Blood Blade Volume 1: Vlad In The (New) Flesh



If I had a nickel for every currently ongoing manga series centered around Dracula, that has really incredible art, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t many, but it’s weird that it’s happened twice. In reality though, I think many readers out there will feel deeply compelled to compare Oma Sei’s Blood Blade to Shinichi Sakamoto’s #DRCL: Midnight Children, but first and foremost you should dispel all notion of a comparison taking place. First of all #DRCL is focusing far more on Bram Stoker’s original telling of Dracula, while Oma Sei’s takes a far more mythical and almost campy approach with a Dracula reincarnated into a girl/woman’s body. Similarly, where Sakamoto’s art is at 100% with every brush stroke, Sei’s takes some time to enjoy the scenery. And lastly, and arguably most importantly, the tones are worlds apart. Sei’s Blood Blade is allowed to have much more fun with itself, even if it chooses to be deeply serious from time to time. So, if you’re a vampire-lover like many out there (or just looking for a good read), don’t discount Blood Blade.

Though, a single paragraph can hardly be considered a review, right? Let’s take a deeper look at the intensely engaging and ever curious Blood Blade, and provide a little more context as to why this was such an interesting and enjoyable read. First to check off the list, this is Kodansha’s first English original manga to be printed and published physically. It poses quite the interesting question if successful, and can properly challenge the English manga market to develop and better pivot to modern times. Because of that, and because I enjoyed the volume, I’m hopeful for the series success. Adding only to that hope is that this is the debut work of Oma Sei. To that end, I don’t really need the series to be insanely popular, but I do very much hope that it does well enough that Sei gets to continue as a mangaka.

With the background set, it’s finally time to talk about the contents of the volume. In its beginnings, this story seems to understand perfectly how to set itself up for self-purported greatness. It perfectly captures an air of melodrama and weight while delivering slight jabs of humor. Within the first chapter, the goal that appears within the mind of readers is not just for our newly reincarnated Vlad to flee to Monster island with the girl that she saved. On top of that it drops hints for Vlad to become the ruler of said island, and protect its inhabitants from the meddling of an organization attempting to create monster chimeras to rule the world. It’s undoubtedly weighty, it pulls from the existing mythos of Vlad and adds its own spin, it brings a unique yet familiar style of narrative. It succinctly delivers all that a reader might be curious about on a silver platter within a single volume.

And that silver platter is adorned with truly beautiful art, especially for a first time mangaka. I can’t exactly speak to the scheduling, timelines, or production of Blood Blade, so in turn I can’t say anything about the pace or crunch involved in its creation. What I can say though, is that the art leaves you in awe. The shading and lighting choices themselves are simply sublime. The incredibly harsh lighting, which produces pitch black shadows is like Sei’s bread and butter in this first volume. The details, the style, the sheer fidelity is beyond belief for a mangaka that doesn’t have anything else to their name. Frankly speaking, it leaves me in disbelief as to how good it is. It feels like the art had to be traced to be this good.

Continuing on the art hype train, there’s Sei’s posing and character blocking in Blood Blade. It’s the kind of work that’s hard to put into words, but rather than attempting to convey a snapshot of a video, they’re conveying a picture of the action to the reader. It’s dynamic, it’s strong, almost overpowering, even. But, it doesn’t try to lead the reader. Rather, it focuses on giving its all in the moment. Impossible to properly explain, but hopefully that conveys the very valuable difference that exists. Traditional motion is something that doesn’t translate well within these insanely detailed art styles, and Sei’s clearly grasped that idea wonderfully. You might even argue that Blood Blade is closer to a series of pictures than it is a graphic novel, purely because of the detail that is beyond belief in this art. Though, once you see Vlad riding a dragon, reality strikes and you’re forced to reconcile with the fact that this art has been drawn.

Wrapping up this review has proven challenging .There’s pieces of this volume that I’d love to go on and on about, but I realize that a lot of people don’t exactly desire a “technical” deep dive into Sei’s art from a non-artist. Regardless, I feel like the sheer prowess and ability of Oma Sei in Blood Blade is something that will sell readers on the series. The story might not be something that everyone will find incredibly interesting, but the art will undoubtedly sell more than a few people on the series. So at the end of the day, I really can’t encourage potential readers enough to give this series a shot. Whether they do that by reading for free via the Kodansha website, or by buying the series physically, is up to them, but I really hope that this series will see success.

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