Blood Lad, Vol. 5

By Yuuki Kodama. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I said last time that it was the small character moments that were the best in Blood Lad, and that’s still true. But it can’t be denied, the main plot has become increasingly more readable even as it becomes more deadly. There’s an awful lot going on here, and if it seems to be the sort of thing that you always see happen in manga series like this one, well, there’s a reason for that. Blood Lad not only breaks the fourth wall, but sits around it and examines why it’s a wall at all, with the help of all the lampshades it’s hanging to shed light on the subject. (This tortured metaphor is brought to you by the letter R.)


At the end of the last volume, we saw the culmination of all of Braz’ clever schemes and manipulations, as he manages to resurrect his dead father to regain the kingdom. Naturally, everything goes completely per-shaped not twenty minutes in, because Braz is not the star of this manga, and therefore the world does not run according to his rules. This is brought home to him over and over again by Staz, who is the star, and discusses the virtues of things like just attacking without thinking in order to save everyone. Blood Lad may run in a seinen magazine, but at heart it’s all shonen.

This leads to the big event of the second half; having been forced to retreat from the big villain, Staz has a clever plan: read his vast collection of manga to find a way to defeat Akim. It’s the sort of twist that makes you groan, even in a manga this meta. But then Staz starts to explain his reasoning for this. Due to the way reincarnation works between the human and magic world, he thinks that manga published in the modern day might be subconscious memories of what actually occurred years ago in the demon world, involving powers and objects now lost. Therefore, it is vitally important to read that 86-volume series.

Actually, my favorite manga-related joke in this volume is everyone getting so worked up over shoujo love comedy Marmalade Boy… sorry, Lemonade Boy. (The covers look identical, so this is just “wait, I don’t write for Shueisha” at work here.) It could be argued that the romance is the weakest part of Blood Lad, mostly as Fuyumi still tends to be a bit of a drip. We’re helped here by focusing on Bell, who’s got it bad for Staz but suffers from the inability to express herself and a colossal case of poor timing, plus (as the reader knows) the fact that Staz loves Fuyumi but isn’t quite aware of it yet. There’s plenty of comedic moments, but her feelings aren’t belittled at all, which I appreciated.

We do still get the small character moments in this book – Liz’s reaction to Braz’s fate, and the followup to it, is wonderful – but there’s no denying that things are getting darker and more deadly. It looks like we’re headed for a major battle in the next volume, which is a shame as it will be a while – Vol. 11 came out in Japan this May, meaning we don’t even have enough for half a release yet. In the meantime, though, we have this volume. There are probably better manga series out there, but there are few series as compulsively readable as Blood Lad.

Blood Lad, Vol. 4

By Yuuki Kodama. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

In the new Blood Lad omnibus, a lot of big things happen. We finally see what’s going on with Braz and what he’s planning; Wolf meets up with his human mother (an ex-Yanki, to boot!) and is told he may have to be the hero that saves the demon world; Staz is captured by the authorities and later reunited with Braz, who gives himself up; and a major confrontation seems to be what Vol. 5 will be all about. Despite all this, it’s the small character moments of Blood Lad that are the best, the funniest, the most heartwarming, and keep me coming back for more.


Let’s take a look at Fuyumi. If nothing else, she continues to be the most problematic character in the series. Staz is trying to get her to be more of her own person, but this seems to have devolved into a basic shonen “I will protect you” stance that isn’t really helping. (Also, putting a rope around her and dragging her around is probably his low point. Naturally, Fuyumi points out how humiliating it is but doesn’t really object.) She does get a nice moment later on, where the cowboy outfit and accessories Staz bought her prove useful to getting her out of a perilous situation. But probably the most striking scene is seeing her addiction to Staz’s blood, and how this is shown to be VERY BAD for her and yet at the same time the most erotic scene in the entire volume. I suspect I’m reading too much into her each time, but what else am I supposed to do? Ogle the boobies? Let’s keep overanalyzing.

We meet up with a superhero team in this volume as well, who are shown on the cover. As with most superhero teams, they’re a collection of eccentric weirdos with bizarre powers that seem to bond together as a unit when the chips are down. And, as with Wolf and a number of other people, they’re pitted against Staz, who remains the “bad guy” even as he’s the hero. Can you be a good guy when the entire world views you differently? Later on, when Staz and Fuyumi are captured by the police, we see something similar. Staz is a vampire overlord with massive amounts of untapped power (so much it can apparently be used to resurrect the dead), and now is the best time to stop him, before he discovers that potential.

And then there’s the climax of the volume, which I will walk around and try not to spoil. It should be a very emotional, heartwarming moment, but it seems filled with a sort of impermanence, a sense that this isn’t going to last long. Braz seems to get this too – his open affection for Liz reads very much as a “I’m about to die and will never see you again” gesture (poor Liz, by the way – there’s some great in-text analysis of her character and how she’s starved for affection from her brother). In the end, I have a suspicion that the confrontation that is the cliffhanger to this volume will be dealt with swiftly and anticlimactically before long when we get to Volume 5.

Overall, this remains a great read. You breeze right through it, it’s filled with good humor, some creepy horror, and occasional character development. Plus the obligatory fanservice. It’s everything you could want in a shonen manga (well, except it’s seinen, running in Young Ace… shh, don’t talk to me about demographics).

Blood Lad, Vol. 3

By Yuuki Kodama. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I’d mentioned in my previous review that Blood Lad had become a very solid shonen series (that runs in a seinen magazine, yes). I’ll go further with Vol. 3: this is really excellent. The previous volume showed us the main characters being quite clever, something which continues here. But this volume also shows us the writer being very clever. Kodama has crafted a plot that makes me want to dig deeper, with no elements so far dominating the others. The internal power struggle for the demon world, the Frankenstein monster corpse-robbing from last time, and Staz’s quest to restore Fuyumi to life all get about the right weight, with few pointless side journeys. Best of all, we have Fuyumi’s backstory, which I’ll delve into further.


I knew coming in that Fuyumi’s family was going to somehow be connected to the demon world, given all the hints we’d had in the previous book. And indeed, that turns out to be exactly the case. But there’s no secret adultery or trips to the demon world here. Instead, there’s a very clever (and fairly creepy) use of doppelganger legends to show how Fuyumi is related to Bell and her brother while still remaining completely human. What’s more, it actually plays out what happens after with Bell and Fuyumi’s fathers, and shows us that the demon world is not the only one to have scary guys. This is easily my favorite part of the book.

Of course, Fuyumi’s reaction to this is pretty much the same as it’s been since the start of the series: dull surprise. This is actually lampshaded in the series, as she notes after discovering her mother’s real identity that she’s been too overwhelmed by events to process anything since she came into the demon world, and seems to have been fairly mellow even before her death. Still, it can be frustrating, especially given how often she’s meant to be fanservice for the reader, how passive she is. Her stepfather gives Staz two very important conditions to satisfy before he’ll let Fuyumi put herself in danger by journeying with him, and both of them amount to the same thing: give Fuyumi agency to decide things herself.

Which is good, because while Staz is not your typical shonen ‘rush into fights’ dolt, he has not really given much thought to what Fuyumi wants, something else pointed out to him. He has to stop treating Fuyumi like an object (and then, perhaps, the manga itself will stop doing the same thing). Staz is already suffering from the fact that, as a vampire, he’s almost trained since birth to see himself as an evil person. So his desperate attempts to restore Fuyumi, without asking her what she really wants to do, are indicative of this. He thinks that this is something that makes him evil, and that, by listening to Fuyumi and doing what she really wants, he can become a hero for her. (This also brings up the question of whether they love each other – everyone except the two of them seem to think this is the case.)

Staz is, of course, already a hero, and I hope that this change of lifestyle for him does not involve more charging ahead and less cunning in fights. (The fanservice this volume went to Bell, by the way, and the fight between her and Staz is a great example of how to combine Staz’s intelligence and cunning and his complete lack of awareness when it comes to women’s feelings.) How all this plays out, though, is something I really am desperate to find out. Though I may have to wait a while: we’re caught up with Japan, at least as caught up as Western publishers like to get. In the meantime, read this series.