Every season has its Ecchi shows. They're a polarizing part of the anime lineup and they never resonate with everyone. I'm no different, I'm usually burned by ecchi shows because they normally just suck. That said, every once in a while, an ecchi show comes along that I enjoy. Strike the Blood was one of them.
Strike the Blood is an ecchi show (based on a light novel) revolving around one guy: Akatsuki Kojou. He's the inheritor of an ancient vampiric power that makes him the "Fourth Progenitor". The other three progenitors rule the world with an even distribution, so a fourth would drastically alter the balance of power, especially since the fourth progenitor is said to be the most powerful of them all.
To this end, everyone wants to control Kojou, so it's only natural that "generic mysterious organization #1", also known as the Lion King Organization (yes, I know how stupid that sounds), send the young (14 years old) sword shaman Himeragi to monitor and possibly kill Kojou if she deems it fit (at least that's what we're told at the onset of the show).
After this occurs, Kojou's life takes a turn for the weird with vampires, progenitors, harems, and big bads.
The plot of Strike the Blood is split up into connected arcs. When one arc ends, the new one begins with a new big bad. It's a lather-rinse-repeat system that makes for good light watching. The good thing is, most of the arcs aren't all that bad. Some of them are cringe-worthy, but others are fun. They aren't high art and they don't have amazing writing, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy them. It's one of those shows where popping popcorn before you watch wouldn't be out of place.
We've got the good 'ol harem lineup up to bat again. We've to the bodyguard badass (Himeragi), the everygirl (Asagi), the tsundere (Sayaka), the partial Rei Ayanami expy (Kanon), the shameless fanservice girl (La Folia), and a childhood friend (Yuuma). Much like the rest of the show, if you just accept this for what it is and move on, you'll enjoy having such blatant tropes coming at you full force. Maybe I'm biased because this show's character design doesn't slack, but I enjoyed their company as I watched the series. It's important to note that the whole heroine cast is chock-full of competence. I can't describe how satisfying it is to have a harem that manages to stand toe-to-toe with the clumsy but extremely powerful Kojou. Even normal everygirl Asagi has mega-competence in her own way.
Anyway, this show is chocked full of tropes everywhere. It's campy, it's fun, and it's enjoyable, but first you have to get past this. Once you do, it's easy to enjoy the show for what it is.
If nothing else, this show is consistent and its action actually comes off rather well too. There aren't any jaw-dropping fight scenes, but they aren't scrappy either.
As I started off this review saying, this is one of the rare ecchi shows that manages to restore my faith in the idea that ecchi shows can be good. It's campy, it's fun, and it's mind-meltingly stupid at times, but that's exactly what you need sometimes.
Strike the Blood's strength comes from the fact that it managed to trigger my "acceptable break from reality" flag. Many ecchi shows slather on the extreme fanservice for no reason other than the fact that its necessary to be an ecchi show. Strike the Blood says, "Our vampire main character gets his biting fetish when he's turned on! When he sucks people's blood, he unlocks some more of his power! Got it? It's a plot point!"
Stupid? Oh god yes. Managed to get past my defenses and trigger the acceptable break from reality flag? Yep.
It's fanservice for a reason and this particular reason lends itself to some funny subtext and humor along the way. The writing really makes use of the unintentional subtext that comes along with Akatsuki having to suck the blood of his harem. I mean, the reference to a fluffer in the first arc was hilarious. Thanks StB.
Lastly for this section, the show actually manages to end on a strong note rather than a weak note. Too many adaptations end and leave things wide open. Strike the Blood took an interesting step and used a side story in the source material as the final arc of the show. Why? Because it wraps things up a bit more nicely than if we just ended mid-source material. It gives us a glimpse of the future and just enough of a conclusion that I'm fine if we never get a second season.
Just kidding, that wasn't the last part, I need to mention Kishida Kyoudan and The Akeboshi Rockets.
Look, it's still ecchi. No matter what I say, the fanservice is still there and it can be particularly grating sometimes. There's lots of little slip-ins that are blatant pandering to the audience that comes off as wrong or frivolous in every way. It's ridiculous.
In that vein, the story's audacity with some of its elements is disconcerting. Think about it: this is the story of a mega-powerful high schooler that gets turned on and bites (and sucks the blood of) various members of his harem ranging from middle schoolers to (at least) high schoolers. The main heroine is just 14 years old. I mean, come on, I feel dirty watching this sometimes, the subtext is all sorts of bad here. Couple that with the standard harem subtext, the subtext the ending added, and the threesome subtext present in one of the arcs and it's almost too audacious for its own good. We get it, everyone wants the Fourth Progenitor to suck their blood, but was it necessary to make most of these girls this young?
All that aside, I mentioned earlier that the plot is usually good. That doesn't stop the show from dragging though. Because the overarching plot is so disconnected due to the almost episodic quality of the 3/4 episode long arcs, you get the feeling that this is more the "life and adventures of Akatsuki Kojou" rather than anything more interesting. There's continuity, but it isn't going anywhere fast. Kojou still hasn't unlocked the majority of his power by the end of the show and things are left unresolved.
To that end, it feels like the show ended when we finally got a glimpse of what the eventual plot would be. I haven't read the light novels (since there aren't really any translations of it), but I'm sure it's getting closer to realize its potential like the show was at the end of its run. On some level, I liked the ending, but I can't help but think that I've glimpsed the beginnings of a good plot and now I'll probably never get to see it come to fruition.
Random aside, but drop the damn catchphrase already Himeragi. We get it. At least lampshade yourself so we can laugh at you.
There's a lot to be desired when it comes to Strike the Blood, but it manages to retread the same ground as other action harem shows before it with at least the same level of competence.
It's not original, absolutely not, but it executes the setting and concept well. It was a decent companion to fill time with last season, but it won't be for everyone. If you want something different and you want something you haven't ever seen before, Strike the Blood won't give you it. What StB will give you is an entertaining romp that never takes itself too seriously.
It's got fanservice, it's got blatant pandering (a lot of pandering), but if you somehow get past all that, it's a show that you'll enjoy because it's just well done in many ways. The plot is at least passable most of the time (though underdeveloped), the characters are fun (and occasionally hilariously audacious) bunch, and it has the animation to tie it all together.
Sometimes it's facepalm-worthy, sometimes it's just over-the-top ridiculous, but it's got what counts: Fun. That's why it restores my faith in the ecchi genre. The fanservice is there for a reason and it's a fun show to boot.
That's why I ended up liking it at the end of the day.
You can watch Strike the Blood on Crunchyroll.
This is part of Anime Marathon 2014, a continuation of Anime Marathon 2013 by popular demand. I'm on a mission to review every anime I can for the TAY community and anyone else that wants to read. I can never guarantee when these reviews will be posted, but I'll do my best to keep it consistent.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.