New Vampire Miyu volume 1

New Vampire Miyu volume 1 review

Art by – Narumi Kakinouchi
Story by – Toshihiro Hirano
Japanese publisher – Susperia (Akita Shôten)
English translation – (Studio Ironcat)
Volumes – 5
Genres – Shôjo, Horror, Romance

Review is based on volume 1
Miyu is both Vampire and Guardian of the Japanese Spirit Realm. Larva is her devoted servant, and assists in her vigil to keep a balance between the Dark and the normal world. When stray Demon-gods, or Shinma, seek to feed upon and destroy humans, it is Miyu’s power combined with Larva’s that returns them to the Dark. But unlike Miyu, Larva is not Japanese. He is actually a powerful Western Shinma whose original mission was to destroy Miyu. A transfer of blood bound them together instead, and her would-be assassin became her greatest ally.

However, Larva’s brethren have now travelled to Japan with every intention of returning Larva to their ranks and conquering their competition. Larva’s blood relation Carlua is particularly anxious to destroy Miyu, but not before the Japanese Vampire Princess is punished for the transgression of having enslaved a Western Shinma.

Imagine Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A being of unimaginable power, including the ability to withstand sunlight, which roams the land in search of blood. Now imagine that such a being was a brown-haired, golden-eyed thirteen-year old girl charged with the task of returning wandering Shinma to the dark and defending the gate to the Japanese Spirit Realm. That’s the premise for New Vampire Miyu, and it’s a welcome move away from the mostly comedic titles that are currently available, and towards a more eerie and spooky world where the dwellers of the dark live amongst humans, sometimes without incident, and sometimes with deadly repercussions.

Miyu is an attractive character in that her beguiling, child-like appearance is both truth and lie. More than her small stature, there’s a lack of maturity in her decisions and action which give the impression of a young innocent — not something you usually think of someone who takes pleasure in burning her enemies to cinders. But the nascence is there and proves to be her weakness on more than one occasion. Her powers may echo that of the ancient guardians, but Miyu is still vulnerable to her emotions. For that reason she has great need of Larva, who is a fascinating being himself for balancing carefully on the fine line between father-figure and paramour. He is the sage, stable force in Miyu’s existence who protects, teaches and loves her. That he’s blessed with the allure that seems common property of all vampires in literature and bishônen in manga simply widens his fan base. Together, they make a somewhat taboo but enticing couple, and it is the threat of their being separated that eats at the reader’s heart during this first volume.

New Vampire Miyu is categorised as horror, but it’s also a wonderfully gothic romance, illustrated in one of the more beautiful manners I’ve seen to date. Many of the panels are sketch-like, with little tone — primarily line work. My personal favourites are the wider panels that have layered faces or limbs meant to communicate movement. It’s accomplished not in an exaggerated form as in most comics, but in an ethereal manner that is decidedly delicate and romantic. It’s not pristine or perfect, but it carries a large emotional impact. Sadly, however truly beautiful the art may be, it’s difficult to give it full appreciation since the layout as a whole often leads to confusion. Many times — especially during fight scenes — the action is unclear. It may be very pretty to look at, but it doesn’t do what it’s meant to: tell the story.

The key to unlocking this problem could have been the dialogue, but unfortunately that’s also hard to follow on occasion since the speaker is not always easily discernible. The dialogue is also somewhat disappointing considering the wonderful idea the author had to work with. Part of the reason is the run-of-the-mill writing itself, but the other part of the problem is how the dialogue translates. The way something reads in Japanese does not necessarily have the same effect in English — even if it is a literal translation — so by English standards some of the writing comes across as stilted or clichéd. Admittedly though, the characters and story are engaging enough to overcome most of the verbal shortcomings.

And once again, the art in New Vampire Miyu is splendid. Studio Ironcat managed to successfully reproduce the beautiful tones and ink washing from the original, and topped off the volume with a lovely gallery of individual issue covers, and attractive start and end pages. If not for some terribly blatant errors and a silly omission, it would have been quite the accomplishment, but this volume was slightly marred by blurry pages, missing words in some of the speech balloons, and — perhaps the strangest complaint of all — a lack of page numbers. These faults were not the death of the volume, but they were certainly distracting. Hopefully they will not be present in the proceeding volumes, and corrected in future printings of the first.

Ultimately New Vampire Miyu has all the makings of a great manga series: awesome characters, gorgeous art, an exciting story, and a nice presentation, but this volume has a few too many flaws to qualify as more than good. I eagerly look forward to the next instalment, but considering the price of the volume, it’s not a necessary addition to the manga bookshelf unless you’re a fan of vampires or horror in general.

Language – Threats abound but there is little to no vulgar language.
Violence – Where there are vampires, there’s blood — and plenty of it goes flying in this volume. However, it isn’t as graphic as some other manga — no decapitations or tearing of limbs…
Nudity – None.
Sex – None, though there is a great deal of erotic subtext and a few eyebrows may be raised by the close relationship between the very child-like Miyu and bishônen Larva.

By Raven


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