Anime Reporter set off in search of new manga treasures and returns triumphantly with Yuuki Kodoma’s Blood Lad Volumes 1-4 (chapters 1-20). Blood Lad is a relatively recent (starting in 2009) series with a gothic premise, but which takes its influences much more from the Shonen world than from anything dark, dreary or Transylvanian.
Blood Lad is largely set in hell, which is actually a pretty familiar, if slightly hostile place. Staz Charlie Blood, known as Blood Lad to a few, is a bored but powerful figure in Demon World. He’s the boss of the Eastern district, making him something like a powerful crime lord and he’s also a vampire. He doesn’t really care about that too much though, he’d much rather stay at home and watch some Studio Ghibli or read manga (who wouldn’t?). Staz is pretty heavily obsessed with the human world, particularly Japan and collects all sorts of Japanese video games, animation and books. His obsession is rewarded when a busty young human inexplicably appears in his district. Torn between his vampiric hunger, some implied lusty feelings and a general fascination with all things humans, Staz decides that Fuyumi is essentially his new best friend and is determined to have her show him around her world.
This is inconvenienced ever so slightly when Fuyumi is rather unceremoniously killed and abruptly becomes pretty dull in Staz’s eyes. It’s not a total tragedy as Fuyumi is still walking around and talking, with only a shiny white triangle on her forehead alerting anyone to the fact that she’s now a ghost. Staz pledges his help in somehow returning Fuyumi to life and also figuring out precisely how she managed to stumble into Demon World in the first place. After some pretty entertaining exploits in the human world, they find an answer and a great deal more questions in the form of Hydra Bell, a powerful young (did I mention busty) sorceress who claims to be the only one who should be able to travel between worlds.
The mysteries stack up quickly but the story takes its time, giving the reader plenty of time to get to know each of the characters and, most likely to really like them. The supporting cast is fleshed out a little by some of Staz’s underlings and a lot by his long-time friend and rival boss of the Western districts, Wolf. As much as Staz is lazy and aloof about his role in Demon World, Wolf is tough and ambitious, always looking for a worthy fight. Rather unsurprisingly, Wolf is a werewolf, at least partially, and while he lacks some of Staz’s cooler abilities, he’s an impressive combatant in his own right.
We’re also introduced to a couple of Staz’s siblings, who seem to fit the bill of classic noble vampires a lot better than their brother and they don’t seem to appreciate Staz’s slumming letting the family name down. From vampires to zombies and werewolves to changelings, this series borrows from the depths of horror, but with some very nice Shonen-style tweaks.
Staz’s brand new quest to save his new friend’s life (and maybe, you know, pick up some new video games or whatever) brings him all around Demon World and face to face with a few things that are monstrous even by his standards. Staz is pointed in the direction of a mad scientist with a fairly recognisable name and soon ends up hunting down a vicious creation with a knack for spilling blood.
The action is impressive and quickly grows in scale with plenty of imagination and escalation. Staz’s vampiric powers are much more than the stock-standard vampire abilities and the characters of Demon World live up to their potential, even so early in the series. The art style is innovative, using some rough greys for shadow effects seems a little old school but undeniably amps up the creepy atmosphere.
Kodoma doesn’t seem to be able to resist his own busty female characters and takes perhaps too many opportunities to barely obscure anything of Fuyumi’s breasts, though things do stay safely(-ish) away from explicit nudity.
The main draw of this manga is the humour. Staz’s obsession with anime and manga is refreshing and there are quite a few references and jokes which aren’t essential to the story but are very rewarding nods for long-time fans of some classic series. Dragon ball in particular seems to be one of Staz’s favourite, but he manages to sneak in a lot of Easter eggs that should bring a few smiles if not outright laughter.
It’s difficult to describe this series without giving away the early plot but Blood Lad seems to be getting ready to follow in the footsteps of many of the greats of manga, while maintaining an incredibly likeable and refreshing personality of its own.
If you’re looking for a new manga series to love, even if you’re not a fan of vampires or horror, Blood Lad is more than worth picking up.
Blood Lad Volumes 1-4 are currently available from Yen Press, with Volume 5 available in the UK from July 22nd 2014.
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84% – “Hot Blooded” – Blood Lad makes a fierce impression with its opening four volumes, managing to inject humour, personality, action and suspense into an enjoyable, fresh world. Long time otakus and manga fans will find a few extra rewards for their knowledge but this series should convert more than a few newcomers too!