A Rosario by any other name – Rosario Vampire V1
Title: Rosario Vampire
Author: Akihisa Ikeda
The first thing which I feel must be observed about Rosario Vampire as a manga is this: The cover art is saucy. Girls in very short skirts and with generous cleavage posing in all sorts of suggestive ways. I was hesitant at first about reading it, not quite sure what this would mean. I wasn’t encouraged by the rough summary from my brother, “like Twilight, but the girl’s the vampire instead”. However, over a long Christmas I knuckled down to read it and discovered that Tom’s description was extremely unfair. It is nothing at all like Twilight. Perhaps a more accurate assessment might be “Tenchi Muyo meets InuYasha meets Harry Potter, sort of”.
The story goes thusly: Tsukune, our hapless hero, manages to get accepted into only one high school he applied for. That school is the Yokai Academy. Being not the brightest bulb in the box, the name doesn’t drop any hints as to what he is getting himself into. In fact, despite the thudding great foreshadowing given by the bus driver (on whose bus Tsukune is the only passenger), and the vampire girl who he meets who chews on him as soon as she gets the chance, it takes the teacher literally standing at the front of the class saying “this is a school for monsters” before Tsukune catches on to quite what he’s got into. Fortunately for the pace of the manga, this is the most dense Tsukune gets. The vampire he meets before reaching the school is Moka, the busty pink-haired girl on the cover of the first volume (who is described as having brown hair in the actual manga…), and needless to say they become involved fairly quickly. Well, I say involved, what I really mean is ‘friends who are inevitably going to get together but aren’t quite yet’. This makes the relationship between them rather tiring, because the setbacks and the problems they encounter are fairly run of the mill, and the romance isn’t quite there. However, as the volume progresses a rival for Tsukune’s affection appears, and the Tenchi Muyo harem-esque set up begins, which for my part I would have liked to have seen more developed.
Sadly, the plot of the manga itself is disappointingly episodic and thus repetitive. Moka is the vampire of the title, and vampires (as we are continually told) are the most powerful and fearsome of monsters, legendary (and clearly not as common as current literary trends would have us believe) and it appears inherently bipolar. The ‘Rosario’ of the title is the cross Moka wears around her neck – a crucifix, set with a rosary bead – which seals away her full strength. She cannot remove it herself, and it can only be removed at certain times, which leads to a lot of last-minute rescues when Tsukune falls over and accidentally pulls it off in the fights which inevitably end every chapter. This little bit of Christian theology did spark my interest, but it isn’t addressed again in the first volume. Each chapter follows a similar formula – meet another student who is another monster, they reveal their true nature, there’s a fight.
Whilst this formula works wonderfully for showing the full scope of the academy and its students, it feels predictable. I would have liked to see more development of the myths than the little ‘stats’ boxes which appear. I would have liked to have seen an introduction of a further plot or perhaps the darker elements of this fantasy explored. It would certainly be fun to address the relationship between Moka and Tsukune, investigating the uncomfortable line between her physical attraction to Tsukune, and the fact that she spends a good deal of her time feeding off him. This unsettling aspect, and the fact that most of the attraction people feel towards Tsukune is based on the fact that he smells like a human (read: dinner), would make for very interesting reading. Instead, it seems to rely on pratfalls and cheap humour to move the plot along.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the manga. The art is fun and light, and really dynamic, as is the layout of the page. It works well and compliments the excitable tone of the story and characters. The character designs are lovely too. And it has all the elements which made me love Tenchi Muyo – pretty and powerful female leads, an ostensibly inoffensive male lead and lots of fun psuedo-romantic misunderstandings. There is lots of room for plot to develop, and the characters to blossom as well. So I am looking at this volume as a prologue of sorts, and I’m hopeful for great things to come in future volumes. After all, I really liked Tenchi.
Try this if you liked: InuYasha, Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina