It's not every day that I receive a review copy for a manga that immediately makes me want to hanker for the physical copy – doubly so if it involves vampires. Yet, surprise, surprise that’s just how I felt after reading Blood Alone.
This compilation of the first three volumes of the series, which is both drawn and written by Masayuki Takano, has an interesting history - originally published as a doujinshi before being picked up by Dengeki Daioh in 2005 (where it's still on-going), and after a successful but short release by Infinity Studios in 2006, it has been re-released by Seven Seas in an omnibus edition of the first three volumes (something they have also done with another rescued series, Gunslinger Girls).
The series follows the adventures of Kuro, a successful author by day who spends his nights as a part-time private detective and vampire hunter – not an easy job when you live in a city rife with the buggers! So it comes as a surprise to learn that his ward/room-mate/partner Misaki is also a vampire who, although only recently turned is still physically an early teenager - with all the emotional connotations that come with it - yet despite their apparent age difference (with Kuroe looking in his late 20's to early 30's) the way they were written never gave me any sense of discomfort about the relationship between the two – the relationship is more familial love than anything else.
The stories in these first three volumes are primarily presented as stand-alone (and wildly extreme) cases – in the first chapter a case of a missing cat narrowly winds up as a race to escape from a knife wielding murderer, while another has the pair trying to solve a string of murders with a grisly and altogether supernatural connection. If this sounds a little overpowering, there are chapters dealing with mundane and comical events too, so the pacing is really quite nicely presented.
Yet as time passes we find that there are plot elements and characters (like fellow child vampire and elder Higure) that do regularly reappear, along with background details that serve to only tease the reader, such as the events that drove Kuro to become a vampire hunter and the question of how, despite this, did he wind up looking after Misaki? Even Misaki's past has yet to be revealed…
To his credit Masayuki Takano doesn’t fall for the traits that mar other series like Twilight – you'll find no angst ridden, half-dressed pretty boys here – if anything Blood Alone is closer to the original lore found in Dracula than any current toothy TV series. If anything the way that these vampires are portrayed reminded me of those of the White Wolf role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade.
Also it seems that Takano's talent doesn’t just lie in writing - the artwork for this series is amazingly detailed and at times does as good a job of telling the story as the writing itself. From the clothing to the design of the rooms and backgrounds – even to such incidental things such as colouring the borders black and white to distinguish between night and day – only serve to heighten your experience of the series.
In conclusion, if you want to show a vampire sceptic a series with real meat on its bones, you could do far worse than to send a copy of Blood Alone their way.
As an aside, three CD dramas were released between 2006 and 2008 and stared Mai Nakahara (Nagisa Furukawa in Clannad, and Haruna Niekawa from Durarara!) as Misaki, and Toshiyuki Morikawa as Kuroe (who amongst his many role include Griffith from Berserk and in Final Fantasy VII Advent Children as Sephiroth). With talent like this why haven’t we had an anime for this series yet? (pout)