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).