So let’s talk about the best light novel adaptation (LNA) I’ve seen in a long time. After Outbreak Company, of course.
Now, when I say best LNA in a long time, I’m referring more to the genre that the show occupies rather than the show itself being the best adaptation of its source material (I’d probably have to give the latter award to the Monogatari series). As I’ve talked about before, for me LNAs today tend to fall into 3 groups:
- The “normal” LNAs, which are similar to young adult (YA) novels except with a lot of anime-esque influence. These are just plain old stories, without many explicit additional meta-narrative additions taken from the surrounding otaku culture (as opposed to meta-narratives inherent to, say, writing in general). Sword Art Online and Durarara!! are probably the best examples of this, and shows like High School DxD also fall in this category. If we’re looking back even further, the original LNAs like Kino’s Journey and Boogiepop Phantom (hence why I call them “normal” LNAs) also tend to belong here.
- The “meta” LNAs, which are obsessed with showing how aware they are of the meta-narrative structure in which they are embedded and actively participate in it. Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, OreShura, and Henneko are the most recent examples that come to mind, along with NouCome, although there are a billion others out there.
- The “meta-meta” LNAs, which are more generally meta not only about their immediate environment, but also about their own footing in regards to said environment. I made a decent case for Oregairu and OreShura as good examples a while back, and Monogatari falls here almost by default. I probably would also add Outbreak Company to this list.
Out of these, the majority of LNAs I see today tend to fall into the later two divisions, since an emphasis on meta-ness seems to be the “hot new thing” on the market today. Which is fine, except that the medium has since been absolutely saturated with them, such that the “typical” LNA today is not anywhere close to what used to be a “normal” one. So there’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance (and overall irony) here, when the LNAs that are meant to be “meta” and clever are somehow becoming the norm, and the culture they are parodying is becoming relatively scarce. Because of this trend, I tend to have a soft spot for LNAs (and anime in general) that don’t try and pull any of that fancy meta stuff. Which brings me to Strike the Blood.
The reason I like the show so much is simple. If someone asked me, “What’s the most ‘anime-like’ anime you’ve seen recently?”, I would without hesitation say Strike the Blood. Every week when I sit down to watch it, I end up saying things to myself like:
“This is so ridiculously ‘anime.’ IT’S GREAT!”
or “This is the most generic crap I’ve seen in a while. I LOVE IT!”.
I find this to be really interesting. Anime in general tends to be dominated by a lot of in-bred tropes, much to the enjoyment of many of its fans and to the annoyance of directors such as Shinichiro Watanabe. And these tropes are pretty much a fundamental, established, often celebrated part of the culture. So much so that, in fact, a huge minority (possibly majority) of shows that come out today actually rip off and/or openly participate in this trope culture, rather than simply drawing upon it.
I just caught myself wondering just the other day how anime today would look like to a total newcomer, and how they would take in shows like Outbreak Company, NouCome, and even Kyoukai no Kanata, which are so much inundated with playing off an existing database of tropes that takes a lot of time to work your way into.
Within this culture, I’m not certain how exactly these elements combine to form an impression of what an anime should be like, or what anime most (arche)typically is. However, somehow Strike the Blood seems to have gotten pretty much everything right, to the tropes, the characters, the setting, the harembuilding, the plot, etc.
The following dump, for instance, is how the show does some worldbuilding:
God I love all this bullshit. At a time when most anime are obsessed with what it means to be typically “anime”, having a show just be typically anime is refreshing.
I should probably go finish Highschool DxD New now.
Besides just being “typically anime,” I also just just really like the atmosphere and general style of Strike the Blood, so take this as a part recommendation/part review from me that the show is worth watching if you’re not looking for anything really deep and don’t mind seeing the usual tropes (including standard harembuilding/fanservice-y stuff).