Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 9th 2009
Novel 2 - Chevalier
Saya and crew enter Russia at Vladivostok to board the Siberian Express to Ekaterinburg, where a significant figure in Chiropteran research was last seen. The train ride proves to be anything but dull, however, as Chiropterans attack, forcing Saya and Hagi to abandon the train in the middle of a fight. The experience dredges up forgotten memories in Saya, and later encounters with two more of Diva's Chevaliers – one in shape-changed form, the other posing as the CEO of a prominent pharmaceuticals company – reveal more of the truth about Saya, her past, and her relationship to Diva, as well as an invitation to the place where it all started: The Zoo. There she finally meets Diva face-to-face and remembers how Hagi comes to be the way he is, but there tragedy also strikes. Worse, a new threat also appears over the course of several encounters: the Schiff, a group of youngsters who have Chevalier-like abilities but do seem to be as much opposed to Diva's underlings as they are intent on seeking Saya's blood for their own ends.
Meanwhile Kai, in his efforts to aid and protect Saya, learns the chilling truth about his adoptive sister and Red Shield.
If you are looking for deeper insight into the story of Blood +, a more complete story, or an alternate interpretation on the subject matter, then reading the novelizations of the popular anime series is probably a waste of your time. For better or worse, this second novel, which equates to episodes 16-25 of the anime (which span the time between the entrance into Russia and the Schiff's attack on Red Shield headquarters) and thus constitutes the bulk of the second season, is usually slavish in its recounting of the events of those episodes and firmly adheres to the information releases and character development seen in the series. In fact, if you have seen and enjoyed the anime version then there is nothing beyond a sense of completeness to be gained by reading the novel released so far.
In fact, in some senses the anime version tells a more complete version of those same episodes than the novel does. Though writer Ryo Ikehata takes great care to describe the choreography of the fights and try to make them sound as exciting as possible, they still pale in comparison to actually seeing the battles come to life (so to speak) in the anime version. Though Ikehata's attempt to paint the characters through prose descriptions proves adequate in some cases, he falls woefully short of a full characterization in other cases, especially with Louis. Only occasionally does the story show the vibrancy seen in the better scenes in the equivalent anime episodes, though admittedly part of the blame there may lie with the source material it emulates, and never does the novel step outside of the boundaries defined for it by the anime series.
Taken as a stand-alone read, this novel satisfyingly but uninventively continues its tale of a seeming teenager with a forgotten past who seems inhumanly capable of combating monstrous creatures called Chiropterans, has an absolutely loyal attendant of obviously superhuman ability at her side, and works with the secretive organization Red Shield to combat the menace represented by the Chiropterans. Though these 283 pages, Saya progresses along a journey as much about self-discovery as it is about pursuing a goal or disposing of Chiropterans. In the process, most of the truth about Saya's background, and about Diva and the Chevaliers who support/protect her, comes out, and her adoptive brother KAI is forced to reevaluate his own priorities, too. Mao and Okamura also get a few pages to detail their pursuit of KAI and Saya across the world, although ultimately they are only minor bit players through this span of storytelling. The “new blood” added to the storytelling this time around are the mysterious Schiff, although how exactly they figure into the grand scheme of things has yet to be revealed by the end of the novel.
Given that these adaptations are not Ikehata's first novels, any ambitions he may have to be anything more than a pulp fiction writer are unlikely to be met. Though his writing does have its moments, his overall writing style will not impress anyone. He has a penchant for overusing one-sentence paragraphs saps away the attention-catching quality such lines should have, and he uses passive voice far too often in places where active voice would have suited the content better. Overall, his writing lacks the grace, sense of drama, and enthusiasm for its subject matter typically seen in the better (or at least more engrossing) novels, making this somewhat of a dry read. Compared to other translated, anime-related Japanese novels which have made their way across the Pacific, this one belongs on one of the lowest rungs of the ranking ladder.
The novel opens with four pages of color illustrations and an additional nineteen black-and-white illustrations strewn regularly throughout, all creations of Chizu Hashii, who provided the original character designs for the series and whose illustrations can also frequently be seen in the anime series' closers. The cover art, a picture of Hagi, looks to have been lifted directly from the anime series, as does a color picture of all four of Diva's Chevaliers, while the other pictures are all rougher and slightly stylized variations on scenes from the anime. Dark Horse Books' release of the novel also includes four pages of character profiles at the beginning (some of which appear for the first time in this novel) and brief bios on the writer and illustrator at the end. The translation seems solid and mostly error-free, even retaining the “niisan” and “neechan” reference made by many characters, with the one discrepancy being that the Schiff known as Irène in the anime seems to have become Aurélien in the novel.
Ultimately this novel will probably be most enjoyed by those who have either no exposure to the anime or only an incomplete exposure. It tells an involving enough tale that, occasional Japanese-specific references aside, it might sell acceptably well as a straight Young Adult novel. It is not, however, anything to get excited about.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B
+ Continues a rather involved story, offering many major revelations.
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