High School DxD Volume 1: Our boy becomes a Devil!

High School DxD. What can I say that I haven’t said before?

It is the great work of the ecchi genre. One of the greatest anime ever created, a monument to everything this genre can do well when love, effort and time is put into it. Throughout everything I have watched, everything I’ve seen in these three years and beyond, I have never found a show that can wholly trump what is shown in this one series. Are there stories with more ecchi? Yes? Are there series with better girls? Sometimes? Are there better animated series? Yeah. But almost all of them do one good thing right and ignore the rest High School DxD does them all, and does them with enough effort and grace that it makes everything else, even if it may be ‘better’ in some regards, less by comparison.

But that is the anime series. What about its source material, the light novels? Can the series which I have thrown so many accolades to, hold up when there is just ink and paper? Or is this a case of the anime adding enough meat to the bone that it raises up a mediocre work? Well after the cut let’s start our journey into the world of the Light novels with the first in the series: Diablos of the Old School Building.

I was very hesitant to read this series, very hesitant. Not because I was afraid to read it, but more that I was concerned that High School DxD, stripped of the music, animation, fanservice, and voice acting, all of which made the anime so memorable, would not be the same thing. That without all of those elements, it would have to stand on the strength of its own story, which as much as I (and others) have praised the story, isn’t anything really that special.

Thankfully I remembered that the story, not the boobs, is the secret of what makes DxD work so well.

“Came for the PLOT, stayed for the plot’ is the moniker of this series among the fandom, and the series proves it with this first volume. The story, told through the point of view of Issei Hyoudou has a way of pulling you in and not letting go. A fish out of water tale when a young and horny high school kid, after being given that chance all young men want with a first-time girlfriend, finds himself reincarnated as a devil in the service of one Rias Gremory, the busty and beautiful upperclassmen who is the queen bee of the school. We follow Issei as he adapts to his new life, the playful affection of his voluptuously beautiful senpais, the friendship he strikes up with one Asia Argento, and the battles that come with his new life.

There may be no more iconic moment in the series than Rias naked in Issei’s bed. The start of a truly heart-warming romance.

As I said before, what you see is nothing special, but how it is done, and what author Ichiei Ishibumi is able to create has a vast amount of staying power. You get the sense of a bigger world, with rules, regulations and well defined power dynamics right away. There are demons, angels and fallen angels, and a system of rules based on chess that separates the master from the servant. Myths are real, and problems will be solved in that classic anime way, throwing your fist at it. It is classic anime to the bone, but there is just something about it that works. Perhaps it is my knowledge of what is going on, my foresight in where the plot goes, but I found myself engrossed in this world all over again. And the main reasons I think, is because of the series main character.

Raynare’s actions leave a scar on Issei that will carry on for a long time. I look forward to seeing how the novels address it.

Issei Hyoudou, and his journey that begins here, forms what I think is the central foundational pillar of High School DxD. This is a story of a young man, admittedly a bit of a loser, wrapped up in the all too real feelings of teenage hormones’ given a chance by a girl way above his paygrade. By taking a chance on Issei, Rias allows the positive personality traits dormant in Issei to flourish. Even in this first volume, we see the good person underneath the barrier of puberty. The kindness, the empathy, the compassion and the bravery that will not only win Rias to his side, but fundamentally change the entire lives of the Gremory group for the better. Reading this first volume, I found myself liking Issei even more than I already did. He’s just a good fucking guy and even this early, I see that he truly does earn the moniker of ‘best harem male lead’.

Issei’s friendship with Asia is proof enough of how good of a man he is. There is no attempt to perv on her, instead he welcomes her into his life with trust, humor and kindness.

But, in the interest of fairness, not everything is perfect here. As with many light novels who have a stellar anime adaptation, it is very hard to ‘step back’ into the world where it is only pen and paper. Probably the most surprising thing was the revelation of just how much ecchi the anime ended up adding. Much of what you see in those first few episodes of season 1 is added by the anime and not described in the book. The oh so legendary ‘boobs per minute’ that dominated the first season is mostly absent in the prose, which focuses more on the central plot. Furthermore, without the series stellar music, fantastic voice cast (both sub and dub), and general benefit of being an animated product, it did feel at times like I was just reading the anime’s script, especially since next to nothing was cut. This I assume will be a continued thing going forward, as DxD will have to depend entirely on the story to carry it forward. Whether it is success has already been proven (24+ light novels and counting), but for this reader, I have yet to decide.

The supporting cast are all true to their anime counterparts, and fan favorite Akeno steals the spotlight every time.

I love High School DxD. From the bottom of my heart, to the very marrow of my bones, I adore this series. It holds a special place in my heart for being one of the two anime that kickstarted my return to the medium. While I fully admit there are other shows that do some elements better, there is no other show that does them all, and does them with this much confidence. Diablos of the Old School Building was a reminder of just how good the show really is, and is proof enough that the strengths were not in the ecchi, but in the story and characters. And while I do believe that the anime is the superior version due to the medium and its quality, the light novels aren’t too far behind. You can look forward to future reviews of the volumes as the series is released in English, and I hope this will encourage you to pick up the show, whether in print or anime form. It’s not something to be missed.

Akeno maybe the fans favorite, but Koneko is my best girl, always.

One thought on “High School DxD Volume 1: Our boy becomes a Devil!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s