Upon closer look, it was all stuff from Seven Seas, an American publisher known for a couple licenses and the thankless task of releasing manga from non-Japanese authors (manga-ka) to a market that dismisses non-Japanese manga out of hand. The most appealing of the remaindered lot was Dive In The Vampire Bund.
A spinoff of Nozomu Tamaki’s Dance In The Vampire Bund, a manga best known for vampire matriarchs unfortunately frozen in the bodies of pubescent girls, Dive didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but I had eight bucks to gamble with and figured it’d be a read I don’t have to think much about. “It’ll be a Japanese brand of White Wolf, it’s a complete story arc, and I’ll suffer through the genre requirement of uncomfortably sexualized middle school looking four hundred year old vampires,” I thought. It’d be trash, but I’ve blown eight bucks on worse.
I wasn’t ready for my eight bucks to pan out.
Dive’s story begins with a half-Brazilian half-Japanese man (Garcia Fujisaki) caught in his friend’s bug chasing vampire tourism.* Somehow, that goes bad, and Mr. Fujisaki is stuck in the Vampire Bund (a mostly vampire island of a coast of Japan) with 72 hours before he too is turned into a vampire.
The monsters of the week are intelligently applied, and while you won’t be mistaking Tamaki-san for Eiji Otsuka, I admit I wasn’t expecting to see Tamaki-san bring up the 442nd and the Bosnian/Serbian conflict as methods of fleshing out the world. I also wasn’t expecting to see a confession of by a male character to a female character be rejected and have that be the end of the matter. Dive has some progressive story beats that I would not have believed had I not read them myself. I don’t recall a manga with a mixed race lead character. They must exist, but I don’t know about them. Throw in zombies and vampires actively shouting nativist jeers at the main character and I found a manga willing to make the subtext obvious, or at least acknowledge a country’s xenophobia.
(America and Japan are not unique. Every country is xenophobic, if you look.)
I told my friends Dive is better than it has any right to be and I stick to that. Sadly, Mr. Fujisaki is drawn almost exclusively in tight t-shirts, but when he’s fleshed out, he talks about the immigrant experience and being “stuck” in Japan.
I bought more volumes of Dance on the strength of Dive and the ROI there wasn’t as high. There’s a great moment in Dance In The Vampire Bund II, volume one where we learn about a vampire’s choice to stay in the human community not because she wants a couple centuries worth of coercive power, but it’s the only place she’s ever wanted to live. Getting to that point (shown below) was more of a chore than I cared for.
Another spinoff, Dance In The Vampire Bund: The Memories Of Sledgehammer, features an American war hero (Hama Seiji) who protects an openly vampiric Bund candidate (Reiko Gotoh) running for Japanese office. Unsurprisingly, Ms. Goto is the woman Mr. Seiji loves, While I wouldn’t recommend it except if you’re already interested in the main series, I’m two of three volumes in and Memories of Sledgehammer has not yet buckled under the weight of its many tropes.
I'll look for the third and final volume of Memories of Sledgehammer at cons and maybe give in and buy it on a Black Friday sale, but I don't think I'll go any further into the Vampire Bund proper. Never say never, but the odds are real, real low. I can recommend Dive... and even with reservations, I wasn't expecting that.
*Yeah, bug chasing vampire tourism is a hell of a phrase, but imagine how silly some of our genre fiction must seem to the rest of the world, if described quickly.
For the music? Back to My Chemical Romance and getting some of that sweet vampire money.