Friday, May 22, 2015

Manga Review: Rosario+Vampire by Akihisa Ikeda

I thought I might review one of my favorite manga.  You've heard me talk about it before, and so you probably know I love it, but I say it's still worth doing a post about.  The manga I'm talk about is of course Rosario+Vampire by Akihisa Ikeda.

The first series, ten volumes in total, follows Tsukune Anno, a boy who's absolutely average in absolutely every way.  He's been having trouble getting into a good high school, but fortunately he's just received an offer from Yokai Academy.  Upon arrival Tsukune meet the beautiful vampire Moka Akashiya, and promptly learns that Yokai Academy is an all monster school.  Fortunately, they are all practicing disgusting themselves as humans.  Along the way he also befriends a succubus name Kurumu, a yuki-on a named Mizore, a werewolf named Gin, and two witches named Yukari and Ruby.  It starts of as a lighthearted romantic comedy/harem series, but as it progresses it gets increasingly action packed and more dramatic as Tsukune and the gang take on ever strong enemies.  

Now, there are probably some of you who only know Rosario+Vampire via its anime adaptation.  Before we go any further take everything you know about that series and toss it away.  Unlike the anime adaptation, the original manga actually have things like plot, character development and it uses its fan service much more tastefully and sparingly.  Yeah, overall the anime doesn't really have too much in common with the manga besides a few tertiary connections and roughly the same premise.  Just figured we'd get that out of the way first and foremost.

This was one of the very first mangas I ever read, the very first being DeathNote, and is still easily my favorite.  From the first few volumes I was completely draw into the plot.  I was still getting use to the black and white aspect of manga, having grown up with full color American comics, and I think it really worked out pretty well in this case.  With many of the characters being monsters the black and white coloring brought to mind the old Universal Horror movies; i.e. Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature From the Black Lagoon, ect.  I'm more used to manga coloring now, but this was a great way to ease into it; similar to how in DeathNote it made me think of noir films.  And speaking of the art I think that Ikeda did a pretty great job drawing the manga as well as writing it.    

Of course, a manga is only as good as its characters, and this manga has some pretty great characters.  What I find most interesting about Tsukune is, despite being the primary viewpoint character and male lead, he fills the role of The Chick and The Heart.  He's the least powered member of the team while the girls are the primary fighters; which is an interesting twist on the style.  Moka is actually two characters for the price of one; we've got sweet and cutsie Outer Moka, and dark and deadly Inner Moka.  It seems to be some kind of split personality thing, and I'm wondering if they're going to fuse together at some point in the future.  Well, guess I'll have to find out in Rosario+Vampire Season II.  There's also Kurumu, a former mean girl sucubis who becomes a loyal friend.  You gotta love her, and not just beacuse of those knockers of hers.  

Then we've got Mizore, who holds the distinction of teaching me about what yuki-onna are.  She's also adorably shy and kind of looks like a friend of mine.  Whenever I read Mizore's line's I always heard that friend's voice.  And finally we've got Yukari and Gin, both kind of perverted, but both also fun and adorable in their own ways.  Along the way the gang combats a wide variety of monsters, both teachers and students, ranging from kraken, to slugs, to mermaids and even Medusa.  

If the series has a weakness it's an unintentional one.  As the series progresses one of the biggest antagonists are the monstrals, a group of mixed species monsters.  I'm sure, well hopefully sure, that Ikeda didn't intended it but the message came across as "mixed race people are evil."  Of course, considering whoever Tsukune ends up with, and by whoever I of course mean Moka, will be a diffrent species than him it give credence to my theory that it was unintentional.  

As for intentional messages, if there's one strong theme throughout the series it's the power of friendship and healing from past damage.  One villain who is rather similar to Tsukune remarks that if he'd friends as good as Tsukune's when he was at Yokai Academy then maybe he would have gone into villainy.  Many of the girls have tragic or otherwise unhappy pasts, but through their friendships they manage to over come that and become better people.  At the same time Tsukune grows from a boy without any aspirations in life to a young man serving as a mediator between humans and monsters.  

The series starts of in monster of the week, or monster of the chapter as it were, format but before long there is an overarching plot.  Specifically a plot about monsters and humans making peace.  Like I said before, the series starts of lighthearted but get gradually more serious as time goes on.  There's definitely serious themes and such even in the early parts, but about when Mizore shows up is when the tone really starts to change.  I haven't gotten around to reading Rosario+Vampire Season II yet, but this tend does continue from what I've seen.  In fact, by Season II the manga gets into deconstruction territory for harem tropes and the like.  As great as the first series is I can't wait to sink my teeth into Season II.   

It was one of the first manga I ever read.  It is one of my favorite manga.  It is Rosario+Vampire by Akihisa Ikeda.  Check it out today, and be prepared to fall in much in love with it as I have.     

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