A relative newcomer to the shoujo genre, Samamiya Akaza brings her experience in short form boy’s love and shoujo manga onto the page with her latest series, Bloody Mary (Buraddi+Mearii). Like her earlier works, Bloody Mary is serialized in Kadokawa’s monthly Asuka magazine, a name that older shoujo fans might be familiar with for publishing CLAMP’s iconic X manga. The English release comes to us under Viz’s Shoujo Beat label with Katherine Schilling, known for her work on Earthian and Junjo Romantica, providing the translation.
Bloody Mary opens with the sort of intrigue one might expect from a vampire manga. A priest cornered in an alleyway by hungry vampires with no choice but to unleash his holy power when suddenly, from the shadows, a notorious vampire who’s lived for hundreds of years emerges. Yet the tables quickly turn when our intrepid priest, Ichiro Rosario di Maria, realizes that the vampire on his trail, the 400 year old Bloody Mary, wants nothing more than for Maria to kill him with the exorcist power passed down in his family for generations.
As much as Maria seems to abhor vampires and wants nothing more to do with the insistent Mary, there’s just one problem: he has no idea how to use his power to give Mary the end that he seeks. All that he does know about his lineage is that drinking his blood seems to imbue vampires with some sort of super strength. With this in mind, Maria offers Mary a deal. If Mary can protect him from the other vampires who want his blood and help him unlock the secrets of exorcism, he’ll use the power to grant Mary’s wish and end his life. Despite Mary’s impatience in wanting to meet his end, he reluctantly agrees and the two strike up a tenuous alliance, probing deeper into the mysteries of Maria’s past, not knowing who or what might be waiting and watching from the shadows.
Straight from the start, Bloody Mary proves that it’s not your standard vampire story. Samamiya’s inversion of familiar tropes by giving us an underhanded, manipulative priest who all but pushes his blood on an unwilling vampire bodyguard is a creative and fresh take on what you’d normally expect from some shoujo vampires. Her cohesion and awareness of her storytelling also seems to hold up well at the story’s beginning. While the focus of the story remains on Maria and Mary for most of the volume, we’re given enticing little snippets of what might lie ahead for the two of them as they seek to unlock Maria’s past, from Mary’s discoveries in Maria’s school library to the brief flashbacks of lost memories from Mary’s past. Samamiya does an excellent job of letting these moments build the momentum of the story on their own, rather than turning them into something melodramatic and overdone.
Schilling’s translation should also be given credit in how seamlessly she captures the voice of Samamiya’s characters and allows the story to shine through on its own. There’s no instances of awkward or stilted phrasings to be found, and even changes in tone–such as when Maria’s confronted by his old friend and student council president, Sakuraba Takumi–come across naturally in her choice of words.
In terms of art, however, Samamiya’s previous experience as a boy’s love artist seems to show through. While the story and plot hold up well, sometimes her characters seem to lack an expression that isn’t simply “pretty boy.” In a panel where Mary explicitly calls out Maria’s fake smile it takes a little bit of squinting to even realize he’s smiling. Also, if it weren’t for the difference in hair tones on the three high school boys introduced in the volume, it would definitely be challenging to tell them all apart.
Yet despite the shortcoming of the style of the genre, Bloody Mary offers an entertaining read that balances itself well in both in terms of plot intrigue and lighthearted character interactions. If good looking vampires and priests are your thing, Samamiya’s storytelling and the cliffhanger at the end of the volume will certainly keep you coming back for more.