One-part monster smackdown + one-part school festival of romantic misunderstandings = significantly more entertaining Rosario+Vampire.
Writer/Artist: Akihisa Ikeda
Translation: Kaori Inoue
Adaptation: Gerard Jones
What They Say
When two of your monster friends' mothers mistake you for their precious daughter's boyfriend, act like...
A. The perfect monster-in-law to be
B. You love to play the field
C. You never met them before in your life
Tedious volumes of the Rosario crew moping about, while fending-off random attacks from a shadowy clique of B-grade monsters, have come to an overdue (and awfully predictable) end. Last we saw our ghoulish gang, Tsukune had just gotten the stuffing beat-out of him by the deceptively affable Hokuto, head of the school festival committee and leader of the nasty posse hoping to annihilate Yokai Academy.
Hokuto's goal is far greater than merely dismantling one demon school-he's attempting to rip asunder the protective barrier separating the human realm and the hellion institution, plunging both worlds into unfathomable chaos. Predictably, this malevolent teenager isn't the straightforward world-domination type: he's got a murky past, a sinister secret, and probably no future objective once the merger of both realities is complete. Lucky for him our protagonists are neither the most intelligent nor swift to act, as can be attested by Moka's exclamation of "all your talk...was it just to buy time," howled only seconds after Hokuto hits the start button on his fiendish machinations.
All the yammering and requisite grandstanding gets sprinkled about a fairly impressive three-way brawl, easily the best sequence manga-ka Akihisa Ikeda has choreographed to date. Unlike the author's usual brand of visual fisticuffs, comprising a page of random punches followed by one slick image of a character smugly satisfied with their triumphant victory, this battle rages across several chapters. Ikeda does a noticeably better job linking the dynamic portions of the fight, while avoiding his tendency to draw singular moments, often feeling like arbitrary still frames from a movie. The overall effect is a confrontation that carries itself through each panel and imparts an added perception of physical movement.
The grand finale to this story arc, with Hakuto and his monstrel hoard, shouldn't come as much surprise, especially after a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing injected right before the school's spectral barrier threatens to dissipate. Then again, considering there's still half a book left to read at this particular juncture and that Rosario+Vampire hasn't exactly employed any shocking twists to its contents over the series' course, one can safely assume circumstances find a way of working-out for Tsukune and his haunted harem.
After a decidedly brusque roundup (and fabulous one-page shot of Kurumu cradling a very happy pumpkin), the series finally opens on the first day of Yokai Acedemy's school festival. Despite a student body with fangs, scales, and other nightmarish attributes, their celebration is born from the same mold as most Japanese cultural festivals found in anime and manga: there's goldfish scooping, cafes, haunted houses and the like, all run by the school's individual classes.
Employing a stock concept isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it immediately reintroduces the askew take on romantic comedy this manga has done so well in the past. Moka, dolled-up in a lovely kimono, is hoping to spend a heart-pounding evening with her favorite two-legged blood supply, until a pair of parental obstructions in the form of Kurumu and Mizore's mothers dash the darling vamps' sweet aspirations. Once Tsukune bumbles his way through these maternal liaisons, he gets his own unexpected familial visit-a major cause for concern, when humans aren't particularly welcome in this academic devil's den.
With a stern storyline being brought to close and the transition to more lighthearted fare, Volume 9 comes across a slightly awkward package. The monstrel chapters were never the most interesting or well conceived, so one can't feel too disappointed by their subsequently tepid ending. But while only accounting for half the book, it was satisfying to see Rosario+Vampire featuring Ikeda's improved artistic chops, paired with the type of material that originally made the series entertaining.