Written by Brett Reistroffer
If there is one thing that all fans of the Blood series can all agree on, it is that we are not fed nearly enough material to sink our collective fangs into every time there is a new exploration of the series. It hooked us with an all-too-short movie, which led to a short series of light novels, and on to a short manga series with even shorter spin-offs. The original anime series, Blood+ at least gave us a bit more meat to chew on, but at the end of the day the story of Saya, the vampire slaying teenager felt woefully unfinished. Thankfully, in 2011 fans of the franchise were given more blood splatterings with the production of a new series, albeit in the form of a new iteration and retelling of the character, rather than a direct continuation. With a new story, new character, and new monsters also came a new design and aesthetic, based on the creative stylings of the fan favorite all-female mangaka group CLAMP. Now, long-time US licensee of the franchise Dark Horse is publishing the manga companion series of the animated adventure.
The new manga series is not a story all its own, rather it is a direct adaptation of the anime, handled by Ranmaru Kotone. Saya, in this Blood-C interpretation is a fumbling, but well-meaning, high school student living the average life of a teenaged girl by day, while hunting supernatural beasts by night. She is guided by her father, a holy man who keeps the knowledge of these ‘ancient ones’ and guides his daughter’s blade swinging, just like her mother before her. There’s a healthy sized supporting cast, consisting mostly of her fellow students who generally conform to the generic school girl/boy archetypes you will see in most anime and manga series. The beasts this time around, unlike the single variety of chiropterans in the original series, are an array of different beasts and creatures, all alike only in their malevolence towards humans.
With this being only the first volume, we are not treated to any real depth of the story and the mythos behind it, but rather a simple introduction to the character and her dual life (although if you want the full story you could check out the parent anime). To be honest, the setup does not all retain the edgy mystique of the original in choosing to deliver the story as a somewhat clichéd goofy-high-schooler-who-secretly-slays-things series. While yes, things aren’t quite what they seem for young Saya (don’t worry, no spoilers here), it still feels like a minor dumbing down of the franchise. One of the great strengths of the Last Vampire movie was its maturity and purposeful refrain from standard anime conventions, but this new series seems to do everything it can to embrace them. However, regardless of the presentation, we are still blessed with the core principles of the Blood world: swift sword work, monster slaying, and a secret and duplicitous world pulling the violent strings of Saya’s life.
The art style of the manga mostly conforms to the anime series, which in turn is based on CLAMP’s original designs. While it does not go as far as looking like a CLAMP book, it certainly does retain the lanky, slender characters and attention to the ‘cute factor’. In fact, the cast is the focus of most of the rendering, leaving sometimes sparse and uninteresting backgrounds and environments. The only other flaw in the inks are the action sequences, which suffer from the all-too familiar condition of chaotic and somewhat incoherent manga paneling. It is not to the point of leaving the reader unable to read the visuals completely, but it does interrupt the flow of the book by not having slicker and cleaner sequences. Other than those minor issues however, the art is more than functional on the whole and gets the job done.
As with any intellectual property with an even somewhat rich history, there will always be something for the fans to disparage over when presented a retelling or new interpretation, but ultimately Blood-C does stand on its own as a respectable anime/manga series. And perhaps that is the best way in which to view both in their own regard, without trying to shackle the younger sibling to its predecessor’s achievements. It is certainly a more homogenized version of the story, fitting itself more snuggly with other similar series, but it does so with enough identity and style to peek its head over the crowd. Blood-C vol. 1 is available now through Dark Horse and deserves a chance to sit on your shelf next to the past volumes of Saya the slayer.