This Week at Jade’s Escape: Bloody Kiss and the Vampire Trend

vampiretrend

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.

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This Week at Jade’s Escape: Godzilla, Big Hero 6 Manga

Godzilla

I watched the new Godzilla movie.

It gets Razzie of the Year in my book.

  • Unused talent: Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston do not work together. It’s not even a Bryan Cranston movie.
  • One-dimensional actor takes the boring lead: Aaron Taylor-Johnson keeps looking at the camera, adding to his unconvincing role as Bryan Cranston’s military son.
  • Too many kids: This is not a family movie! When did throwing kids into the mix equal “human element”? True Lies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and Back to the Future had kids in them, but they actually served some role other than “Let’s make this a family movie.”
  • Gun/nuclear-happy Americans: I would have to say that this pro-military movie portrays Americans’ top specialty–using their guns first and coming up with sound answers later.
  • Horrible villain monsters: In the Godzilla franchise, there are tons of interesting and badass monsters to choose from. I would’ve gone with King Shisa (I’m impartial to the Okinawan shisa) or King Gydra (the Hydra).

    godzillavillains

    Picture from the best Godzilla books ever in Japan, ゴジラ人間 series, printed in 1984 by Shogakukan Publishing.

  • Friendly Godzilla: When was Godzilla on our side? OK, so he crushed a few buildings, but he’s nothing like the Godzilla from the past franchise.
  • Movie should’ve ended in the beginning: If you’re a foreign who gets arrested in Japan, unless you’re married to a Japanese person, you’ll get deported, not sent back to your apartment. Godzilla would’ve easily ended in the first 20 minutes of the movie.
  • Japanese people don’t speak English: Sorry, English teachers, but I know this as an English teacher here in Japan. Few Japanese people speak English, especially fluent English, and most freak out when they see a foreigner, even if it’s in a convenience store.
  • Japanese people don’t take orders from Americans: How many foreign executives have you seen in Japan?

I started watching the 1998 Godzilla: The Series TV show just to wash the taste out of my mouth.

 

Big Hero 6 Manga

This is a first: before Disney’s Big Hero 6 release, Disney is releasing the manga for free through Amazon.co.jp, Boollive!, and Yahoo! Bookstores etc. from August 20th (limited time only). You can read the manga in Japanese here.

Manga Assistant’s Dream Realized: The Princess of Tennis Review

Manga Assistant’s Dream Realized: The Princess of Tennis Review

When I was 13, I wanted to be a manga creator. Between college and Japan, I forgot that dream. After reading Jamie Lynn Lano’s The Princess of Tennis, that 15-year-old dream cried out and I realized why: Lano never forgot her dream and became a manga assistant for Takeshi Konomi’s The Prince of Tennis, or TeniPuri by some fans.

Lano’s journey starts with already living in Japan for 4 years as an English teacher before applying to Konomi’s call for manga assistants. Throughout the book, Lano not only talks about how manga is made (it’s less technical than I thought) but also the ups and downs of being a 6-foot-1 foreign woman in Japan.

The Princess of Tennis is an easy and fun read. Lano keeps the tone light and friendly, and when she turns to darker themes–the invisible red tape for foreigners, real Japanese customs, and women’s 1950’s role in Japanese culture–Lano always remembers that this true story is a happy one, minus the tinted glasses.

While Lano makes her book accessible for all readers, The Princess of Tennis best fits otaku and aspiring manga creators and editors. She uses Japanese words and emoticons that anyone can find in a manga. For readers outside of the manga-reading audience, this book comes off as a borderline Young Adult novel or fanfiction, especially when the grammatical errors are considered. Because Lano’s voice and amiable nature is consistent, readers can forgive the missing words, incorrect punctuation marks, and passive sentences.

As with many books about Japan, The Princess of Tennis uses many Japanese words. Some might find it charming, but I believe that if a book is for the English-reading community, it should stay in English. I wouldn’t say, “Konomi Teacher”. Even “Mr. Konomi” is passable. Still, I’d just omit the word. In the West, using someone’s last name is also a sign of respect. Untranslated Japanese words with simple English meanings–“ohayo” (“Good morning”), “hajimemashite” (“Nice to meet you”), and “ganbare” (“Good luck” or “Do your best”)–are still in the book. I think I removed every romanized word with corrector ink just to polish the text.

Aside from the mistakes, The Princess of Tennis was entertaining and inspirational for me. Remember my dream of becoming a manga creator? Maybe my TeniPuri call is waiting for me to answer.