Moon & Blood
Shoujo – Romance, supernatural
4 Volumes (complete)
Digital Manga Publishing
It was supposed to be just another day for Sayaka — until she woke up and found a stranger in her house! Kai turns out to be the son of her father’s friend, and he is going to live with her family for a while. Kai is smart and athletic, but he isn’t too interested in socializing. But Kai’s secrets may be more than what Sayaka could ever imagine…
First, while many of you will recognize Yazawa as the artist of Wedding Peach, she has also published several works in English first, and Moon & Blood is one of them. Second, the girl featured on all the covers?
That’s not Sayaka. (More on that later.) And although this is listed as four volumes, it’s really a fraction of that. Each of the printed versions and ebooks clock in around 60 to 70 pages.
Because of that, Moon & Blood feels very much like a manga adaptation of a one-cour anime series. There are some interesting ideas, but the limited page count means there isn’t time to dive deeply into the story.
Well, that and the “heroine” is probably, at best, the third most important and interesting character in the manga.
The fact that Kai is a vampire and Ai, the girl on the cover, is his master is revealed to readers early in the story. Sayaka, however, thinks Kai is just a teenager who doesn’t get along with his family but loves his cat (Ai). Like many male leads in shoujo manga, he is a bit moody but is seen as a real catch with his looks and natural talents by Sayaka and the rest of her class. Well, that is, to everyone but Sayaka’s childhood friend who isn’t too happy about some random stranger stealing her attention. The formerly-human Kai has his own issues, as he doesn’t want to succumb to sucking blood like Ai, but he also loves his elder master dearly. Throw in Kai’s unwanted family reunion and Sayaka’s suspicious brother, and you have Moon & Blood.
As I said, Yazawa has a lot of ideas that throw the usual tropes out the window. Kai pushes Sayaka away since she’s a normal girl, but he never goes out of his way to be cruel to her. Ai insists Kai is her servant, but she watches over him as he starts interacting with people again. Even Sayaka’s childhood friend, who is made to be much of the story’s comic relief, comes across as rather likable considering he’s been trying to tell her for years that he likes her in a romantic way.
Unfortunately, with such a short series, it’s hard to fully invest emotionally in the series. Had the series only focused on Ai and Kai, that would have been a different story. But Sayaka falling for Kai comes across as utterly generic. Sayaka herself is a usual cheerful and ditzy heroine, found in hundreds of other shoujo manga. This is even more noticeable when contrasted against Kai and Ai’s bond. Part family, part comrades, part senpai and kouhai, and part master and servant (well, according to Ai anyway), Kai and Ai are the driving force of the story even as Kai finds himself drawn to Sayaka’s charm. I applaud Yazawa for focusing on a non-romantic relationship. Most friendship plotlines take the backseat to a budding romance in shoujo manga, but Moon & Blood feels like the opposite.
I actually wish Sayaka had not been giving so much pagetime. Part of me wishes that Sayaka wasn’t even in the picture, that we had followed Kai as he has to choose between dying as a human or living as a vampire. However, I can also see how Kai would have needed some type of trigger to be forced to make this decision, and romance is a great spark for ignition. A female heroine also makes it easier for female readers to relate. Even if Yazawa wanted to keep Moon & Blood as a romance and not general manga, having Kai as the center of attention would have helped mask Sayaka’s dullness as a heroine. Sayaka’s friend had no chance with her anyway, so why not skip the whole love triangle and instead concentrate on the fact a non-blood-sucking vampire is falling in love with a normal girl? Why not spend more time on the fact Sayaka’s brother starts to believe his new houseguest is a supernatural creature? Why not show more of how Kai and Ai spent their days before staying at Sayaka’s family’s house?
At the very least, when the whole manga amounts to about two volumes, did the manga really need to have a crossdressing competition?
Like many of you, I am most familiar with Yazawa thanks to Wedding Peach. While Moon & Blood was published many years later, her style has largely remained the same. Eyes tend to be sharper than in most shoujo in almost a koakuma (little devil) appearance.
Unlike other shoujo vampire series, the atmosphere isn’t full of drama or melancholy. That’s probably the be biggest advantage of making Sayaka the main character, as she’s outside of most of the supernatural aspects until later. Plus while the manga has the usual pained expressions of unrequited love, Kai is also bewildered at Sayaka’s natural openness. But Moon & Blood lacks a lot of the muted tones found in manga like Vampire Knight, and episodes like Kai crossdressing provide plenty of time for exaggerated expressions and visual comedy. Ai on the cover has a Goth-loli appearance, and I almost wish Yazawa had Ai’s outfits go a step further to contrast with Sayaka’s uniform and Kai’s favorite plain boring shirt. At times, the manga seems to jump ahead (from waking up to being at school without the typical manga cues like a school bell ringing or small boxed panels), but I imagine the strict number of pages played a part. There story also doesn’t have typical chapters like magazine serializations, so it is nice not having to stop and have artificial conclusions or hooks every 15, 30 pages or so.
Not going to go into this since this was English-language first, but I noticed some mistakes and inconsistencies like using both “senpai” and “sempai”.
It’s interesting to see a Japanese author write something for a Western audience first and foremost. The MSRP for these volumes is $6.95 physical / $2.99 digital, so approximately 30 to 50% cheaper than most publishers’ releases. This makes it roughly equivalent because of the short volumes. If you’re looking for a good quick romance, this is not it, but if you want a very short series that focuses on a different type of bond, then check out Moon & Blood.