There’s a bit of an 80s X-Men vibe in Blood Lad Volume 8, as a massive melee becomes a curtain call that provides the opportunity for everyone to take a bow, remind you of their names, and put on display the reason why they’re a character in this manga. As the hilarity amps up, you can almost imagine that this is a special musical episode of this series. While we aren’t likely to hear Staz and Fuyumi sing to each other like Alexander Hamilton and the Schuyler sisters, all this theater makes the penultimate Blood Lad volume an outstanding entry point for new readers.

The key to enjoying Blood Lad is recognizing that it is an antique melodrama dressed up as shonen manga. Because of Blood Lad’s commitment to the melodramatic, there isn’t a lot of evolution in continuity at this point, and fresh-faced readers can show up in Volume 8 and have a lark; there are only scenery-chewing villains, angst-ridden heroes—and a slightly vapid heroine—that the author throws through rapid scene changes. When Fuyumi dreams, these constant scene changes even extend to costuming, so that when she’s drawn on a scale to rival the Weeping Angel Statue of Liberty or Mechagodzilla, she’s clothed in a colossal bridal gown.

Then the mangaka really starts showing off, putting Staz in Fuyumi’s head as if it was the captain’s seat of a mech, from which the vampire pilots the multi-class vampire/ghost/gundam against the big bad. It’s a funny Bugs Bunny moment for Staz and Fuyumi, but not satisfying for fans of her character arc, who no doubt feel that Fuyumi should be able to steer her way through a resolution without having a steering wheel installed.

Despite these reservations on Fuyumi’s stunted development, Blood Lad is still my favorite vampire manga, and, as I’ve never been a big fan of fanged blood-guzzlers to begin with, it may be my favorite entry in the vampire genre, period. I like the way that Yuuku Kodama makes everything sparkle with apparent spontaneity, so that no matter how much the characters ham up the show, and no matter that the plot sometimes goes miles over the top like a 40s Warner Bros. cartoon, the motivations and actions of the characters always seem real, if dressed up in these absurd fancies.

Blood Lad Volume 8 arrived in stores on March 21st, 2017, and if you find it sold out, you can buy it through this hyperlink to a list of online booksellers on the Yen Press page.

Blood Lad Volume 8

Yen Press sent the review copy.

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