Sep 4, 2017
(This review may contain several spoilers up to volume 10, which is a little bit over what the anime series covers. I don’t believe that my review will ruin your experience, but if you’re coming in new, I recommend you AT LEAST have either read up to volume 9, or have seen the anime series in its entirety.)
I’m absolutely surprised nobody’s written a review for this series yet, so here I go.
The magical high school genre isn’t particularly anything new in light novels, anime, and manga. If anything, I would daresay that it is perhaps one of the most overused ones across all three mediums.
As a result, people who watch or read these types of works will eventually find similarities and shared tropes that will actually prove detrimental to the experience as a whole.
But that’s not saying that everything that comes out of this genre is mediocre or bad. It just takes a whole lot more effort to make a series stand out, which is something that many writers who write magical high school stories struggle with. In my opinion, the genre itself isn’t chosen because it gives potential to in-depth characters that are intriguing and thought-provoking, but rather because it’s the one of the most marketable ones. Light novels are written to make money.
But sometimes there are magical high school light novels that try to change everything. They try to innovate and stand out.
“Tokyo Ravens” is definitely not one of those novels.
At least not until volume 10, which is far into the series.
You see, “Tokyo Ravens” initial few volumes doesn’t do much to distinguish itself as a unique entry in an already saturated market of magical high school stories. It was almost by chance that I decided to give this novel series a shot.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Story-wise, “Tokyo Ravens” tells the story of Harutora Tsuchimikado, an unremarkable high school student who belongs to the Tsuchimikado clan; a family renowned for their magical prowess. However, due to his inability to wield magic, he has long since been ignored and disregarded, living his days peacefully in the countryside with his friends. For all purposes intent, he is basically supposed to be the “stand-in” character for the readers.
His far more capable cousin, Natsume Tsuchimikado, is being groomed to be the heir of the family. Also, she is rumored to be the reincarnation of Yakou Tsuchimikado, whose actions resulted in a great magical disaster in Japan. Oh, and one more thing, she’s female. The reason why I point out that she’s female should be rather obvious to those who have read light novels similar to this. She is, unsurprisingly, the childhood friend / love interest character that we should all be quite familiar with.
After a series of exciting events happen, Harutora finds his peaceful ordinary life disrupted, resulting in him going to a magical high school in Tokyo. What follows is the typical magical high school story. You’ll have your fair share tsunderes, some intense fight sequences, and whatnot. Standard fare.
It wasn’t until the end of the ninth volume (which as mentioned before, is coincidentally the last volume the anime covers) that I felt really excited to see what was going to happen next.
This is because the story goes into overdrive at the beginning of volume 10. The series suddenly feels like it has shifted genres. We are thrown into an entirely new storyline that has a completely different character focus. “Tokyo Ravens” is no longer about a student entering a fairly generic magic high school, but rather an entire internal conflict between magical factions in Japan.
The arcs that go past the high school arc feel like a whole different beast in itself. Characters, although not necessarily entirely free of their stereotypes, begin to have a level of intrigue and mystery to them. It is not to say that character development has never existed, but the evolution of our two leads, Harutora and Natsume, exceeds anything I would have expected of a light novel series of this genre.
This is what I meant when I said that “Tokyo Ravens” doesn’t start to stand out until it’s past its tenth volume. The true story of “Tokyo Ravens” begins after nine volumes. In my opinion, the previous nine were merely there to provide the readers with enough background to fully dive into the story. Volume 10 onwards is simply something else. It is almost an entirely different series.
I am enjoying “Tokyo Ravens” so far. Despite its weaker start, this light novel series gets better with each coming volume. It’s not the greatest light novel I’ve read, but it’s definitely one of the stronger ones out there. If you’re into magical high school stories, you’ll probably like this one. If you don’t, then I’d still advise you to stick around, because the more recent volumes truly make grinding through the initial nine volume worth it.
It’s really a shame no Western publisher is picking this series up. The translations we have so far are top-notch, but it’s still a relatively obscure title even in the anime, manga, and light novel communities.
What did you think of this review?