chess game, with each character in a specific role that aligns with the use of pawns, knights, and rooks. High School DxD can be pretty cool… when Issei’s indecision doesn’t get in the way.

High School DxD, vols. 4-5
by Ichiei Ishibumi
Art by Miyama-Zero, Hiroji Mishima
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9780316334846
Vol. 5 ISBN: 9780316258845
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 17+

  • Allen

    | He/Him Past Reviewer

    Allen Kesinger is a Reference Librarian at the Newport Beach Public Library in California. He maintains the graphic novel collections at the library, having established an Adult collection to compliment the YA materials. When not reading graphic novels, he fills his time with other nerdy pursuits including video games, Legos and steampunk.

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