by Akihisa Ikeda; adapted by Gerard Jones
published by Viz; $7.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Tsukune is a very average student who has managed to fail all his high school entrance exams. His parents find a flyer to a school, Yokai Academy, that accepts most students regardless of their grades. Given the school’s name, Tsukune shouldn’t be surprised to find out that this is a school where the student body and faculty are all monsters. (Yokai is a Japanese term that includes woodland spirits, ghosts, and creatures of legend.)
On his first day, he befriends Moka, a powerful vampiress who keeps her power in check by wearing a magical cross around her neck. They have some of the typical school struggles: figuring out which club to join, making friends, getting homework done, dealing with bullies, etc. However, with monster students, these typical problems take on new complications and in some cases can be deadly.
I’m not going to lie to you; Rosario + Vampire is a light, frothy read. I enjoy it because it pushes all the right buttons for me. Both the author Ikeda and I are fans of classical horror monsters. This series is a perfect blend of Western monsters, yokai, high school comedy, harem manga, and Scooby-Doo-style mysteries. I definitely feel a kinship with Ikeda, since we both share similar likes and a similar sense of humor.
For horror fans, this series has the stock creatures. There are succubi, vampires, lizard men, medusa, witches, slime creatures, etc. It’s fun to see them all in high school together forming the standard cliques and jockeying for power within the school. It’s everything you’d expect if you housed all the monsters under one roof. It’s interesting to see the pecking order that’s developed. Yokai Academy is definitely a place where you need to be part of a group so you don’t end up as someone’s late night snack.
Ikeda does a marvelous job with the characters. The main characters, Tsukune and Moka, are likable, with great chemistry as a couple. Their genuine affection for each other is palpable. They are both kind-hearted and make friends easily with other outcast students. Yukari, the eleven-year-old witch they befriend, is cute and marvelously energetic. She has all the mischief a pre-teen with magic power should have. Kurumu is a succubus who is vying for Tsukune’s affections. She’s the most emotionally complex character and works as a nice counterpoint to Moka.
The artwork is pretty standard. Since there’s a wide range of creatures in this series, that probably works for the best. By sticking to the basics, it’s easy to identify not just who a character is, but also what they are. This is imperative if you want the reader to understand what’s going on. Since this book has elements of a harem comedy, that means fan service. It’s relatively rare, but be warned, it does exist.
I first read a complimentary review copy of volume two. I liked it so much I went out and bought volume one. It’s a good series for horror fans looking for some light comedy. It’s also good for comic/manga readers looking for some light reading as a change of pace. I’ll definitely be picking up future volumes myself.