Vampire Manga: Vampire Knight, Bloody Kiss
With so much interest in the upcoming Twilight manga and the general trend of vampires in popular culture, I thought I’d look at some manga that feature vampire characters and their forbidden loves. These books were provided by publishers for the purpose of review.
Vampire Knight Volume 7
by Matsuri Hino, Viz, $8.99 US
This popular series is set at the exclusive Cross Academy, a school with a Night Class full of beautiful vampires and a Day Class that must be protected from them while still being “kept in the dark” about their true nature. Yuki Cross, adopted daughter of the headmaster, is a Guardian, assigned to keep the groups separate, although she’s in love with Kaname, President of the Night Class and her past rescuer. She’s missing parts of her memories, so there’s an overarching mystery of what really happened between the two ten years ago. Just to make things more complicated, her fellow Guardian and childhood friend Zero has been turned into a vampire and will eventually go insane. Until then, he’s resentful and feeds from her.
In this installment, Kaname declares his love for Yuki, although he still hasn’t answered her questions about her past. The art is moody, with plenty of panels showing brooding glances hidden under spiky bangs and a noticeable lack of backgrounds. The focus is on longing, with plenty of rich emotion and need visible on the pages.
Although one might ask why so many vampires seem to go to school — if you’re immortal, wouldn’t mandatory secondary education be something else you’d give up? — it’s a common manga setting, allowing for lots of characters to mix with varying degrees of drama. With its familiar setup — fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will feel right at home, with the solitary young woman with a difficult mission and love for the demon she’s supposed to fight — this is the best of the bunch for vampire fans looking for an art fix.
(My answer: Vampires go to high school because teens are the ones most likely to indulge their drama and posturing, and they can pretend to be just another goth.)
Bloody Kiss Volume 1
by Kazuko Furumiya, Tokyopop, $10.99 US
Kiyo has inherited her grandmother’s haunted estate. When the vampire who lives there tries to scare her away, she gives him a judo flip, thinking to herself, “He can’t kill me! I have stuff I have to do today!” He fusses, she nurses him, and with another vampire, the three settle down as a comedic trio, once she decides not to sell the place.
She’s a spunky wannabe law student getting over an unfortunate childhood. The two vamps are each seeking a “bride”, the sole human they drink blood from, because they won’t be full vampires, with all their powers, until they do. (That’s an interesting way to reconcile the traditional sexual implications of blood-drinking penetration and the usual “I want one loyal boyfriend” desires of shojo stories.)
Instead of high drama, the emphasis here is comedy with romantic underpinnings. The humor comes from slapstick, but as someone who adored Love at First Bite, I didn’t mind. Kuroboshi, the vampire, has to protect her from all kinds of menace, including his fellow vamp; a job taking up too much of Kiyo’s time; and helping her prepare for a rose-themed school dance.
Kiyo has the super-happy shojo heroine temperament of looking on the bright side no matter what. (Some have compared the series to Fruits Basket for that reason.) Even though her mother is dead and her father deserted her, she’s determined to follow her academic dream, and Kuroboshi’s desire is inspiring in its own way. She doesn’t have a lot of other companionship.
There’s only one more book in the series (due out in November), so this would be a good short take for someone who wants just a taste. It’s slight but amusing.