Just in case the original manga didn’t have enough jokes and silly payoffs to tickle the reader’s funny bone, here comes a book that’ll take a second crack at a couple of things.
Story/Art: Kanata Yoshino
Original Series: Yuuki Kodoma
Translation/Adaptation: Melissa Tanaka
What They Say
In this collection of short stories and four-panel comics, Blood Lad creator Yuki Kodama teams up with artist Kanata Yoshino to take us through the black curtain to explore the lives of Demon World Boss Staz and his crew. In this behind-the-scenes trip, readers will discover the full extent of Staz’s anime/manga obsession, join Bell on her treasure-hunting travels, and much more!
For the release of Bloody Brat the cover uses an alternating yellow and black square pattern that gives off the impression of a chess board and it sets the tone right from the start by using the same characters on the cover as Yen Press used for their first volume of the regular series but instead of looking menacing as they did there each character is reading a volume of the Blood Lad manga which shows this series isn’t above mocking the original series in order to have some fun. Prominently featured on the cover is the lead character Staz standing with his head at an angle, his pointed teeth on full display as he smiles with a manga volume in his right hand while his left hand is busy holding a bag that might have come from a comic con or doujin shop -and this guess is backed up by the underarm bag full of some items that look suspiciously like otaku goods. Behind him are four (well, five with the animal like one) characters half in shadow split equally on either side of him made to look incredibly sinister with eyes that look like they are glowing white but rather than peering out at the reader each is staring at their own book in their hands.
The art for the series is one that is fairly strong for the most part as the art is often very sharp in both characters and backgrounds with the author/artist using both a realistic approach at times as well as the using comic absurdities and exaggerations to help sell the story that works well and looks very much like the original manga author’s work, though given the somewhat satirical/comical nature here the characters tend to go off model with exaggerations a bit more often. The release makes use of a thick enough paper that allows for the images to often use a rather generous amount of ink to really present some splash with a minimum of bleed through being visible on most pages and the binding for the release is sturdy and this book contains no color pages, unlike its omnibus predecessor.
Like many of Yen Press’ releases, the presentation here makes use of keeping the original Japanese sound effects and writing in the art while placing the onomatopoeia underneath effects and translations where needed in the margins for sounds or signs. Honorifics are also present at times, though the rebellious nature of many of the characters frequently has them eschewing to use them just like in the main book.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The vampire Staz is a territory boss in the Demon World, though he has a lack of ambition that has him eschewing gaining more area to rule and only really defending his area when challengers inevitably come calling as the Demon World is a rough one with many individuals looking to assemble power by gaining as much control as possible. For Staz though this is just a bore as all he wants to do indulge in anime, manga, games figures and everything else Japanese that falls into the Demon World that he can get his hands on. Then one day his life is changed when a genuine Japanese girl drops into his world, though unfortunately she dies very soon after and now her ghost follows Staz around as without his help- or more specifically, his blood- she will fade away. Feeling a little responsible (but just a little he would say) Staz decides to try to help the girl return to life and so the pair travel around the lower Demon World trying to find a way to resurrect her while bumping into all manner of friends and opponents of Staz on their journey.
None of that by the way is spelled out in the manga. Instead what the readers get is a work that already assumes that the reader is quite familiar with the cast and many of the events as unlike some other collections that use some 4-panel comics or a short number of pages to tell their unique story and events much of what happens is greatly dependent on the reader bringing some familiarity in with them from the main series Blood Lad. As a result the various individual bits here range from Staz trying to peek in on Saty while she is cooking (despite the warnings against it), Staz’s underlings trying to cover for their boss in a territory fight while he is missing, Fuyumi reading Little Red Riding Hood to Staz’s younger sister Liz (where Staz still comes out the worse for things through no fault of Fuyumi) and Fuyumi’s misadventures with a pair of tiger striped bikini panties and the lightning they summon [wait, where have I heard something like that before?]- and that is just for starters.
As the book continues Bell meets Braz while trying to steal from him, Staz and Wolf try to fight a common (for them) match but without Staz using his powers, Bell having to lose weight, Staz finding Liz’s weakness and Staz perhaps being haunted (for real this time…or realer?) by his inability to bring Fuyumi back to life. Some of the little vignettes type tales here require almost no knowledge of the characters while other ones twist parts from the main story making the collection one that has no real central theme other than the author indulging themselves as to what they would like to see the cast do in a given situation, whether it be a twist on what did happen or inventing a new premise inside this fictional universe to explore.
Bloody Brat isn’t the only comedy book on the market that takes characters from an existing property and puts a bit more of a comedic twist on them compared to the material they are based on- heck, it isn’t even the only book like it on the marked from Yen Press as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-chan runs a pretty similar concept in many ways. Bloody Bratz breaks from many Haruhi-Chan volumes though as it doesn’t try to establish any kind of theme (or at least, not a theme I can pick up on) and it seems to be almost like a stream of consciousness thing when it comes to the ideas or stories that it explores. As a result I found it difficult to really connect with the material as the focus of stories, characters and even the time in continuity that the stories riff off from vary greatly.
While I enjoyed many of them there weren’t many that produced more than smiles in the process and in a book that looks to really be striving to ride the wave of the main series’ popularity that seems like a bit of a flaw as even with the main book’s sense of fun there seems to be plenty of ground to cover but much of what is done here feels safe rather than really taking some liberties with the cast and settings. There are a number of popular and well worn Japanese gags that fans of such material will see, and somehow even when subverted a bit they didn’t have a tremendous impact to me overall and while I enjoyed the time spent reading the book very little that was done really stands out in my mind and frankly a fair amount has already been forgotten simply because it didn’t resonate. Given that the material largely is working from the early days of the title when I thought the main manga was still struggling to find its voice as well so I can see that there is a possibility that the next volume will also take similar strides forward, but for now what exists is a cute book that provides a fair bit of entertainment but largely hit me as disposable in nature and most likely to appeal to the existing Blood Lad fans already sold on the property.
With Blood Lad being a bit of a hit in Japan it probably isn’t too surprising that there would be a series that takes the already fanciful and comedic characters and puts a spin on them to have the cast play in different events or just have the already existing events play out a bit different. With an art style that never feels like it is either confined by the main series nor struggling to keep up with the existing work author/artist Kanata Yoshino brings a better than competent alternate view to the Blood Lad universe, though as it is humor some of the pieces will work better for individuals than others. This is not the book for people wondering about the world of Blood Lad to try to use as an introduction as the situations that occur assume the reader already knows the characters, but for those who have been following the series the title might prove a nice change of pace that leaves them with a couple of smiles on their face over the course of the volume.
Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: March 25th, 2014