Students involved with normal high school festival committees usually worry about doing a good job. For Tsukune, he’s just hoping to make it through the event without dying.
Writer/Artist: Akihisa Ikeda
Translation: Kaori Inoue
Adaptation: Gerard Jones
What They Say
QUIZ 8: SHIKIGAMIWHEN YOUR SCHOOL PRINCIPAL MAKES YOU PLAN A SCHOOL FESTIVAL WITH A CHARISMATIC LEADER OF THE STUDENT BODY WHO HAS HIS OWN PERSONAL SHIKIGAMI, YOU HAD BETTER...a. not trust him as far as you can throw his one-eyed demonb. follow his lead blindlyc. decorate the gym with colored toilet paper
A gothy brunette, looking sexy in her pink corset and torn-fishnet arm warmers, is always a welcome start to a new volume of spooky manga. Featuring the ever-alluring Ruby in what is possibly manga-ka Akihisa Ikeda’s most striking cover to date, this eighth installment of Rosario+Vampire continues directly from the previous book’s final chapter.
In order to avoid expulsion, the headmaster has tasked Tsukune with joining Yokai Academy’s festival committee. Amidst growing threats of violence from the monstrels, a group of mutant fiends looking to takeover the school, he’s forced into aiding the committee’s president, Hokuto Kaneshiro, and its staff in throwing the annual event. Predictably, the pretense for placing the institution’s lone human in such an odd situation is not merely to assure a peaceful affair—a monstrel is known to be working within the event staff, so what better bait to lure-out this spy than the freakish gang’s primary target, Tsukune.
Volume 8 is a fairly swift compilation, wasting no time cutting to the core conflict. It’s actually surprising that Moka and her female friends are immediately tipped-off to the headmaster’s artifice—one can almost sense the temptation of placing these girls in roles of devilish detectives and having them follow an ever more convoluted series of leads to save their favorite boy. Instead, by the book’s midpoint, things have already progressed into an all-out brawl involving Tsukune and the shadowy mastermind behind this delinquent monster crew.
The lack of content between when Tsukune first joins the festival committee and his current battle highlights the overall rough pacing of these monstrel chapters. Beyond their minor character development, earlier volumes largely eschewed overreaching story arcs and were predominantly held together by random fights of gradually escalating intensity. Here, even though these villains have been around since the sixth volume, Ikeda’s failed to draft their actions together into a cohesive movement. Minus incessant bellowing of monstrel ties, there’s precious little uniting their random provocations—certainly not enough to create any true rising tension. This haphazard maneuvering on part of these pawns also makes it difficult to view their leader as an especially intelligent and fearsome opponent.
Worst for wear throughout this storyline have been Ikeda’s main characters. Considering Tsukune, Moka, and the rest aren’t notably complex personas, being perpetually worried and angst ridden only exacerbates their vanilla qualities. Rosario+Vampire is perfectly acceptable fluff manga, but as such, the cast often work best when not excessively bogged down by empty concerns. For a series where the biggest question surrounds who the main character will ultimately pick as a girlfriend (assuming that’s really even debatable in this case), this most recent narrative, with everyone getting bloodied-up and teary eyed, just comes across as dramatically heavy handed.
As in adjacent volumes, the secondary girls (Kurumu, Yukari, Mizore, and now Ruby) recede further and further into the background, leaving the book to feel like a two-person play. Besides generally wishing they had larger roles, it also seems odd that Ikeda’s attempt to create a more involved storyline resulted in the majority of his characters devolving into page filler.
Visually, the volume is Ikeda’s tightest and most consistent using his more cultivated style. Instances of characters lapsing into appearances reminiscent of their old looks have become near-to-none existent, and we’re finally seeing more interesting artwork in the backgrounds, rather than simple shading or speed-lines (though these elements remain in abundance). The volume’s focus on fisticuffs does, however, expose something of a weakness for the manga-ka; he’s good for showing singular moments of intense action, but large fight sequences lack fluidity and feel routine in composition—a couple jabs, then the big hit…wash, rinse, repeat.
Ongoing titles will always have their peaks and valleys, and right now, Rosario+Vampire is trudging through something of a trough. This is not at all to suggest time has come to jettison the series, since the artwork is better than ever, and the underlying elements that originally made the manga entertaining haven’t changed. From a story standpoint, though, it’d just be good to finish this current grudge-fest and return to more amorous subject matter.