Fantasy · Manga · Romance · Supernatural · World Lit

Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano – A Manga Review

Recently I went through my entire my manga library so I could clean and catalogue everything. Along this dusty and sneezy journey, I picked out a few serials that I haven’t read in years that I really wanted to re-visit in May. The first of those is Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano, which is a shonen, supernatural-fantasy series.

1It revolves around a newly turned vampire, Misaki Minato, and a former vampire hunter, Kuroe Kurose, who has resigned his hunting career so that he can take care of his friend. Now the two of them solve supernatural mysteries via private investigative services. Kuroe also writes novels in his spare time to supplement their income.

When I first read this series back in February 2013 (thank you GoodReads for that precise recollection), I remember that I really enjoyed myself with it. The first thing that popped out the most to me, nostalgically speaking, were the characters and the chemistry between Misaki and Kuroe. The second was the artwork. I recalled how beautiful I felt the illustrations were. I’m quite pleased to admit that both of those things have held up fairly well even after four years. However, the story in its entirety is a completely different case, pardon the pun.

Starting with the qualities that I loved: the vampires themselves. While a few of the vampires do have a loli or moe type of air to them, overall they’re all so sophisticated and highly intellectual that those aspects don’t matter much at all. They aren’t the standard “beautiful and misjudged” stereotype that Western audiences are used to (and like to obsess over), but they also aren’t the sadistic monstrosities that’s exhibited in common anime/manga of similar genres. They’re just people who are different. This allowed for more attention to detail on getting to know the vampires individually as said people. When trying to add a layer of humanity to vampires, I belief this technique works the best; at the very least it worked damn well in Blood Alone. Granted not every single vampire is this way, but the vast majority of them are.

You never physically see vampire teeth puncture flesh in the manga series at all. A mouth on someone’s neck, sure, but never the graphic image of a vampire actually feeding in a brutal or savage way that’s expected from this type of medium. This vague depiction also contributes wonderfully to the whole notion of these creatures just being an “evolved” version of humans. In addition, this careful and tender means of delineating them feasting makes the manga feel more provocative than if it were flagrantly displayed for the world to see, if that makes sense. 001

Misaki and Kuroe themselves, as I mentioned earlier, have a wonderful relationship with a charmingly balanced chemistry. There’s a mild tension that hangs over them as their more intimate feelings for one another are implied via multiple scenarios, some more obvious than others, but it never reaches a boiling point of frustration. It’s all so stunningly simple and natural. Because Misaki was turned at a seemingly young age, her lacking maturity does surface at peculiar moments, yet even then she’ll whip out some wisdom to counteract that behaviour that makes you ponder just how old she really is. This coupled with Kuroe’s rather innocent and casual demeanour are quite complimentary to each others’ personas.

The illustrations are an aesthetic delight! I get quite weak at the knees when I discover manga that has panels positioned in perfectly organised and neat little rows, or artwork that is breathtakingly clean, crisp, and immaculate. Messy panels make it difficult for me to focus on the actual story as well as the action that’s occurring. On the other hand, uncluttered and cultivated panels wholeheartedly sweep me away, holding me riveted to the pages, even if the story isn’t so grandiose. As you can see below, Blood Alone definitely fits the latter.

Now for the not-so-lovely elements: the story. The first half of the story is quite good, mostly because it takes on an episodic approach. We learn about Kuroe’s past and a little bit about Misaki’s past, which is a very good foundation for an overarching plot. The episodic bits are essentially the cases that they solve together. Deliberately each case brings them closer to this grand, overhanging narrative, but then there’s a transition that’s painfully abrupt and jarringly confusing.

In the story, Kuroe has a loved one who’s gone missing. I really hoped that eventually everything would tie together and come full circle, leading us to this missing loved one. But that never happens. Misaki’s past does come up, but it’s completely unexpected. It doesn’t tie to the foreshadowing at all, but instead ventures onwards towards a whole new plot element that wasn’t ever introduced or nurtured enough to work fluidly for the series. To put it simply, the storyline goes bonkers with random twists and turns, making it unpleasant and distasteful.

I strongly believe that simplicity would have been the best route with Blood Alone. But instead the series tries to become an elaborate conspiracy of blood feuds from a thousand years ago, and some petty vengeance quest that’s excruciatingly forced upon the audience to further validate this imposing scheme. It doesn’t work and it could’ve been handled much, much better.

Aside from that, the finale of the manga is also brusque and unfinished. All of the exertion towards a pompous contrivance and in the end it never goes anywhere, literally. It’s like the story hit a brick wall, showed us some tender Misaki and Kuroe moments, and called it a day. Highly dissatisfying.

Overall, I recommend the first seven or eight volumes of Blood Alone, but definitely not the series as a whole. You just won’t enjoy what becomes of it, and it’s probably better to save yourself the frustration in the long run.

3 nibbles outta 5!

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