Manga Review – Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary Volume 1

Bloody Mary
ブラッディ+メアリー
SAMAMIYA Akaza
Shoujo – Drama, mystery, supernatural
10 Volumes (complete)
VIZ Media

Summary:

Ichiro has spent his days being mobbed by vampires. But this latest vampire doesn’t want his blood; he wants Ichiro to kill him! But he’s not about to grant any vampire’s wish, even one who displays some very un-vampire-like traits. Just who is this red-headed vampire? And what secrets are being kept from Ichiro about his family’s bloodline?

Review:

So, a vampire arrives trying to find an exorcist named Maria, but instead finds Maria’s grandson who can’t do exorcisms, and he starts calling the vampire Mary, but Mary says not to call him Mary, and then there’s another “Mary”…

Oh, and there’s a guy nicknamed Di, and one of the people he hangs around with is nicknamed Dila.

Now you know why I so felt the urge to send the author a naming dictionary. And it isn’t just me either: a bonus feature reveals that even the author and the editors got the latter two (and the third associate) mixed up. And, fortunately, the story is more complicated than the similarly-named main characters of Ed, Edd, n Eddy.

OK, it isn’t too hard or too necessary to keep track of all the characters, but it can be annoying.

Moving on.

Ichiro is a Japanese boy who is constantly targeted by vampires. Fortunately, with a drop of blood, he can turn his cross into a staff, the sight of which causes most vampires to flee. Well, one day he comes closer to a vampire than ever before… and this vampire asks if Ichiro can kill him. “Bloody”, as he’s known as, has tried to commit suicide many times, but he can’t die. Bloody is even more unusual as he’s a red-head, can enter a church, and refuses to drink blood. Vampire-hating Ichiro is loathe to fulfill any vampire’s request, so he agrees to kill him… but only after Mary, as he’s nicknamed Bloody, has spent his days guarding Ichiro. As Ichiro sets out to discover a way to kill Mary, he may also learn the truth about Mary’s past… as well as his own heritage.

Bloody Mary isn’t technically considered a boys’ love title, but the “undertones” are about as subtle as a band in a library.

Bloody Mary Sample 1Particularly so since Samamiya does a lot of work in the BL field. Not to mention the way Ichiro’s and Mary’s personalities are presented. Mary’s suicide attempts have led people to suspect he’s a masochist. This plays off Ichiro’s personality, as he wants to kill every vampire to avenge his father. So this S&M-type drama also plays into the typical shoujo and/or BL tension between the leads.

Even if Bloody Mary isn’t about a romantic relationship between two guys, the relationship between Mary and Ichiro is the center of the manga. Life and death are key themes here, as evidenced by the two leads. Mary will happily assist with plans if he thinks he’ll be rewarded with his death, and Ichiro’s lack of stamina means he has to rely on Mary and others to defeat the vampires around him. The reasons why Mary is immortal and Ichiro’s blood is so alluring to vampires become clear throughout the story, and the line between life and death gets murkier.

As I mentioned, Ichiro is initially resistant to grant Mary’s wish. So much of the manga is about his conflicting feelings for Mary, insisting the latter is nothing more than just another vampire to be killed. Mary, on the other hand, is a little naive, but most of all, he’s lonely. He thinks Ichiro is a bit bossy and scary, but Mary doesn’t want to be separated from him. These contradictory emotions eventually lead to a rewarding ending.

Bloody Mary Sample 2

While this is Ichiro and Mary’s story, we meet several other important characters. Takumi is from a family that shares history with the di Marias, and he considers Takumi a little brother. Hydra is a vampire who is connected to Mary, and she offers her assistance to Ichiro as he searches for a way to unlock the power of exorcism. Hydra was probably my favorite character. She is a cool beauty in the truest sense: a looker who rocks the goth-loli style, a pragmatic vampire who is dedicated to her beloved and has the ability to see things through. Her backstory is quite interesting as it shows why she’s interested in Mary’s death.

The biggest weakness of the manga is that things can be quite messy. You might expect a lot of blood spatter in a vampire story, but that’s not what I mean. The manga can jump between characters, and that’s not good when some have similar faces. It’s pretty bad when, as I mentioned earlier, that the author and the editors have trouble keeping three new characters apart. They just appeared on the scene, and with the Di/Dila confusion, it’s incredibly easy to get confused and frustrated at points like this. I believe this was Samamiya’s first multi-volume series, and there are points where the story and art feel frantic and too fast paced. I think that was another reason I liked Hydra’s appearances; Samamiya would focus more on beauty (like her outfits) and slow things down. There are other areas where I felt like the story stumbled, like the scientist and his granddaughter never truly reappearing. I thought they were going to call with some sort of breakthrough, but even the bonus comics lampshade their disappearance.

On the other hand, if you are really only interested in Mary and Ichiro (and maybe Hydra and the real Mary), the manga is more palatable. The story doesn’t spend time explaining how vampires have lived for years in the shadows, what their code of honor is, or even how they came to be. Bloody Mary is about one extended group of vampires and humans, and I am glad Samamiya didn’t try to go into deep world-building here. The manga is at its best when it concentrates on the main characters… and, for a lot of readers, the BL fanservice.

Bloody Mary Sample 3

I already discussed some of the negatives of the art. But overall, the series has a rather dark and gothic aura about it. Mary, of course, is an exception with his hoodie. He often looks more like a shota character, but at other times he appears to be a teenager. Either way, his usual expression reminds me of the harried vampires in Devils’ Line. Mary disposes of the vampires in record time, so there isn’t as much graphic violence as the title might suggest. Comedic moments appear most often in the beginning between Ichiro’s manipulations and Mary’s failed experiments, but otherwise, the manga has a lot of dark greys and blacks.  Personally, I would grade this higher if it did a better job at making the manga easy for readers to understand.

Translation:

No honorifics are used. The first chapter mentions “Isaac Rosario di Maria”, and this same panel is used in the second volume during a flashback. However, from then on, it’s always “Yzak Rosario di Maria”. I tried looking this up, and the first chapter does use イザーク, and it’s also used on the character introduction section on the official Japanese website. “Yzak” also appears to be used in other foreign translations, so I’m guessing that the translator assumed that it was supposed to be “Isaac”, went with it, and then left it in the flashback panel. This made it appear that Bloody had just heard his name and assumed that’s how you would pronounce it. It works, but this is still probably an error, although minor.

Final Comments:

Bloody Mary is better for those who want story about a limited number of vampires instead a story about the world of vampires. The art and the story often muddy readers’ overall enjoyment, but both do well to reflect the connection between a weak priest/exorcist and an unusual vampire.

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12 Comments

  1. The Otaku Judge

    I find it impossible to read manga at the library. The place is too noisy. Who keeps letting that band play in there?

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Yeah, and they play the worst songs! Must be related to the library director…

      Reply
  2. mattdoylemedia

    I actually quite like the general idea of the story here. it’s a shame it sounds like it stumbles a little.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It could have been better, but fortunately not too terrible. If you’re interested, you might want to give it a shot.

      Reply
  3. David Boone (moonhawk81)

    What, BL in a vampire story? Who’d a-thunk that, post-Anne Rice?

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      But hey, at least not everyone can pull off Mary’s animal hoodie look!

      Reply
  4. Kara

    I actually haven’t tried Bloody Mary out yet, but I’ve seen a lot of people talking about it, so I think I’ll try it out soon. I don’t have really high expectations, but I do enjoy vampire series, so I think I’ll like it. If you’re interested in reading any more vampire based BL series, I highly recommend Royal Servant. It’s a much darker series that puts a lot more emphasis on establishing the society that the series is based in. It also features more than one couple, so personally, I think it makes the story a lot more interesting.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      The establishing society part sounds intriguing. Not a lot of series go into that part.

      Reply
  5. Rose

    I’m actually considering reading this… I’m a sucker for vampire series especially if they are shounen ai. ?????

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      🙂 Well, if you’re hoping for a full romantic relationship, you won’t find it here, but the two leads do have a nice bond.

      Reply
  6. Arria Cross

    Look at that art. Very nice.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It is nice! I just wish it was more reader-friendly… Oh, well, can always look at the adorable Mary in his hoodie!

      Reply

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