Originally Posted: January 7, 2021
“Sakuya’s blade roared. The ability of her Holy Sword – Raikirimaru, Blade of Lightning – was acceleration. The electricity it produced was just a by-product. Its true power was that it enveloped Sakuya in super-electromagnetic energy, allowing her to move faster the more she cut into her foes. The girl herself looked like a blade of lightning as she sped toward the swarm of Voids.” – Yu Shimizu, on the katana-wielding girl from the Sakura Orchid.
Admittedly, the description of the power was pretty cool! But super-electromagnetic energy?! Please! I had to stop and laugh at the idea. What does that even mean…?! This combination of cool and dumb fun will show itself throughout the text. If that’s your thing, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Demon Sword Master of Excalibur Academy, Vol. 2 is the following instalment to the action-fantasy series where Holy Swordsmen and Dark Lord(s) collaborate against dangers from within and without. For a certain Lord trapped in a 10-year-old body, such a task may prove to be too much to ask. But as his future subjects are threatened and more questions of his past appear, there’s no way Leo will remain as a bystander.
This series continues following Leo on his journey towards world domination(?) and of discovering the secrets behind the Voids. Vol. 2 brings us imperial royalty, demi-humans, and ship-jackings to once again showcase the cool powers and beautiful characters. Yu Shimizu mixes action, fan-service, and a fantastical world to bring us the next step in Leo’s older-sister-filled adventure. Asagi Tohsaka’s illustrations then amplify both the action and the curves to excite and entice the reader.
Hey! As I’ve talked about in my previous review for The Demon Sword Master, this series is a project by a duo of genre-veterans. It’s been a few months since I read Vol. 1, so my memories of the series are slightly faded. However, I remember a fondness when picking up Vol. 1. And since I enjoyed some of the parts that mixed the fan-service with important plot developments, my low expectations were handily defeated. Thus, I was pretty excited to read Vol. 2. Will it live up to the raised bar this time around?
As we normally do for sequels, we’ll talk about the differences from previous volumes. There will be a focus on the plot, spotlight characters, and world-elements. And for this spoiler-free review, we’ll talk about its value in action and ecchi. I hope that my review will help you decide on picking-up/continuing this series!
To start, let’s talk about the first impressions. Firstly, the cover depicts Regina (Riselia’s maid, see character page below) with her weapon of choice. I love the bright colours and honesty regarding its contents – a school-fantasy with girls and action. However, it feels rather empty without Leo. And the material has changed from matte (in Vol. 1) to gloss. As someone who prefers the former, I was fairly disappointed.
Secondly, let’s note Vol. 2’s length – 40,000 words. This is on the shorter side of Yen Press releases (~50,000 words) but is standard for this series – Vol. 1 was 42,000 words. Like it’s predecessor, this may prove to be detrimental to the overall story and developments in the world and characters,
Lastly, let’s talk about the coloured-inserts. There are five to greet us under the covers: two are cover alternates (not shown); two are more fan-service-like for Shary, Tessera, and Riselia (below, bottom); and the last is a great action shot with Regina (above). The latter three are great for selling the two forefront elements of this series. However, the lack of Regina fan-service has me worried about her spot as the ‘focus’. But, with those out of the way, let’s crack open the text!
To start, let’s talk about the premise. In The Demon Sword Master, Vol. 2, we follow directly after the events of Vol. 1. Due to the damage caused by the Voids, a princess of the Integrated Empire is paying a visit to the Seventh Assault Garden. She’s also travelling using the Hyperion, a royal warship. For Leo, this is a chance to meet the current leaders of humanity. But for more unscrupulous folks, this is an opportunity for revolt.
Demi-humans under the protection of humanity are essentially confined to specific wards – areas built to better suit their natural environments (forest, etc.). As they cannot wield Holy Swords, they have no hope of defeating Voids on their own. However, this societal arrangement has left some unsatisfied, and they’re set to let the Empire know. What’s the best way to do that? How about kidnapping the princess and hijacking their hi-tech ship…?!
The premise is good for its continuation from Vol. 1 and introduction of new elements. Its start, direction, and conclusion are clear from the get-go. And the story’s scope is perfect for royalty, demi-humans, and Leo’s past to meet. This has the potential for a tight story within a wider world. But with that, I was excited and worried. By adding too much, there’s a risk of under-developing each element – an issue potentially amplified by the volume’s short length. Only time will tell if that’s true, and so I continued with high hopes.
From that wide premise, where does Vol. 2 lead us? The answer to that is sadly not too far from the start. Due to the volume’s short length, the story doesn’t deepen much more than the synopsis. As promised, the tale starts with the setup of the ship’s hijacking and ends at its resolution. And despite the many new questions (mostly for Leo and Regina), there is very little development for Leo’s overarching journey. To better analyze the plot, let’s pull apart and look at a few of the threads.
Firstly, the princess is unfortunately relegated to being the damsel-in-distress. Her involvement in the important events is minimal and, though much exposition is spent on her, nothing comes from it – for Leo and friends. The hints of future importance do little if her story is left completely unmoved from where it starts.
Secondly, the entire demi-human thread has no stakes with any of the characters other than inciting the danger. This makes them feel like the antagonists-of-the-week rather than an ever-present threat. Similar to the princess, the exposition behind them is seemingly wasted. And with how Vol. 2 ends, I feel we’re not going to be hearing from them anytime soon.
Thirdly, despite her prominence on the cover, Regina’s story is woefully underdeveloped and weakly executed. Because of spoilers, I won’t say anything specific. Suffice it to say that Regina’s secrets were simple to deduce, received with a silent fanfare, and has little-to-no effect on the overall plot. The last is up to future events, but the former two are critical flaws.
Overall, Vol. 2’s story only provides a structure for the action and ecchi to occur. There isn’t much substance for the empire, the demi-humans, or our spotlighted character. This is an unfortunate downgrade from the life-changing events for Riselia and the Seventh Assault Garden that occurred in Vol. 1.
With the story discussed, let’s talk about the characters. Vol. 2 presents us with significant page-time for each of the main characters. This provides many opportunities to deepen their personalities, showcase their powers, and have some fun along the way. However, like the plot, the volume’s short length means the large cast needs to ration its time carefully.
Now, we’ll jump onto the spotlight character – Regina. The Demon Sword Master, Vol. 2 hints that we’ll be learning more about this snarky maid by putting her front-and-center. Does it do a good job? I wouldn’t say so. As implied in the plot discussion, Vol. 2 sets up a complex situation and does very little with it. Regina has a secretive past (as hinted by the character page) with some issues regarding the princess. This is good for deepening her motivations and background. But then much time is spent with her dragging her feet and moping. This slow development is worsened finding out that her character doesn’t evolve meaningfully by the end of Vol. 2. To be blunt, I’m not impressed. For the promise of learning a lot more about our gun-toting blonde, it’s disappointing to see Vol. 2 do near nothing for her.
For the princess and demi-humans, it’s just like their plots suggest. It feels like they’re here to play their respective roles as the damsel and antagonists and be done with it. There are some given motivations, but they are either external (royal duty) or not expanded on (ransoming for their rebel allies).
As for the other characters, we see more of the same from Vol. 1. Other than fill out certain tropes, there isn’t much more to say. Elfine and Sakuya get their spot in the action. We also see more from the orphans and Riselia, especially their growing relationship with Leo.
In summary, my expectations were low given Vol. 1’s results. However, when the featured character is given so little and those important to the scenario so forgettable, something is missing here. To be blunt – there’s a lot to improve.
With the characters discussed, let’s jump into the world-building. As in my Vol. 1 review, there are the interconnected central concepts of the Dark Lords, the Holy Swordsmen, and the Voids. These get their developments alongside the overarching plot. But, like the characters, it’s mostly small changes. Instead, I would like to focus on the supporting elements this time around.
To start, the world of The Demon Sword Master has expanded with the introduction(?) of demi-humans. Since humans are the only ones able to wield Holy Swords, demi-humans were absorbed by the Empire to some discontent. I like the idea of exploring the effects of Holy Swords on society; it’s a smart way of creating an immersive world. However, the execution is highly-flawed in Vol. 2. Firstly, why are they segregated from humans in the first place? Are they dangerous? Or do they just prefer the environment humans created for them? Secondly, the demi-humans’ hate doesn’t feel like it exists beyond their designated ward. It’s not like humans treat them with any sort of discrimination or vice-versa. Lastly, the reasoning behind the rebels is lacking – what would they do if humans ceased protecting them from the Voids? There are too many simple questions left unanswered to consider demi-humans as a concrete element in The Demon Sword Master. And because of that, they sadly remain as a gimmick for Vol. 2.
After the demi-humans, let’s talk about the existence of royalty in the empire. For The Demon Sword Master, members of royalty possess a special power – one familiar to Leo. I’m happy to see that traces of Leo’s past continue through into this far-flung future. However, the extent of the power is unknown, and the reasons for why it keeps royalty on top is unexplained. Like the demi-humans, many questions remain unanswered. But the promise of future importance may redeem it with more development. I’m excited but worried it’ll be introduced and left to wallow while more elements are piled on top in future entries.
Overall, the world-building in The Demon Sword Master isn’t the most immersive. It was never a selling point of the series, so this comes with no surprise. However, with adding more to the pile without development, The Demon Sword Master risks being all show with no depth.
After the foundations, let’s talk about the action. Despite my other gripes, The Demon Sword Master, Vol. 2 continues to provide fun and exciting encounters. Whether it’s against Voids, demi-humans, or fellow Holy Swordsmen, the series knows its spectacle. Like many other well-executed action-series, The Demon Sword Master offers a plethora of scenarios, involved characters, and cool powers. With those, Yu Shimizu creates a string of battles and encounters to keep you entertained. There’s nothing much that has changed in this regard from Vol. 1 – it’s still a decent contender in the genre.
One thing to note is that the second half of Vol. 2 is essentially one long action scene. There are a few parallel perspectives, hostage situations, and multiple factions. Such a chaotic event is exciting and Yu Shimizu maintains order through a causal sequencing of events (showing effects between perspectives). I enjoyed the ride all the way through – it was like being lulled into an adrenaline-fueled trance. Of course, such an ambitious scene has some issues with pacing and exposition, and we’ll talk about that in the ‘additional details’ below.
To keep things brief, the action is fun, spectacular, and enthralling. It remains the best part of the series, and it shows. There’s a lot more to say, but it would be rephrasing the praise I gave in Vol. 1. If you liked what you got then, Vol. 2 should be a treat for you.
In support of the action is the ecchi(?). I would like to reiterate my stance on the cute relationship Leo shares with the humans – especially Riselia. However, there is one critical change to make note of – the plot significance of such scenes. In Vol. 1, the ecchi tends to be used to further Riselia’s character, develop Leo’s relationship with her, and progress the plot. Vol. 2 takes a similar route but lacks the latter. Rather than aid the story, it feels as if Vol. 2 re-treads old scenes and/or pads the page-time. Even now, I’m still finding it hard to understand the importance of the pool scene… But if you really liked the scenes from Vol. 1, there’s more for you. However, I’m left a little disappointed by this aspect. Hopefully, we’ll return to better form in the next entry.
Finally, let’s talk about some additional details. Like its predecessor, Vol. 2 is a bit clunky at times. For example, the long-winded description in the quote above is placed right in the middle of a fight. Though this is likely meant to amplify the depth of an ability, doing so shatters any semblance of momentum. The difficulty here stems from nearly half of the book being a large action scene – where could one place required exposition? I’m not certain of the answer. Reign of the Seven Spellblades (review here!) uses breaks in-between its excitement to exposit and build the tension. But this would increase the page-time which may be against Yu Shimizu’s wishes. As for me, I think more would be better.
Then, within the odd decisions for exposition and dialogue are a few issues I would like the note. Firstly, the repetitive use of certain words such as cocked, shrugged, etc. to describe a character’s reaction is shallow at best and annoying at worst. I believe this comes from familiar media (such as manga and anime) where such expressions are common. Instead, adding a little variety and depth (e.g. grit their teeth, lowered their gaze) would quickly solve this. Secondly, there are a few typographical errors – particularly in the last parts of the book. Beginning to begging, “sneak thief”: these are two I found. While they are minor, being confused mid-sentence certainly hurts the reading experience. Overall, there are some major improvements to be made on the writing front.
On the other hand, let’s talk about the illustrations. Vol. 2 is packed with ten of them! If you enjoy Asagi Tohsaka’s style and their character designs, there is a lot for you. However, the use of the art to highlight scenes and increase impact is severely lacking. Most of the inserts are for unimportant scenes and depicting characters/situations we’ve seen before. And of them all, only two were action shots, both being unimpressive. For a series that prides itself on its action and cool spectacle, this is quite a disappointment.
Overall, the consistency in writing-style and illustration quality from the author-illustrator duo is admirable. However, the issues in exposition, repetitive expressions, and poor scene choice limit the growth and potential of the series. I’m confident they will maintain a certain level of quality, but I’m not so sure of improving much from this point on.
Overall, The Demon Sword Master, Vol. 2 is a weak continuation of the decent start demonstrated in Vol. 1. The wide-reaching premise promises excitement, new world-elements, and a deeper look into a certain blonde maid. By the end, Vol. 2 only delivers on the first. The volume-specific plot doesn’t change much for many of those involved. The characterization remains trope-y and role-defined for all but perhaps Leo and Riselia. And the new world-elements feel gimmicky and shallow. The saving grace of these flaws is the action. The Demon Sword Master knows its spectacle and how to keep a prolonged action scene moving. The cool powers and variety of scenarios are sure to please those that enjoyed the action from Vol. 1. However, the more provocative scenes lost some of their plot significance. By re-treading on the old and contriving the new, the magic of Riselia coming to a life-changing realization mid-bath with Leo is lost. Additionally, clunky writing, repetitive expressions, and unimportant-scene choices for illustration weaken the reading experience. In short, Vol. 2 is having trouble building off the fun experience that was Vol. 1. If you liked Vol. 1 for its action and wholesome(?) ecchi, there’s more for you here. However, I’m disappointed with how they treated old and new developments. I will probably give this series another chance in Vol. 3, but I’m not expecting much more than this. See you all next time!
3.4 / 5 – Moderately Recommended
To readers of action-fantasy overflowing with cute girls and the ‘rule of cool‘.
To lovers of snarky blondes equipped in maid clothes and packing thunderous armaments.
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my review (even if you scrolled straight to the bottom). I hope that you take home even a little of what I’ve written down. So, what do you think? Is this series something you’re interested in reading?
For this review’s extra blurb… it’s maids! I just love the mix of practical, courtly, and hard-working the outfit exudes. It’s too bad Regina is snarky and Shary is a ditz. But it’s these little twists that make them unique! Then once you add cool powers, they’re simply perfect. <3
A review copy was provided to me by Yen Press. Thank you so much for the opportunity to continue this series, and for only one review! I’ll be sure to read even more from them in the future.
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist, light novel reviewer, and the recently titled “Effortlessly Effervescent Embodiment of Eloquence.” I’ve only started diving into light novels, so please bear with my naiveté. You can follow my Twitter for updates on my reviews and writing progress. And if you want to talk about light novels with me and many others, consider joining our Discord here! Let’s all get along!