This is another title in the Blood+ series with a bit of fanservice for the ladies. Unfortunately, I am not impressed with the fast-pace and lack of background in this rendition of the Blood+ universe.
Writer/Artist: Kumiko Suekane
Translation: Camellia Nieh
Adaptation: Camellia Nieh
What They Say
On the eve of the Russian Revolution, our favorite Chiropteran-hunting duo masquerades as members of Tsar Nicholas Romanov's royal chamber orchestra. Saya begins to uncover some of the strange secrets of the Romanov royal family and, of course, finds some hideous Chiropteran beasts who are doing a little masquerading of their own. Despite being one of the Chiropteran "originals," Saya's devoted her life to eradicating the wilder, more vicious Chiropteran spawn who prey on humanity, and this short series embraces the same mix of action, humor, and horror.
The front cover depicts Hagi and Saya in period clothing, which shows the era this series will be set in. I find it interesting how the two are embracing in a manner that suggests Hagi is 'playing' Saya like a cello. The idea that these two are intimate or that Hagi is in charge is very different from their relationship in the 'Blood+' series. The packaging itself is clean and crisp with nice paper and strong inks throughout the book. Recently, Dark Horse has begun printing color pages on the same paper as the rest of the book, so I was pleasantly surprised that the color page in this book is printed on thick glossy paper. Extras include a long afterward by a chief producer at the television station that aired the 'Blood+' television series. There is also a description of the next volume of 'Blood+ Adagio' and the upcoming 'Blood+ Kowloon Nights', which is a solo story about Hagi.
Based on the 'Blood+' anime, this manga rendition's art and character design is very similar to that seen in the 'Blood+' manga series by Asuka Katsura. However, an instantly noticeable difference is Hagi; just about everything about him. In 'Adagio', Hagi's face is much more expressive, he is very talkative, and his right hand is still normal and not the weird claw. The art in this series is clean and the characters are attractive and well proportioned. Backgrounds are sparse and the few action scenes are brief. Overall, the art is quite good, but I think I prefer Katsura's art style to Suekane's.
The translation reads just fine and Dark Horse uses my preferred method of translating the Japanese SFX. Dark Horse leaves the original SFX alone and adds small English SFX translations alongside. As for the honorifics, I am torn on their use in this book. The presence of honorifics in the translation must mean they were there in the original version and that is my problem. This story is set in western Russia, so the use of Japanese honorifics for any character other than Saya is just out of place. The children of the royal Russian family would never use Japanese honorifics nor know what they were. I almost think Dark Horse should have removed them, which would have given the story a more natural flow.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This rendition of the Blood+ universe takes place in Russia during Czar Nicholas II reign, 1916 to be exact. Saya and Hagi have arrived in Russia to infiltrate the royal family and kill any Chiropterans slinking around in the dark. The best way to accomplish this is to join the royal musicians, ultimately allowing access to the palace and the freedom to move about. Moreover, Hagi is a kickass cellist, so he'll fit right in. Saya isn't as good, which is embarrassing but at the same time frees her up to move around the palace and gather information.
The story quickly reminds the reader of their history lessons and the fact that Nicholas' only son, Alexei has the blood disease known as hemophilia. This hereditary blood disorder results from a lack of blood platelets, which makes it very difficult for injuries to stop bleeding. This reminder of Alexei's weakness often takes the form of his mother's rage towards any of his sisters that play rough him. Quite an understandable reaction considering Alexei is the only son and heir to the Russian kingdom.
This blood disease plays into this story quite nicely as a strange, beautiful man appears promising Alexei's mother a potential cure to the disease. This man, Grigori, quickly ingratiates himself with the queen. Even to the point that the subjects begin to wonder if there is some kind of sexual affair going on, despite Grigori's claim to be a priest. No one knows Grigori is really one of Diva's Chevaliers, and that he is experimenting on humans in an attempt to turn them into Chiropteran's. It seems Alexei is not the only sick child in the palace; many of the servants have come to work for the royal family with the promise that Grigori can help their sick sibling.
Saya and Hagi arrived at the palace just as Grigori's medications begin to work. In no time, Saya is slaying Chiropterans, even ones that she had befriended while they were still human. With all this happening, where is Diva? Is Grigori the only Chevalier at the palace?
I am a big fan of the Blood+ universe and thoroughly enjoyed both the anime series and its manga adaptation by Asuka Katsura. Unfortunately, little about 'Adagio' impressed me. Yes, I did find it interesting to see Saya and Hagi interact more like lovers, although I felt Saya behaved too childishly for this arc unless she is like this every time she awakes from her hibernation. However, it is interesting to see Hagi behave so much more like a human, talking to people and Saya, basically just living.
While those aspects were interesting, Suekane's storytelling is less than spectacular. It feels like a kid driving a car for the first time, heavy on the gas and then slamming on the brakes.
Since 'Adagio' is touted as a prequel to the Blood+ series, there should have been a lot more background on the characters. If a reader decided to use this series as a way to start enjoying the Blood+ series they would be very confused. There is no discussion of Saya and Hagi's background and I don't think there is anything about how Saya's blood is needed to kill Chiropterans. I would certainly not recommend 'Adagio' to anyone new to the Blood+ universe.
As someone familiar with the Blood story, I was confused when Saya and Hagi began receiving orders as if they were working for the Red Shield. I was even more confused when David from the Red Shield shows up. What the hell? How can David be alive in 1916 and then still be a younger man during Vietnam and the later period of the Blood+ anime? Perhaps this will be explained in the next 'Adagio' volume, but I am very disappointed in this rendition.
If you have not read or watched anything about the Blood+ story, I don't recommend reading 'Adagio' first or you will probably be really confused. On the other hand, maybe that is my problem. Maybe knowing about the Blood+ story before reading 'Adagio' messed me up.