#DRCL Midnight Children Volume 2: Twilight Bride



Bam Stroker’s Dracula is arguably a world and story done to death. And yet, so many creatives have found infinite possibilities within its interpretation- just look at Oma Sei’s Blood Blade. Few however, have remained as bold and daring as Shinichi Sakamoto’s reimagining, and #DRCL Midnight Children volume 2 is a wonderful testament to that statement. It doesn’t do away with the entirety of the world, nor the folkloric roots of the tale, instead twisting the nature of the wampyr. Well, maybe a little twist as Sakamoto deftly weaves together any number of mythical fiction for the beast, as well as their own supernatural twist.

Anyways, to the volume at hand. We have things such as the introduction of Van Helsing, as well as Lucy’s ailment. However, within these two pieces things are drastically different. First of all, Mina doesn’t flee to Budapest to go take care of her sick fiance (who in the original novel had a close call with vampires), nor does Lucy (slash-Luke) die like they do in the original story.

Let’s take a closer look at Van Helsing however. In the original novel it’s stated that he is the one that scattered garlic flowers across Lucy’s room to ward off Dracula, however here we’re not given any indication as to who exactly has done so. Though, it’s rather clear that it’s none other than Joe Suwa who would do such a thing. Much like the original novel, Suwa has close contact with Van Helsing, and is the reason he appears in #DRCL Midnight Children volume 2. And while that’s just a single example, there’s plenty more that appear. For example, Mina is the first of the characters to actually meet Van Helsing in Whitby, and rather than waiting until the novel’s point, the new pair rush to consecrate the boxes filled with earth from the Demeter. It’s subtle changes such as these that truly add a tangible amount to the drama and flow of the story. While the original Dracula will forever remain a pillar of classic literature, Sakamoto’s perfectly grasped what made it such an impressive novel, and has been able to use that to bridge the gap between the written work of old, and their visual creation of today.

But let’s not dwell too too much on the idea of changes within #DRCL Midnight Children, let’s talk about the great work that Sakamoto has brought to it. Who am I kidding, here’s a big change- there’s a dragon in #DRCL Midnight Children volume 2. And yes, it’s actually incredibly important to the story.

Now, let me explain just why it’s important. Here, it’s a critical stepping off point for the nature of Dracula, and Van Helsing explains that very simply. Dracula means “Son of dragon” in Romanian. While that might not be a “typical” power of the count, Sakamoto uses it here to drive home their point about the idea of imagination and form for the mythical count. Dracula’s power in #DRCL Midnight Children is not one of traditional roots. Hallucinations, transmogrification, shadows, and all manner of other pieces are strongly associated with this visual retelling of the fictional count.

Take, for example, the intense penchant for ballet with Dracula. That is something entirely introduced via Sakamoto’s retelling, but is something that ultimately adds to the ethereal and disturbing nature of the beast. Truthfully, it does make me wonder about its roots however, as one of the most consistent narrative aspects of the series lies within its unreliable narrator. After all, the first volume starts off by stating that “records are constantly falsified”, and that is no less true in the second volume. Here, we have an image of the narrator from behind, with a piece of paper on their wall that says “I am deceived”, alongside them choosing to leave out details within the story.

All of this leads the reader to questioning what they see and understand as reality and truth, and further muddies the waters with the hallucinations that face characters like Arthur and Mina. For one, Mina’s hallucination came from direct contact/intent via Dracula, and was an entirely fictional experience, whereas Arthur’s was created by Lucy and to the reader is meant to be a recollection of his past. Though, with all things, a grain of truth must exist for the falsities to not be read as such.

Let’s take a closer look at Mina’s hallucinations then, for a better explanation. In it, the ballet that Mina has associated with Lucy post-Dracula is performed by non other than the count himself. Similarly, mirrors play a central role in the hallucination as Mina feels self-conscious of her beauty. Though the icing on the cake is the idea of love, as much like Van Helsing’s attention grasped Mina, Dracula’s has much of the same effect. Even further, the idea of a stage or play is something that Mina explicitly provides readers with when she fantasizes about Van Helsing. So all in all, the idea of truth lurks in the depths of these experiences, though we as readers have no way to discern truth from falsehood.

Though that’s enough of the story. If I were to discuss to my heart’s content, this post would never see the light of day. Let’s talk visuals, as this is a manga after all. To no surprise, #DRCL Midnight Children volume 2 sports more of Sakamoto’s incredible work, but I feel in particular their ability to describe horror through non-invasive visual means is incredible. There’s no requirement for a drastic or disturbing reveal, rather it’s the tension that Sakamoto is so expertly able to provide that leaves readers unsettled.

In particular, Sakamoto’s use of thirds is an incredible proponent for horror. Hardly uniform throughout the volume, it uses a triad of panels that slowly zoom in on a subject to depict unsettling movement or anticipation. It’s a tried and true method that Sakamoto expertly employs, even going as far as to twist the idea to their own makings with things like vertical slices or other panel layouts. It’s great work that finds its roots in Sakamoto’s incredible art, proving itself something that not every mangaka is able to pull off.

Though of course, Sakamoto uses plenty of other methods to induce horror or fear. For example, with all three pages above, they have a penchant for focusing on eyes, hands, and feet. They abstract the idea of expression for the reader, and place all value in the slightest details you can discern from the art. What is the emotion shown in Renfield’s eyes in that bottom panel of the middle image, for example? Or how we can only see Lucy’s feet poking out from beneath the sheets. Sakamoto places a lot of effort into directing attention away from the entirety of faces in these moments so that readers are delivered the full brunt of tension and unnerve- and it works wonderfully.

There’s a reason that Shinichi Sakamoto is held in such high regard, and a similar reason as to why Dracula is still talked about and used in this modern era. They are both, in their own rights, veritable monsters that plague their mediums. Challenges that feel impossible to surpass. So, of course when you mix the pair, you really cannot come up with anything other than what #DRCL Midnight Children volume 2 has shown us. And this really is only the second volume. We’ve scratched the surface and it feels so incomparable as a work. I can’t wait to see how Sakamoto chooses to interpret the events of volume 3.

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