It’s been a long time since we even talked about this one. If you’ll recall I dropped the weekly covers of Strike the Blood at the halfway point, but did want to give the show a fair chance to finish on its own terms. (If you were curious, Space Dandy didn’t get the same courtesy because it did not aspire to arc stories, so there was little room for things to change). If you are new here, I’ll be digging into the pieces of Strike the Blood that will stick out to me whenever anyone asks me about the series. These are all subjective and completely revolve around my personal tastes. So you will find no rhyme or reason between elements.
Well the second season is over and here we are. What is the ultimate verdict on the second half, looking back as a whole?
…Eh. It mostly went where expected, sticking to those Strike the Blood themes we came to know. That of the fact that there are “two” series being played on different reels and overlapped.
Imagine the writing room, if you will. We have one guy writing the story about vampires. He adds in the stuff about mages, about vampire culture, and has a nice cute story and a boatload of unique characters to fit into that story, which is done fairly well.
There is also a second writer, who is writing out a bunch of short, cliche ecchi scenes with harems and fanservice. He puts all of his ideas in a hat and moves it up the chain.
These two works come to meet in a film doctor’s office, and she….she just has zero fucks to give about this project. So she reaches into her hat of ecchi and picks out a joke, sighing to herself and wondering why she didn’t listen to her parents and become a prostitute as at least that way she’d have her dignity, and looks at the first script and says “Okay where is a space the protagonist is alone with a female…there. Okay, insert foot fetish joke. Next!”
It’s one of those things you don’t notice until its missing, but, Strike the Blood lacked the “character-driven” harem gags. You know, how there will be one character who exists to appeal to the loli shippers, one who exists to go with the submissive guys who want a woman to beat them before kiss them, one who plays the mothering type of lover. That dynamic.
Strike the Blood lacked that, they just threw sexual innuendo at the screen and that was good enough. The closest to consistent stuff was Himeragi, who constantly berated Kojo for his antics, and would then absolve him of responsibility by explaining how it wasn’t his fault. So you know, she was a petty bitch. I’m not exactly complaining, it just just strikes me as rather odd, but I’ll get to that at the appropriate section.
And then there were the action elements, that first script. The ones that frustrated me because, well…I liked them. I was eager to learn about the characters and the universe.
This dual-nature sticks out most to me. Let’s hit these points one by one.
As mentioned, the harem elements were lacking in a lot of the usual tropes. It was like the writers threw it at the script and that was that.
It is why I think these elements are average, at best. Of course, you all know my opinion of harems in general.
Most curiously, though, it seemed like, at least at the earliest, there were story-driven elements to justify the harem. Specifically, the revelation that the Lion’s King organization had orchestrated Himeragi joining up with Kojo with the intent they would hook up. And, certainly, if you want to look for it there are reasons. We could argue that, what with seeing the world 20 years in the future, Kojo establishing a Fourth empire and throwing off the balance of power would have certainly been in the favor of the Three Saints. But this is such a reach and not present at all in the series proper. It’s, at best, Fridge Logic, and even that is being generous.
If there was an effort at story-driven harem nonsense…that might actually make it bearable. Hell…maybe even…god help us all…likable. Like I said I was able to swallow the harem shit when it seemed like one medium = one familiar. When Kojo started using the same girls over and over again, it lost that illusion, and grew all that more obnoxious.
If there is one flaw with the “vampire” half of Strike the Blood, it is that it runs on the assumption that you are already into this supernatural crap already. Such as the alchemists. There is no definitive laying out of alchemic principles or hierarchy or even the basis of their spells. But if you are familiar with their presentation in media, you are able to fill in the holes of the basics, as well as seeing where the differences in the Strike the Blood version lay.
I rather liked the layers to the universe that were shown, but breezed by. Much like being on a tour bus, we don’t actually get to stop and wander around to explore. The show points something interesting out to us, but it’s far too busy to move on. The idea of the witches as an underclass fascinated me. I loved the concept of vampires carrying on romance with their lovers reincarnations. It had shades and layers that you wouldn’t expect from a show that stooped as low as Strike the Blood had the habit of doing.
In particular, Kou and Aya stood out as interesting characters. They were people, and I wanted to know more about them. It was just a shame we couldn’t emphasize these parts.
And the few moments when Strike the Blood went into graphic horror, such as when Kanase disembowels a fellow angel and eats her, was glorious. It makes you want to weep what this show could have been without the adolescent masturbatory aid plaguing the episodes.
The Pretty Pretty
Perhaps Strike the Blood’s greatest strength was how pretty it was. Indeed it’s one of the best looking shows we’ve covered.
Particularly noteworthy, I appreciated that the battles changed scenes. They could have very easily taken the Machine Doll route of dark forests and dimly lit fields. But each fight had a different background. And while they didn’t outright affect fights, generally speaking (they ran mostly the same, shoot powers, summon familiars, profit), it kept the fights distinct in our heads.
Use of color was also very cool here. It was bright, with a dark palette, and I adored the look of just about everything. The familiars were also lovingly crafted, even if every appearance following their debut was plagued by shaky cam.
So, this is one element where I can’t complain.
…Except…for one thing. Demons. Oh my gawd. The demons. So much Donkey Kong. See, this is a GREAT example of why demons tend to look Human with pointy ears, or fangs, or fancy tattoos. Because you can emote with them and make them look cool. There wasn’t enough variance in demons here. Maybe that’s racist of me, but it was distracting. But this left the series after the Angel arc, so it’s not a big deal.
This deserves its own special entry. One thing to hate about Strike the Blood was the cliffhangers. They ended on a dramatic cliffhanger, and would undo it within thirty seconds of the next episode. Every. Single. Time.
I eventually just stopped watching them. It didn’t matter if I missed a little scene at the end, because it would have absolutely no bearing on the episode next. The ONE exception was Episode 13, where Yuuma switched bodies with Kojo in the cliffhanger. But other than that one instance? I followed along just fine, did not miss shit. And it wasn’t hard to figure out “Oh, Kojo and Yuuma swapped bodies. Kay.”
I honestly can’t recommend Strike the Blood. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t derive my own twisted form of enjoyment.
Really what I like about it is stuff I take away as a writer. It sparks just enough ideas in my head that I can go and write my own fiction after catching an idea from one of those under-developed areas of Strike the Blood. But that’s just me.
Other than that, I say avoid this series. The big thing here is the sexual humor, and it is never funny, and as I said, not very judiciously applied. It’s a mess, you can do better, trust me. This review is so insubstantial because it’s bad enough to avoid, but not bad enough to hate. So I really don’t want to waste a lot of my own time.
If you’d like to see my full journey in Strike the Blood, you may do so here.