Blood Alone Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A/C+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Infinity Studios LLC
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 196
  • ISBN: 1-59697-251-3
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Blood Alone Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     January 28, 2006
Release Date: February 28, 2006


Blood Alone Vol.#01
© Infinity Studios LLC


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Masayuki Takano
Translated by:Kentaro Abe
Adapted by:

What They Say
Enter Misaki, perhaps the most innocent and sincere young lady there ever was. It's almost inconceivable that she could be a vampire. And with her powers as a vampire, she could easily entice any human to do her biding... but she chooses not to. Especially when it comes to Kuroe, a young author who has a deep running past with vampires.

Can Misaki's earnest love for a human and her resolve to protect a willing mutual relationship keep her from turning Kuroe?

The Review
One of Infinity’s new titles for 2006 is filled with some good and some bad, both with the packaging and content of this debut volume of Blood Alone.

Packaging:
In a move that is definitely a step above their previous releases, Infinity Studios presents this title with gorgeous looking dust jackets that use the original Japanese tankoubon artwork. The artwork wraps around to the back of the book where it is clean except for the UPC box and small company logo. The one oddity is that there is no volume summary anywhere to be found, as I would at least think there would be one on the dust jacket flap. How can potential readers quickly find out what this book is about while sitting on the shelf?

Inside there is a one page color illustration at the beginning of the volume. The pages are mostly black with white panels, with a few all white ones. The weight of the paper is nice, although there is a strange odor coming from it. I only mention this because I could smell it when I opened my book bag. (Is it because it’s “wood-free”?) The print reproduction is not very good as it looks like it was scanned at a pretty low resolution. If you look at the lines, they are a little blurred and you can notice some small pixilation artifacts. This is too bad, as it sort of spoils what was an excellent package.

Art:
Masayuki Takano’s artwork is quite solid. The line work is very clean and there is a good use of tones to create some very striking panels with a lot of good detail in the background. The overall composition and tone coloring keeps the mood very dark and mysterious, which definitely works for this type of story. Character designs are very much realistic, with Misaki definitely drawn up in many situations to try and provoke that “moe” response. The one thing that did bug me was that there are quite a few instances of the blank-faced background character.

The panel layouts are pretty strong, but what is interesting is that there is one chapter where there are no panels and Takano uses a more free-flowing style that works quite well. I had no troubles following the dialogue and the pages were laid out with nice composition.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated and either subbed or completely retouched, usually depending on the placement and size. It is actually done very well, with my only complaint being that the subs can be a bit large. The translation is quite solid, with only a couple minor quibbles with wording. It can read a bit dry at times, but I think that is a reflection of the original dialogue. Both Misaki and Higure speak very properly, which fits their “ageless” vampire personalities, and yet there is a hint of naiveté with Misaki being the new vampire on the block.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If there is one thing you can be sure of in manga, or just about any other medium, it’s that there will never be a shortage of stories involving vampires. Whether it’s gothic bishounen, stylish action, ultra-cute blood suckers, or dry slice-of-life, there is also just about as many different styles or subgenres of vampire stories as well. Masayuki Tanako’s Blood Alone so far is a mix of many different styles that creates a drier, at times almost noir, story that is a little aimless and having a hard time with defining itself.

Misaki is a vampire in the body of what appears to be a 10-year old girl, now in the care of an older man named Kuroe. She is cared after like a princess, but not allowed out of the house on most nights and sleeps during the day to avoid the sun. Kuroe is a novelist by day, and some sort of detective at night (it’s not very clear what his side job is) who is still searching for a vampire that killed his sister and Misaki’s dad, while giving Kuroe a special gift called “Adivaurat Kudai”--meaning “Eyes that see the truth”. His eyes were injured during his sister’s attack, but upon healing they have developed the ability to spot vampirism and other signs of the undead in others.

Their relationship together is hard to figure out and seems to be left intentionally ambiguous. At times, they visually appear to be in a father-daughter or sibling relationship, but Misaki has hidden feelings of love for him that seem to cross those boundaries. Kuroe is also not Misaki’s “Renfield”, a human whose heart is consumed by their vampire “master” after drinking the vampire’s blood. Based on the history surrounding what happened to Kuroe and Misaki, it would appear that Kuroe is a sort of guardian or protector, which is even further blurred at the end of the volume with the short “Appendix” chapter as Kuroe comes home drunk and gives Misaki a hickey. Huh?? There is a more obvious relationship here that might bother some readers, which features an experienced vampire in what again looks like a 10-year old boy’s body named Higure, who Misaki goes to in order to find out more about being a vampire and Renfields. Higure has an adult male Renfield and the two definitely seem physically active with each other.

The stories of the first volume range from single chapter, slice-of-life type of stories--with Misaki taking care of a sick Kuroe, talking with Higure, or trying to do Kuroe’s detective work for him--to a multi-chapter noir style of mystery. The multi-chapter “Soul Slave” story is definitely the most engaging, which follows a human with the special ability of avoiding death by jumping from one body to the next, but in the end it leaves open a lot more questions without providing too many answers. With the mix of different types of stories and chapters, the volume as a whole lacks focus and therefore makes it hard to really become engaged with either the story or characters. Is this a story about Kuroe and Misaki finding out the answers to their lives while tracking down some vampire or superhuman predators? Or is this simply a very character driven manga with this odd partner, possibly forbidden, relationship that is ambiguous? It’s hard to say.

Comments
Looking over this release in its entirety, I have some conflicting feelings about it from both a content and presentation perspective. The dust jacket is beautiful, but the print reproduction could use some work. It is also evident that Infinity Studios put more care and effort into this release, but when flipping through the ads at the end of the volume I couldn’t help but feel a bit frustrated at seeing a bunch titles that are stuck at volume 1 of their respective releases. Perhaps Infinity is working on redefining themselves in 2006 with higher quality books, which would be a good thing, but I wish they’d go back and finish what they’ve started.

Content-wise, I very much enjoyed this more realistic approach to vampirism but the lack of focus and awkward relationships were a bit of a turn off. Is this title slice-of-life or a mystery? The lack of focus makes it hard to really become engaged with a character or story, as everything just seems to float along a bit aimlessly. The relationship between Kuroe, an adult male, and Misaki, who looks about 10-years old, is neither familial or a guardianship, but it ambiguously toes the line of a forbidden love relationship without the psychical nature (other than the strange hickey given by Kuroe). There is also a relationship between a young boy and an adult male, where the “boy” is actually an old vampire in a young body, that could possibly turn off some readers. In the end, because the relationship is so ambiguous and in a grey area, it becomes hard to connect with both characters and become interested in their playful dynamics.

Overall, I’m not really sold on this story, but the artwork is quite solid and I do like what I see with Infinity’s increased production values, with the exception of the poor print quality. Now if only I could get my hands on those volume 2’s of their other titles.

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