Here at Anime UK News, we’re big fans of Tokyopop’s LoveLove imprint (formally known as Love x Love). So, it goes without saying that I always have my eye on their new releases and today I’m here to talk about a series that combines two of my favourite things – Boys’ Love and vampires! Will this first volume of The Black Cat & the Vampire prove a compelling read? Let’s find out!
The story is set in Blanc College High School, which is an all-boys boarding school hidden away on the top of a mountain. The school prides itself on teaching its students to be gentlemen and cultivate their independence, ready for when they set foot into the working world. Here we meet our protagonist Yuki Hasegawa, a first-year who keeps to himself and holds his classmates at arm’s length. That is, apart from second-year and head boy Jean Michel who is known around the school for his handsome appearance and ability to charm everyone around him.
Despite wanting to spend his time studying, Yuki is regularly dragged into doing student council work by Jean. Luckily Jean is willing to pay for his time with extra food (Yuki has a large appetite), but all the same, he wishes Jean would refute the rumours that the two are a couple.
Still, one morning Yuki is surprised to find that the cafeteria is not for once talking about Jean. Instead, there are rumours of a vampire running rampant after first-year Aula Agrell was found in bed exhausted and with two small puncture holes in his neck. While most of the students don’t believe in vampires and are willing to wave off the rumours, one boy, Marius, is convinced he’s right and that others will be in danger should they do nothing.
Marius believes so strongly in his theory that he ends up stocking up on books about vampires in the hopes of learning their weaknesses or at least how to tell if someone isn’t human. Then Yuki overhears him talking with the house master about a similar case 20 years ago in which a mummified body was found on campus. Yuki begins to wonder if the two cases aren’t connected and that perhaps Jean knows something – at the very least, Yuki suspects he knows more than he’s letting on. Could it be that Jean isn’t as human as he appears…?
This isn’t mangaka Nikke Taino’s first release in English; readers may recognise their other series An Unmapped Country, Somewhere In This World (Manga Planet), A Paradise of Eternal Night (Renta) or My Personal Weatherman (MangaPlaza) which currently has a live-action adaptation available on Viki. However, this is their first series (both here and in Japan) to run for more than a single volume. And I think that’s the right decision here as a lot is happening in The Black Cat & the Vampire as well as there being a lot of different characters and relationships to juggle.
Having two volumes also means that Taino has time to develop the vampire side of things. Readers are left piecing together bits of the big picture alongside Yuki until we’re finally given answers at the very end of Volume 1. In the meantime, we get to see Yuki come out of his shell and grow closer to his classmates as he quietly investigates the attack as part of the Student Council. It’s paced well with nothing feeling unnatural or rushed, which is great because this genre with series that only run for a volume or two so rarely have time to do justice to every aspect. Of course, it might stick the landing in Volume 2, but right now I’m not overly concerned about that.
It’s easy to see why Taino’s work is so regularly being licensed for an English release too. Their artwork is charming, with plenty of detail and attractive character designs. The setting of this series is seemingly supposed to be Europe, given the names of many of the characters and the design of the school. Students are said to come from all over the world which gives justification for Jean’s blond hair and European appearance in contrast to Yuki who has a smaller build and black hair implying, perhaps, being of Asian Ethnicity. There’s clearly been a lot of care and attention put into crafting the nitty gritty details of the world in this series.
As mentioned earlier. The Black Cat & the Vampire Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Tokyopop under their LoveLove imprint. This release has been translated by Christine Dashiell and it reads well with no issues. One thing I will say is that the series is only rated an older teen (16+) despite some fairly graphic sexual scenes and I was surprised by that as the publisher usually goes with a mature (18+) rating on titles like this. Perhaps it will be bumped up for Volume 2.
Volume 1 is currently available digitally with a physical release planned for October 10th, with Volume 2 getting a digital release later this month and a physical release in December. So not too long to wait between releases, thankfully!
Overall, The Black Cat & the Vampire’s first volume proves a worthwhile read if you’re a fan of both vampires and the Boys’ Love genre. Author Nikke Taino has clearly put a lot of thought into how to depict this setting and its characters, which comes through to the reader as you flip through their story. Hopefully, Volume 2 will offer a satisfying conclusion to it all!