We humans have an odd relationship with supernatural monsters; sometimes we fear them, sometimes we respect them, and sometimes we just sex them up. Vampires in particular seem to get a lot of the last one, which is funny considering there is the Succubus/Incubus to fulfill that sex-based requirement. Other times we just simply mock Vampires, as is the case in 2008’s Blood Lad.
Blood Lad was created by Yuuki Kodama, who also worked on DIESIZE and Asoviva, though this is his first work to be translated into English. It is also receiving an anime adaptation for the summer 2013 anime season.
Blood Lad is the story of a vampire named Staz Blood, the usual conventions tell us that he should act like a noble and wear fancy clothing, though he looks more like a street urchin and closet otaku (though he is not terribly up-to-date, as he thought there was only one Final Fantasy). Demons in this manga live in a different dimension of sorts, the aptly named Demon World where all manner of super natural creatures live, from zombie, doppelgangers, werewolves, and of course, vampires. The Demon World seems to be broken up into regions: South, West, East, North, as well as upper levels like Acropolis, where the aristocracy resides. As Castlevannia has showed us many, many times, vampires are overpowered creatures that should only be faced as a final boss. By virtue of this power, Staz is so powerful that he rules Demon World West as boss (or Don, really).
One day, Staz’s right-hand man, Dek a demon of unknown species, reports to him that a human girl named Fuyumi Yanagi arrived in his territory with no knowledge of how he got there. Staz, being the geek he actually is, got so excited to meet a human (he wanted to thank the Japanese for creating the Play Station) that he none-too-smoothly had her brought to his apartment. The two strike a nice (though a tad one-sided) conversation together, however coincidence would conspire to cut their meeting, and Fuyumi’s life, short via a man trying to become the new boss of the region using man-eating plants. Seeing her perfectly clean skeleton, Staz pledges to bring Fuyumi, now a ghost, back to life. Unfortunately for Staz, his plan turns increasingly complicated when he finds himself walking straight into the human world. All the while, carrying out the morally ambiguous schemes of his older brother, Braz, and deeply envious younger sister, Liz, Staz also has to deal with the insane machinations of Franken Stein (yes, that one, though to Kodama’s credit this one is the rightly mad scientist and not the monster) if he is to get anywhere.
Kodama art style is Blood Lad’s most interesting aspect. Kodama uses thin lines and dark, gray colors as much he can, giving everything a washed-out look that is a tad depressing depending on the background the cities for example, look every bit as dark and seedy as mob-controlled city should look with thick, grey buildings, and shadows that are almost tangible, though it is noticeably gone when the events are happening indoors. The effect is surprisingly fitting, given the premise and setting of the manga.
Blood Lad, being a seinen-fantasy title has its fair share of fights, though they are not as prominent. Interestingly enough, Staz is my least favorite character to watch in a fight, mostly because he tends to fight like a telekinetic in a world full of normals like crushing people by closing his fists or create huge hands that fight for him. Its fitting for someone who has no real desire to fight, but it has the side-effect of making me lose interest. Staz’s allies such as Wolf and rivals like Papradon Akim, however, display incredible feats of speed and power, not to mention cleverness, the later comes especially from the villains.
Pros: Wacky characters, and a plot that keeps growing, entangling more characters as time goes on, enthralling fight scenes, and hilarious references to other series, keep things fresh for Blood Lad. Fitting, and uncommon art style makes the manga stand out.
Cons: Sometimes the plot slows down for no apparent reason; vapid heroine Fuyumi stands out like a sore thumb among more important characters.
Blood Lad is a pretty fresh addition to the supernatural genre (to say nothing of Seinen manga as a whole), yet has its occasional downs in terms of pacing and developing characters quite unevenly, but its artistry and storytelling are clever enough to more than make up for it. Staz especially, feels like a love letter character to the older fans of anime and manga, but his demotivation sometimes get in the way since it takes some effort to make him react to the world around him. These first four volumes of Blood Lad have been great fun, and I certainly look forward to future volumes.
Some of you may have noticed that biskmater’s articles, like this one, have had their author’s name changed to Francisco Garcia Fuentes, my real name. Some of you may wonder what brought this change. As per my usual answer, Franklin Raines. We have activelly clashed several times over this topic, and I simply gave up. I am personally not happy about it; what happened to those good old days when you could get by in a full suit of anonymity? Well, in any case. It is nice to meet you all once again