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Manga Before Flowers — The Pinnacle of all Manga Evolution

I’m pretty sure Vassalord is basically why manga exists on this earth.

So I can write about a comic that features a “cyborg vampire” who works for the Vatican and his master/lover, a playboy vampire Johnny Rayflo, and shows them fighting evil. And each other. But usually evil. Although often each other.

The only question I have about Vassalord is: great comic? Or greatest comic?

From the back cover: “Charley, a cyborg vampire who does the Vatican’s dirty work, is the thrall of the local vampire playboy Johnny Rayflo. As the two fight crime€”and each other€”hilarity, violence and sacrilege ensue! But can Charley resist his own desperate cravings for blood? Find out as the devilish duo go up against a childlike vampire princess, a mysterious branch of the Unitarian Church … and each other.”

Tokyopop just released volume 1 last week and even though I had sworn off all *new* TP releases until they figure out their publishing schedule, my local independent bookstore had a sale (20% off) on all graphic novels and manga. The truth is I’m weak. Very weak.

Also I blame Deb Aoki, who at Anime-Expo said something like, “It works,” after I expressed extreme skeptism about any comic with a “cyborg-vampire” in it. Thanks to my own weakness and a fairly very mild word of defense from Deb (I’m not going to blame this post on her. Although I could…) I threw caution (read: my money) to the wind and took this book home.

Now, Carlo Santos, who is a great manga reviewer over at ANN, just panned Vassalord in his latest column, here. (People should probably read his column for an actual balanced account for the comic. And um. You know. Something that actually reads like a real review of it.) Now, mostly I can’t argue with his points, except for the fact I appear to be arguing his points. In fact, his observation about Chrono’s art is particularly insightful — even though the art looks spectacular there’s probably something not right with it if half the time I can’t figure out what the hell is happening. The only reason the volume doesn’t get a failing grade from him appears to be the fact it really doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Which most stories about vampires do (aka The Anne Rice effect).

And that, my friend, is the brilliance of Vassalord. Also, the hilariously raunchy English-adaptation, which had me choking in pure shock at times.

Then’s there the fact that reading Vassalord? The most pure fun I’ve had reading in a comic a quite a while. (Silver Diamond vol 1, another new release from TP, was also a very nice read as well, so I hope to talk about that one soon.) Frankly, there’s no reason for this comic to exist, except for the fact that it does and is pure awesome. Our main characters make no sense (what in the world does “cyborg” have to do with “vampire”?), the plot makes little sense, the art….well you get the picture.

Still, watching the main character, Charley, be all bad-ass vampire in a modified bowl-cut and (fake) glasses, while his maker, Johnny Rayflo, follows him around and generally stirs shit up, is a real blast. While I’m amused the commenters at ANN get to reject this without reading it because of the bl elements (i.e. boy on boy action! oh noes!), the queer elements to the story just make it more funnier in my book.

I’m calling “Vassalord” the pinacle of all manga evolution, because only in manga could a creator stick that many random genre-elements into a blender and get a readable comic out of it. But that’s just my take on Vassalord….if you are willing to take on a gay, vampire-cyborg characters & sacrilegious story-lines, then pull up a chair next to me and enjoy the ride to the manga-apocalypse.


Tom Fitzpatrick

July 22, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Sooooo, just how many volumes is this gonna set us manga lovers back?

you mean, how many volumes is TP going to publish of Vassalord instead of, say, BECK?

Right now there are only two or three volumes of this series…so not a big hit into TP’s other publishing plans.

Hehe! Awesome, I’m kinda stoked that you got so much enjoyment out of this kooky bishonen vampire story — heck, it sounds like you had way more fun reading it thanI did! ;-)

You know what I think it is with those other reviewers of Vassalord who didn’t like it? They’re guys. And somehow the charms of a pair of bishie boys with bedroom eyes bickering, making out and fighting for no good reason just flies over their heads. Go figure! ;-)

If you want more joy, July is just chock full of awesomeness in the new manga department. I just can’t keep up. Me and the Devil Blues by Akira Hiramoto. Real by Takehiko Inoue. Gantz by Hiroya Oku. And heck, even Cowa!, a return to the sillier side of Akira Toriyama — too much damn good stuff in one month. Pick up any of those and you. will. not. be. sorry. Worth buying even without a 20% off sale.

I wish I could say this was the first time I saw a cyborg vampire in Japanese media.

Danielle Leigh

July 23, 2008 at 6:16 am

hi Deb! Good point about Vassalord perhaps not being suited to (straight) men’s taste….seriously, I will be sad when TP announces they’ve canceled this series (because I’ve doomed it by talking about it here, right?)

And I’ve already picked up REAL (was a very good comic but I don’t have a lot to say about it, will leave that to the folks who like to cover manly manga more than I do) and am itching to pick up Cowa. Have you been lucky enough to have gotten an advance copy of the Devil Blues? I’m skipping Gantz (it isn’t my thing) but otherwise July has been quite rich.

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