“Keeping It Ghastly” is a bi weekly article on Japanese horror comics which have English print editions. Some are from famous authors, others are from unknowns and underground artist circles. Either way, it’s going to be to a terrifying/awesome ride to keep horror manga on our bookshelves!
Resurrected three centuries after his defeat at the hands of the samurai Naonosuke, the powerful vampire Migiri has reasserted himself as a fearsome enemy of humanity. With his cult followers, Migiri, now “Yato no Kami”, has once more begun to spread the plague of vampirism across Japan. Battered but unyielding, covert agents have enlisted the help of ex-criminal Yusuke to help them take down Migiri. Yusuke, however, is only interested in the fate of his love Kikuri who was taken as the bride of the vampire lord. Illustrated by Aki Shimizu (Qwan and Suikoden III) and written by Saki Okuse (Flowers and Ghost Talker’s Daydream), Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangyu was originally published by Gentosha from 2001-2007 before being licensed by Tokyopop in 2006. Currently there are no plans for a new edition of the series, so this is a used-copy only comic.
For no good reason other than wanting to pick up a read for my flight, I purchased Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangyu at a Borders Express one day in the summer of 2006. At that time Dark Horse had printed several volumes of Hellsing, and coinciding with the publication of Berserk, American manga fans were beginning to look for Japanese action adventure comics that leaned more heavily on the side of the intense and darker seinen genre rather than lighter shonen titles. Tokyopop, the king manga publisher in the US during the early to mid 2000s, was keen to jump into this camp of books aimed at an older audience. This in turn led to the publication of Lament of the Lambs (2004), and among the many other vampire titles, Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangyu.
Vol 1 promises a story about a man trying to save the woman he loves from a monster bent on domination. As an action story it has all of the key elements including a disillusioned vampire turned against her kind, plenty of shadowed pasts with complicated loyalties, a smooth but repugnant arch enemy, and of course numerous action sequences. If this sounds like your thing then by all means pick up this series. This is not a bad story by any means. The art is very conducive to the horror aspects of the plot, and the fun of a good vengeance drama can’t be denied.
The main dissatisfaction with the first volume of Blood Sucker is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the concept of good guy versus vampire, other than a setting update. The back of Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangyu vol 1 promises, “a twisted and thrilling bloodfest in the tradition of Battle Royale”. For this to be true there needs to be a zaniness that pushes the book over the top. Berserk had ultraviolence and a complicated world of demons and mortals, Battle Royal had ultraviolence and an outlandish premise, and Hellsing had… to just be itself. Blood Sucker is your standard fight against the forces of evil and girlfriend abduction. In volume 1 the plot is played very straight faced, characters either shout or whisper their lines, and the art is heavily shadowed and fine lined. It’s not a bad comic by any stretch of the imagination, but seems to lack anything to really make it stand out among vampire action horror stories and what was , at the time, a very over saturated market.