Blood+ Novel Vol. #01 - First Kiss - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 8.95
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 978-1-59307-898-0
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: BLOOD+ (novel)

Blood+ Novel Vol. #01 - First Kiss

By Greg Hackmann     June 16, 2008
Release Date: March 31, 2008


Blood+ Novel Vol.#01 - First Kiss
© Dark Horse


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Ryo Ikehata / Chizu Hashii
Translated by:John Thomas
Adapted by:N/A

What They Say
Suffering from extreme amnesia, high school student Saya Otonoshi can't remember anything from her life beyond the last year. Living with a foster family outside a military base in Okinawa, Japan, Saya's attempts to live a normal life are shattered when a Chiropteran, a horrific vampire-like monster, attacks her. Saved at the last minute by a mysterious man named Hagi, Saya is presented with a sword that awakens in her a warrior's skills and bloodlust and sets her on a course that will lead her to the answers of her missing memories, and into battle against a race of creatures intent on destroying the world.

Features 16 pages of illustrations by series character designer Chizu Hashii.

The Review
Though First Kiss is in some ways a step backwards from its Blood: the Last Vampire parentage, readers looking for a straightforward supernatural action story should get a lot of entertainment out of it.

Packaging:

The cover art presents Saya in a high-school uniform with her trademark sword drawn. The character design here is a tad unusual, with a drawing style that evokes American and European comics almost as much as manga. This look permeates the book's 16 pages of illustrations (four of which are printed in full color), which are printed with a screentone style of shading that underscores the American pop art influence.

Contrary to Dark Horse's soliciation, the novel packs a hefty 358 pages, making it by most measures one of the longest anime- or manga-related novels I've read. (Only the Oh My Goddess! novel rivals it for sheer page count, with the Blood+ novel using a denser formatting style that crams more text onto each page.) The vast majority of the book's body belongs to the novel's text, which is crisply-printed and easy to read. A one-page "About the Author"/"About the Artist" section follows the text, representing the book's only extra.

Text/SFX:

The prose reads very choppily, with most paragraphs containing only one or two sentences. The vocabulary and grammatical complexity feel pared down even by light novel standards, which usually hit high-school reading levels or higher. Not having read the Japanese version of the novel, I can't say whether this writing style is representative of the original Japanese text or not; either way, it seems dumbed-down in comparison to the beautifully written (though bizarrely meandering) Blood: the Last Vampire novel.

To top it off, there are minor grammatical errors peppered throughout the English script -- subject-verb disagreements, comma and apostrophe abuse, etc. They aren't numerous enough to derail the narrative (they're on the order of a few errors each chapter); but they're just common enough for the translation to seem sloppy, and obvious enough that they should have been caught before publication.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Despite chronic health problems that include severe amnesia, Saya Otonashi seems to have settled pretty well into her new high school life, and has even begun to recover fragments of her memory from the life she led before losing her memory just a year ago. Part of Saya's steady recovered is owed to her supportive adoptive family, consisting of brothers Kai and Riku and father George Miyagusuku, a retired American military officer of Japanese descent who's settled down in the Okinawa military base to dedicate his life to orphaned children. Her serene home and school life are interrupted when she returns to school one night to recover some shoes that she left behind, only to be accosted by a supernatural beast that slaughters one of the school's teachers.

Though Saya blacks out and can't recall later what happened that night, her older brother Kai witnessed a scene that has obviously shaken him: Saya being guided, as if possessed, by a mysterious man to run the monster through with a sword. This man, Hagi, turns out to work with Red Shield, a secretive organization dedicated to tracking down and eliminating the vampire-like "Chiropteran" monsters that only Saya can kill. A flashback reveals that Saya's placement in an local military family was far from an accident: after finding Saya wrapped in a cocoon at his wife's grave, George was tasked by Red Shield with caring for Saya until she was fit to battle the Chiropterans again. (What role Saya played in Red Shield's past, and how this ended in her hibernation in a Japanese shrine, largely remain unanswered questions during the course of the novel -- I assume those are aspects that later novels will delve further into.)

After a partly-recovered Saya and Hagi hunt down a second Chiropteran to an American military installation, with other members of Red Shield in tow, it becomes clear that the American army has played some role in the Chiropterans' appearance. Saya and company discover a medicine in the secret American military hospital/bunker that bestows regenerative healing powers on those who are injected with it ... with the unfortunate side effect of turning them into Chiropterans. Though the investigation goes south, with the American military eventually bombing the base to cover up the evidence, Red Shield is able to find ties to a Vietnamese girl's school that date back to the U.S.'s infamous military involvement in the country.

And who better to send on an investigation of this school than a Japanese schoolgirl with latent vampire-killing powers?

Comments
The Blood franchise has such a large and established pedigree in anime and manga fandom, even just in terms of what's been released here in America, that it's kind of odd to talk about the Blood+ novel in isolation: after all, it's an adaptation of a TV series sequel to a feature film, all of which are commercially available in North America. That said, readers who are entering the franchise at this point should find the novel to be a fairly fun and light read -- and one that stands alone from its many film, TV, manga, and prose relatives. If the novel has a weakness, it's that it loses a bit on originality points: Ikehata never really tries to go any deeper than the "high school student with the special power to kill horrible monsters" high concept. While Saya makes for an interesting character and there are a few unexpected (and quite dramatic) deaths, the novel is surprisingly straightforward in execution, especially considering that the story that zips across countries and references some dark moments in American military history.

This fact probably won't bother readers who are just into Blood+ for the vampire killin' -- a plot point that Ikehata handles well -- but it makes the narrative feel flat in comparison to its Blood: the Last Vampire predecessor. Japanese-American political tension permeates the Blood novel (and, to a lesser degree, the film) in a very organic way, whereas in First Kiss the Vietnamese- and modern-era politics serve as little more than window dressing. I personally missed having this depth in Ikehata's novel, which plays as a straight supernatural action thriller with no delusions of being anything more complex; whether other readers will consider this omission a problem (or even a feature) is largely a matter of personal taste.

And now for the obvious question: will existing fans of the Blood+ anime want to revisit the story in novel format? Unfortunately, I'm not exactly the best person to comment on this. I've only managed to catch the first few episodes of the series so far, which is equivalent in plot to roughly the first half of the novel; and even that was months ago. But from what I can remember of these episodes, the novel's first act doesn't seem to add much that wasn't already present in its TV predecessor, apart from some exposition (owing to the novel's length and omniscient third-person perspective). Still, at an $8.95 MSRP, die-hard Blood+ fans would be forgiven for double-dipping, if only for curiosity's sake.

Despite my complaints about the writing style and redundancy, I did find the novel to be a pretty solid read overall. I'm looking forward to the second installment, and hoping that I'll have the chance to catch up on the TV series in the meantime.

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