Our look at the light novels of High School DxD continues! We have now left the first anime season and moved onto the second. Will the source material continue to impress, or are we reaching a point where one or the other will stand apart? After the cut let’s dive into the third volume of the series: Excalibur of the Moonlit Schoolyard and find out!
I said in my previous look at the second season that while it overall maintains the same level of quality of the first, the follow-up instalment of DXD is also where some of the show’s weaknesses begin to assert themselves. Nothing crippling to the series, but areas that are where the story comes up short. I had been curious upon reading the light novel, which covers the first half of the second season, how it would fare in this ‘de-fanserviced’ novel form and if those problems would be stronger.
It turns out to be more or less the same. The Kiba-arc is a solid instalment to the story, letting the plot get a bit bigger from just Issei’s story, and allowing the world to become larger in the process. Issei takes a more supporting role in the plot this time, reacting to Kiba’s action and serving (more than usual) as the audience’s surrogate for the revelations. Like last time, Kiba’s sudden dip into “Sasuke-territory” is brief, but it does the job of allowing the new characters to interact with the Gremory group and reveal the bigger picture of the three factions controlling the world. Kiba’s backstory is the tragic past one expects from his type of character, and the story dealing with it and moving on makes the one-noteness feel only fleeting. What I was glad to see was that the light novel took a few pages to dip into his point of view. It was great to see Kiba become the main character for a second and the glimpse of a man torn apart by revenge and his loyalty to Rias. It was great to see.
For the rest of the novel, it is once again where we see the first two (and really only in my experience) problems of DxD crop up. The first and most important is the lack of any real serious villain. As stated in my anime review, DxD has a ‘revolving door’ of one-note villains who only represents hurdles for Issei to climb over. Any motivations, desires or goals are superficial and flat and you forget about them as quickly as they come. I was hoping this might have been improved in the light novel, but the lack of any visuals didn’t do much to help it. I hold out hope that once we move “off-anime” that this might be changed, so we will see.
The second of course is the all too-often case of “harem bloat.” This is something that many harem and ecchi series suffer from as they add more and more girls. I’ve always believed that Irina and Xenovia should have been merged into a single character, as they feel like two halves of the same person. While Xenovia later carves out her own niche as the baby-obsessed swordmaster, Irina remains dreadfully underdeveloped, her entire character being summed up as “the childhood friend.” Like the above issue, I hold out hope that this will be changed when we move into un-adapted volumes, but considering how big the cast gets in the future, I can’t see Irina really standing out. That all being said, the addition of Xenovia is great and her friendship with Asia is something that has always been fun to see. Both of the girls maintain their fun moments in their series. The church girls have always been a riot and it was good to see them once again.
Finally, I want to say that this volume absolutely shows the strength of Ichibumi’s worldbuilding. While he is ‘the king of boobs’ for a reason, the man can also weave an interesting power-set and world. Being able to mash so many religions and pantheons of gods together and make it work is impressive, and the time he takes to develop that world and its history never feels suffocating. Due to the nature of this being a written book, these elements have more weight and it’s good to see that Ishibumi is able to handle it well as he delves further into the world.
The third volume of High School DxD: Excalibur of the Moonlit Schoolyard is another solid entry into the light novel series. There are few things changed from the anime (Koneko getting spanked being the only major addition) and while the issues do come up, they are once again nothing that fully cripples the series. The story is passable and the prose is always enjoyable to read. I wouldn’t be lying though if I said I didn’t miss the anime and it’s in your face fanservice a bit more this time however, but that I fear is something I have to get used to. That said, I am still on this train and can’t wait to see what happens next.