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.