The vampires in Blood Alone have something called farumek — the ability to hypnotize humans by looking into their eyes. That is how I felt when I first picked up this subtle but addicting tale several years ago, back when it was being published by Infinity Studios. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the art and the simplicity of the story, as Takano slowly – very slowly – builds a three-dimensional world that begs to be savored at leisure. Readers who want a fast moving story or even one that starts slow, then gradually speeds up, are not the audience for Blood Alone. Even after six volumes, Takano maintains his steady pace, creating a vampire story that is less plot-based and more slice-of-life, which is not the norm for vampire stories.
But this isn’t your typical vampire tale, full of angst and blood, and Misaki is far from the average vampire girl. She lives with Kuroe, a young man who is a writer and a private detective with a mysterious past and, “eyes that see the truth.” Their relationship is one of many unanswered questions, especially since she looks to be around eleven-years-old and Kuroe to be in his mid-20s. At times they seem to have a father/daughter relationship, but they share the same bed at night. As the volumes continue, it becomes clear that Takano is creating a Lolita-type relationship, albeit choosing to focus on the innocent aspects of such a relationship. For the most part, Takano avoids the creepy aspects of an older man and a young girl being partners (friends? something more?) in favor of showing two people who have been hurt in the past clinging together for support, companionship, and love. Several times Misaki denies that she and Kuroe are “like that.” But other characters still assume, especially Sainome, a woman Kuroe sometimes works with who has an unrequited crush on him. Higure, an obviously very powerful and very old vampire boss, also looks to be around eleven, though he clearly has a more mature relationship with his male “Renfields,” or the human servants of a vampire lord. There are some other signs of sexuality, such as Kuroe’s confused emotions about Chloe, the powerful witch who trained him, but those hinted at bits of sexuality are mostly used to highlight the innocence of Kuroe and Misaki’s relationship. (Readers who would prefer more mature female eye-candy will likely appreciate the vampire hunter Jessie, whose clothes tragically do not have buttons numerous enough or zippers long enough to allow them to close and conceal her ample bosom.)
Characters aren’t portrayed as supernaturally beautiful and, though the child vampires are eerily angelic, the humans generally look blandly attractive or craggy and menacing, depending. It is in his page layouts that Takano breaks out of the usual manga mold. Sometimes, generally for stories which further the plot, he uses a conventional panel placement, but particularly in the slice-of-life chapters, he will do away with panels completely and allow his characters to float on the page, almost like character design sketches, to heighten the emotional impact and force readers to focus on feelings rather than action. In keeping with the vampire theme, most of the pages have a black background behind the panels, so that readers are constantly reminded of the nighttime world in which Kuroe and Misaki live. Backgrounds are detailed, but don’t distract from the characters and Takano prefers to incorporate motion lines into the backgrounds if possible, which helps ground the characters in place, even during fight sequences.
Seven Seas picked up Takano’s series several years after Infinity Studios went out of business and the first three volumes went out of print. Readers will appreciate that Seven Seas decided to combine the first three volumes into an omnibus and it’s likely, given the way Seven Seas releases and re-releases manga, that they will do so in the future with the later volumes. Their releases are good, though there are a few quibbles. It’s wonderful that they included the vampire glossary in the front of vol. 1-3 and vol. 4, but I am not sure why they then decided to change it to a glossary/summary in volume 5 and then drop both in volume 6. The bindings are sturdy and the covers are as beautiful as they have ever been.
Despite the title and subject, these books are actually less bloody than almost all other vampire tales, though there are fights and people do get hurt and killed. There is a bit of fairly mild language and little nudity, but it is the relationship between the main characters that is most likely to give readers pause and which makes these more adult titles than teen. It seems strange to call a vampire series gentle, but that’s the best word to describe these beautiful, quiet books. They won’t work for every manga fan or every vampire one, but for the right reader these will ring true.
Blood Alone, vol. 1-6
By Masayuki Takano
Vol. 1-3 (Omnibus) ISBN: 9781934876985
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781934876862
Vol. 5 ISBN: 9781935934103
Vol. 6 ISBN: 9781935934165
Seven Seas, 2011-2012
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)