Rosario+Vampire Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, June 30, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Translated by:Kaori Inoue
Adapted by:Gerard Jones
What They Say
All-around average teenager Tsukune can't get accepted to any high school save one... but on his first day he finds the rest of the student body doesn't appear average at all. Best of all, the cutest girl on campus can't wait to fling he arms around his neck! Wait a sec - are those her teeth around his neck too...?
Tuskune's going to have one heck of a hickey when he gets home from Monster High! But does he have a chance in H-E-double hockey sticks of raising his grades at a school where the turf war isn't between the jock and the nerds but the vampires and the werewolves?
Inviting school girls in short skirts always make for great covers. Clearly VIZ agrees, having affected only minor English language tweaks to the original Japanese front of Rosario + Vampire; its bold colors and clean design effortlessly catch the eye, though the book otherwise features the same acceptably average production found in most VIZ manga.
On an ancillary note, I truly wish manga companies, as a whole, would allow greater individuality in their packaging by foregoing the use of obnoxious boilerplate branding elements, in this instance the chunky "Shonen Jump Advanced" logo resting atop our girl's knees. I can appreciate minimal company-related text on the front cover, but not these bloated graphics constantly reminding the book is just another piece in a larger product line.
Sparkling eyes, curvy bodies, and barely-there skirts, if more monsters looked like the beauties of Yokai Academy then I certainly wouldn't mind being their victim. Manga-ka Akihisa Ikeda invokes all the essentials in this supernatural high school story: girls are lovely, creatures sufficiently menacing, action sequences contain the right amount of kinetic flair. Precise line work and simple shading define his clean illustrations, while Ikeda's panels flow together with fluid easeas a whole, Rosario + Vampire stands as a good example of visually friendly manga.
Having come to the series after watching several episodes of the recent animated adaptation, I was left slightly surprised by the downplayed fan-service. Sure, the girls are amply proportioned, but don't expect a deluge of sexually charged imagery. Naughty moments are subtle with a fleeting glimpse of exposed cleavage or panties. Though maybe a tad disappointing, this less exploitive approach is respectable, since the girl's devilish nature should afford an air of strength and physical formidability.
Nonetheless, Rosario + Vampire only musters a modest first outing. Ikeda's style is certainly pleasing, but fails to truly distinguish itself amongst the glut of manga lining today's bookshelves. His designs are not the most inspired andmore often than they shouldsuffer in consistency with characters given to odd proportions and sloppy faces. Backgrounds could also use some livening, as they're rather barren and full of negative space.
VIZ can usually be trusted to deliver coherent English adaptations, so it's no surprise a straightforward title like Rosario + Vampire reads smoothly. Honorifics are omitted, a nuance I personally would have preferred retained as the story takes place in a modern Japanese high school setting; the book, however, is no way worse for wear in their absence.
As tends to be the company's custom, sound effects are replaced by English language equivalents. I'd rather have seen them left untouched with small accompanying translations listed near their vicinity, but thankfully VIZ is relatively accomplished at the task of creating new art inline with the Japanese original. Their efforts do go awry when text bleeds across existing illustrations; in these cases instead of retouching, boxy overlays are implement which do, sadly, obscure portions of the image.
High school is a major step in any young person's life; too bad Tsukune Aono's pathetic grades and abysmal entrance exams precluded him from all but a single educational establishment situated in some far removed boonies. After hitching a ride on a deserted bus steered by an eerily ambiguous driver, the lad finds himself deposited on the craggy, windblown outskirts of his new home-away-from home, Yokai Academy. A trail of blasted earth and withered trees isn't the only acquaintance meeting Tsukune as he trudges towards a new scholastic year. Saying hello with a runway bike to his face is the luscious Moka Akashiya, one of the nicest girls you'll ever meet besides her little blood sucking habit.
Yes, Moka's a vampire, and Yokai Academy is an institution specifically founded to instruct the future of all things that'll go bump in the night. How a regular guy like Tsukune managed to get overlooked by the administration is anyone's guess, but it's not long before Moka discovers this secret and he's forced to choose between abandoning the foxy friend or risking death by staying on at the Academy.
Since it wouldn't have been much of a story if he went home, the lowly mortal obviously decides to continue lessons at the demon school, all the while hiding his tasty human existence from the frightening student populous. Too bad Tsukune's most trusted confidant could well be his biggest liability. There's nothing worse than hormonally charged teenage monsters jealous over his close relationship with the campus' cutest nosferatu, one who just happens have a violent dual personality released anytime her cross-shaped necklace is removed. Whether dodging angry claws or Moka's innocent attempts at stealing a crimson meal, Tsukune's going to have a long term ahead of him.
Rosario + Vampire doesn't waste any time dropping us into the fray, which is probably ideal since complex introductions are unnecessary when kick starting a standard romantic comedy. Tsukune's the oblivious leada relatively vanilla personality male readers can easily identify withthat through no effort on his part snags the heart (and appetite) of the hottest girl in school. Following standard protocol, Moka and our lucky loser hesitantly fumble about each other with blushing cheeks and adverted gazes, neither wanting to openly admit to their feelings; and because outwardly they are just friends, ample room exists for other would be paramours to swoop-in and steal the unlikely Casanova for themselves. For this purpose, the first volume introduces the cheesecake succubus Kurumu; and if the anime is any indication, the current love triangle will soon expand, leaving no fetish by the wayside.
The tribulation of interspecies adolescent relationships is only one of the book's showcases. Yokai Academy serves as a monster-of-the-week factory, churning out a new fiend for dimwitted Tsukune and company to confront each chapter. After submitting to the predictable one-sided thrashing and obligatory chest pounding, Moka's cross necklaceor rosario as it's calledwill get dislodged (a task only Tsukune can seemingly accomplish, further fueling the romantic tension), which unleashes her true vampiric form. A sassy personality upgrade comes packed with the bauble-less vixen, now effortlessly able to decimate her foes, often with a fearsome crater-inducing kick, thus saving the day.
What the manga lacks in originality it compensates for with a light atmosphere and unabashed presentation. Never coming across as oppressive or tirelessly dramatic, Rosario + Vampire fully embraces its many established conventions, tapping the material for its maximum entertainment value; combined with a swift pacing and overall solid composition, this first volume offers a readily enjoyable high school comedy with a ghouls and ghosts twist.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left