Topic: The Vampire Trend in Manga
Manga: Bloody Kiss by Kazuko Furumiya
The first installment of Bloody Kiss is one manga fit for the Twihards and the Vampire Knight cosplayers who aren’t tired of bloodsuckers and half-baked romances. It begs the question– do manga creators just decide that no matter how overworked a vampire story is, they should add to the fantasy simply to make sales?
It’s no secret that the vampire mythos can sell. Among the uprising of TV shows and movies boasting vampire stories, anime and manga have followed the neck-sucking trend with the same aggression. The sales drown out the opportunity for releases to settle into a legacy. There’s a stop sign in red somewhere, and creators ignore it. For instance, after Blood: The Last Vampire took the anime movie world by storm in 2000, fans received a subsequent anime series, Blood+, in 2005. However, Blood: The Last Vampire was made into a live-action movie in 2009, biting a big fat hole into the entire Blood franchise. If creators had stopped at the anime series, the Blood line would be pure enough to be considered memorable anime.
In trying to squeeze out dollar bills from a perfectly fine anime, creators don’t know when to call it quits with the vampire trend in general. It shows in several shabby releases, including the transparent Tokyopop title, Bloody Kiss. The plot is ordinary: a high school girl inherits her grandmother’s dilapidated mansion, instantly becoming a landlord to two male vampires. On a daily basis, Kiyo has to maintain her school life while trying to keep her vampire roommates off her neck. It’s a step up from Vampire Knight–at least Kiyo wants to be a lawyer someday–but Bloody Kiss falls flat when it comes down to conveying depth. Every serious moment has to have a joke, and even those aren’t really that funny, just sad.
On top of the failed comedy, the characters aren’t that lovable, and in a vampire story, you can’t expect them to be. Vampire stories aren’t about connecting with people– it’s all about the angst, undead creatures who suck blood. What can be so lovable about those Debbie Downers? Bloody Kiss makes the attempt to humanize these bloodsuckers with humor, but it doesn’t work in copious amounts of annoyance. It seems that this lifeless manga was rushed to the world just to make a few more bucks off the popularity of the vampire trend. But was it really worth it? Was it even good timing?
Though it appears that the vampire trend is as alive as the main characters are undead, a closer look at the trend reveals that it’s starting to wane. Between 2005 and 2008, at least 8 vampire manga or manhwa circulated at the same time. Blood+, Hellsing, Rosario + Vampire, and Trinity Blood were released or already circulating in 2005. Dance in the Vampire Bund started its serialization in Comic Flapper in 2006 while Vassalord was released that same year. But after 2008, some series ended and fewer began. Since then, at least 3 series have continued giving fans the bloodsucker treatment, a big drop from the 8 vampire stories from years prior. In 2010, Bloody Kiss, along with equally unfinished and un-funny vampire manga, would’ve had little chance of surviving its predecessors in an overall downturn of vampire stories.
The deflation of the vampire trend in manga may relate to the quality of content from titles. Today’s vampire manga rely heavily on the bells and whistles, not enough on the interesting aspects of the vampire-human interaction. Look at the late 1990’s vampire manga. The core story lines featured vampires without overdoing the dramatic plot twists. Former CMX’s Canon (1994) starred a sickly girl who uses her second chance as a vampire to exact revenge on a powerful vampire responsible for her classmates’ deaths. The late Tokyopop’s Lament of the Lamb (1997) depicted a high schooler who learns that he and his sister were born with the same vampire-like terminal illness inherited from their mother. Even Hellsing (1997) hosted an engineered vampire who works against other undead creatures in the interests of Great Britain. No vampires from another planet, no stupid jokes, and aside from Alucard’s love of humiliating enemies, no games. The straightforward approach for these vampire stories did well in humanizing the undead.
Even though taking a hint from the past is a world apart from planning for the future, giving Bloody Kiss and similar manga some extra time for development would have helped their overall quality. Given that more time means pushing against the trend, sometimes the best thing to do is not to cash in on the current tasteless buzz.