By Yuuki Kodama. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this series aside from ‘vampires’. And that ends up being pretty fitting, as I think the series itself is not quite sure where it’s going to go until we get about halfway through this omnibus, at which point it finds its feet surprisingly quickly. There’s some interesting characters, attempts at world building, and some surprisingly vicious backstory, along with a healthy dollop of humor and fanservice. Honestly, I’m not really sure why this is in the seinen magazine Young Ace rather than its Shonen equivalent, unless it gets far more violent later on. It could simply be Young Ace had the free slot for a new series.
Admittedly, after the first few pages I was expecting something far worse than what this turned out to be. The idea of a slacker vampire who’s a secret otaku made me groan, and thankfully this aspect of Staz’s personality is given shot shrift as the series goes on. More to the point, we see that Staz’s seeming apathy towards life stems from his own family relationships, and that he’s surprisingly tough and powerful – and even clever, when he bothers to be. I was amused at one or two points in the volume where he analyzed the situation and immediately gave up fighting, knowing that he would lose and it’s best to conserve his powers. I was also pleased to see that his obsession with Fuyumi lasted only till she died – after which, he really wants to resurrect her but is clearly not enamored of her. Blood Lad is driven by its action and fantasy, not its harem aspects (though those do linger, mainly via Bell).
As for Fuyumi, she’s probably the aspect of this story I enjoyed the least. She should be there to be the audience identification figure, the lone normal Japanese girl among a town full of freaks. Unfortunately, you don’t get very far in to this volume before you see her role is to have large breasts and get captured a lot. There is a bit of existential angst when she and Staz return to Japan, and he uses mind control to make everyone think she’s still there – this horrifies her till he points out the alternative. Mostly, though, Fuyumi seems to be there to draw in readers who want a passive female in their action fantasy manga.
As I noted earlier, Staz does not have a very nice backstory, and no doubt we will meet his brother in the second volume. The idea of how Staz’s magic is suppressed is quite scary, and certainly explains why he’s so reluctant to take any actions. We also meet his sister Liz, who quickly proceeds to torture him, though I have a nagging suspicion that there may be a bit of a brother complex behind all this – possibly as I’ve read too many moe manga in a row recently.
Blood Lad isn’t terrific – Soul Eater handles almost everything this manga tries to do better – but it’s a solid title, and better than I’d expected. If it can do something with Fuyumi next time, that’s be appreciated. But either way, I look forward to seeing Staz break out and kick some more asses in Volume 2.