Everybody starts from somewhere. Despite how one may seem, they were not born with the inherent ability to succeed. Cliche as it may be, success takes consistent effort, a desire to strive onwards, the will to be better than yourself. Of course, this is more often easier said that done, which leaves many would be go-getters winding up in the proverbial wayside to which many before them have fallen. Yet, for those who refuse to surrender, whether through pure determination or indomitable stubbornness, there awaits a summit, a pinacle on which to stand. However, despite the awe inspiring nature of such a view, one much never lust for it at the expense of witnessing each and every step up their metaphorical mountain, lest they find their victory Pyrrhic in every sense of the word.
Road trip! Just three guys, two girls and a jeep speeding down the highway, heading straight for sun, adventure and one of the largest military missions ever undertaken by the remnants of humanity who now call the ruined landscape of Japan their home in the loosest, noblest sense of the word. With the promise of an all out goddamn vampire invasion looming on the blood streaked horizon, the Moon Demon Company has decided to march one hundred strong and resolute straight into the heart of Vampire Noble territory. The best of the worst, these pompous blood-suckers enjoy nothing more than slaughtering, kidnapping, brutalising and sitting in the park for a refreshing beverage…which is blood (the blood of a four year old girl for those who want specifics, specifics which will now haunt your every waking moment, and a few of your resting ones). Thus, with villains so gosh darn villainous, our plucky young crew of vampire hunters in-training are all too pumped to begin their careers…as soon as their done pranking each other. This is where we come to the part of Vampire Reign which has been nagging at me for a while now; I’m still a little uncertain on the tone of this series. Anime is all over the shop, this I know, from sombre, to exhilarating, to comedic, they tend to cover them all, yet for some reason Vampire Reign hasn’t truly come into its own in my mind. That being said, this volume was a sizeable step in the right direction. As it stands, the comedic elements of the story still strike me as rather odd. The conclusion that I have come to is that after the intensity of the first volume, and the promise of the story set to follow, I expected a much more consistent tone of darkness. With the advent of the surviving populace attending high school, the manga took a rather large tonal shift that I still haven’t recovered from. It is for this reason that I enjoyed this volume. Following another example of this odd comedy, Shinoa Squad is immediately reprimanded and chastised for their utter lack of care and awareness of their situation. Whilst the power and purity of youth is often a selling point for manga, most noticeable those of the shonen genre, Vampire Reign is a series where you can’t help but agree wholeheartedly with Guren. Shinoa Squad acted like idiots, pretending to ditch their teammates on an open highway, whilst funny to them, was a major tactical oversight, given the fact that vampires tend to pop up wherever they are least wanted. As such, these actions were tremendously dangerous and, given that the manga consistently reminds us how dangerous a single vampire can be, downright stupid. For that reason alone, I appreciate the volume and, should the story continue to twist these odd moments into genuine character building experiences, stand prepared to rescind my former uncertainty regarding the plot at large.
Another strong aspect of this volume was the continued development of Yu as a protagonist. Though his speeches on family and friendship can be a little heavy handed, it is nice to see that the events of the story have not been wasted on him. Despite still possessing his brash streak and an all around desire to best his vampiric foes, his character is now a much more competent one, willing to accept defeat as an opportunity to learn, rather than one to sulk. This actually does strike a nice contrast with the aforementioned humour and presents an interesting dynamic, as Yu now stands as foil to Shinoa in a completely new way. When introduced, Shinoa was the quirky girl whose personality belied her combat skill. As such, she possessed an air of superiority and her mocking nature came of as her hazing her latest charge. However, as the story has progressed, Yu’s evolution as a character now has him standing above Shinoa in many aspects. Apart from the obvious power gap, due in no small part to Yu’s mysterious latent powers, Shinoa now comes of as rather bratty. As it is so clearly put, her overall lack of respect for authority is not backed up by inexperience and, despite her speeches to the contrary, she does not stand head and shoulders above the rest of her team. Though Yu is reckless and has in the past leaped into the fray, Shinoa still feels as if she is too far in the background of events. Despite being the leader of Shinoa Squad, she does not command and real degree of control. In fact, most of the moment she has reigned in her squad have been surrounded by comedy, with her scythe being the punchline. Therefore, the curb stomp battle between Guren Squad and Shinoa Squad served as an all to welcome wake up call for a character who has yet to show her real potential. Still, can’t help but feel bad for the poor girl, can’t be too easy hearing that you suck and your friend will probably all die because of you.
All around, this was a pretty solid volume of Vampire Reign. Though still existing in the immediate prelude to action, the various aspects of these chapters pulled together to present a nice feeling of development and progress. Personally, I enjoyed the role reversal of it all, as Yu and Kimizuki now stand as the more responsible duo of Shinoa Squad, though their vitriolic tendencies still prevail. Despite my previous statements to the contrary, I also do enjoy the moments where squadmates showcase their more jovial sides, revealing the camaraderie and familiarity with which they interact with their fellow soldiers. Of course, there is certainly a discernable time and place for such rabble rousing (and the showing off of sports cars). All this being said, I am decidedly excited for the story to finally reach its next explosive battle, as Moon Demon Company has promised the slaying of at least eight Vampire Nobles within fifteen minutes. How long this actually takes in real world manga time remains to be seen, but I remain excited nonetheless. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a little more Mika development in the story, because at this point he still strikes me as a sulky vampire who got tricked rather easily into turning against his own. I mean of course humanity isn’t completely virtuous, but I still don’t know how willing I would be to trust a species of cruelty that literally discusses children like they’re vintages. There aren’t even words to describe how evil that is, but if I had to try I’d say very. Very, very evil.
Seriously, you’re either a Madman (or an idiot) to align with vampires this clearly evil. I’m looking at you Mika