March 12, 2010

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Rosario+Vampire Volume 2

Written by Akihisa Ikeda
Illustrated by Akihisa Ikeda
Viz

Tsukune's dangerous education continues, as he settles in to the idea of being the only human at a school of monsters. Flanked by two girls who love him, Moka and Kurumu, his life isn't that bad--except when the monsters start fighting.

As Tsukune continues his relationship with Moka, things conspire to pull them apart. Whether it's school bullies who can turn into lizards and spiders or other girls (and even a teacher), they must keep battling just to stay alive. Thanks mostly due to Moka's other self and some help, they're still managing to find their place in this most unusual school. But what happens if Tsukune's secret comes out?

I mentioned in my review last time that this series is mostly just a fun read with no depth. I think I might have been giving it a bit too much credit. This time, the book feels like a teenage boy's fantasies put on the page, as Tsukune "accidentally" cops a lot of feels and there are quite a few scenes that highlight the attractiveness of the main female characters.

That's a little too juvenile for me, and trumps the fun of seeing how Ikeda introduces new monsters into the story. I understand that this is natural for the characters involved and for the age group this manga is intended for, so I'm not faulting the book for including what I guess gets called "fan service." As a reader, I just didn't care for it and I want to make sure anyone who considers reading this (or giving it to a teen reader) is aware of the fact that it's in the book.

If you can get past that, there are some nifty uses of monsters. The idea that some monsters would use their powers to manipulate and others to form an enforcement group makes perfect sense. After all, don't normal schools have the same concepts, just without turning into hideous beasts who can kill you? I like the way Ikeda takes school dynamics and applies them to this world of creatures.

I also really enjoyed the middle story, where Moka opts to work with an art teacher who has a peculiar haircut. I guessed what was going on pretty fast, but that's because I know my mythology inside and out. However, that didn't stop me from finding the way Ikeda structured the chapter very well done, especially the way the news of having a killer teacher is treated as being perfectly normal news.

Ikeda also starts building up a recurring cast here, forming partnerships in a way that flows out of the stories and not in an artificial manner designed to give him characters to work with. Starting from Tsukune and Moka, we add Kurumu and an 11 year old witch. They make an unlikely group, but when the chips are down, as their teacher notes, they come together as a group. I'm still not sure where Ginnei fits in to this yet, but he's also given more character this time around. Ikeda's personal connections work well, and it's a strong point of the developing story.

That's why this series is a bit frustrating for me. On the one hand, it's a fun romp that doesn't take much time to stop and think so that the premise doesn't fall apart. There are running gags like how the anemic Tsukune gives his blood to his vampire girlfriend or the witch who likes to use a falling gong to stun her opponents. The whole Munster-like, this is perfectly normal to everyone but Tsukune, world is quite appealing. Ikeda even manages to throw in a few manga jokes, which seems to be a fairly common occurrence in the stories I've been reading lately.

There's a lot to like about Rosario+Vampire and a lot of material to be mined from that concept. On the other hand, the pervert jokes are turned on high, and it just slams me in the face every time there's a comment about a character's large chest. In the last volume, they were there, too, but it felt a bit more restrained.

At this point, I am going to give this one at least one more volume to see what I think. I'm a big fan of monsters and mythology, so it has that going in its favor. But if the jokes keep going into the gutter, I might just flush this one off my reading list. Right now, I'd hold off on recommending this, until I can get a better feel for how the balance between cool concept and lame, teenage relationship jokes mixes out.