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.