Blood Blade Volume 1 Review

Blood Blade is the debut work from author Oma Sei and is one of the first Kodansha USA commissioned titles for the Kodansha Reader Portal. Its story focuses on Count Vlad the Third, who was once a mighty ruler that was feared by many for his violent nature, so much so that he earned the nickname “Vlad the Impaler”. While he was eventually defeated and killed, Vlad was reborn as a cute, immortal vampire girl in a strange twist of fate, and for the 400 years since has lived in relative obscurity along with their only remaining servant, a maid called Nan.

That obscurity comes to an end when Vlad finds a teenage girl being stabbed by a grizzled, eyepatch-wearing assassin. Both aren’t ordinary people though, for the girl, Clara, is a golem created by Dr. Frankenstein, while the assassin is from an organisation called Cerberus that Clara says is trying to create an army of human-monster hybrids in order to take over the world. If they don’t want to get wrapped up in an oncoming war, their only salvation is to find Monster Island, a haven for all things ghastly and undead, but to do so, they’ll have to either avoid or defeat the many agents that Cerberus will send after them to pull them into their army.

What we have so far in this opening volume is a bit of a Japanese twist on western-style monster stories, wrapping well-known creatures such as vampires, werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster into an interesting narrative, combining aspects of horror, mystery, and action.

The initial setup can be a bit hard to take seriously, as the idea of Count Dracula being resurrected as a cute vampire girl is hardly original and plays very much to a particular audience, but as you get into things, it does sort-of work. Underneath the cute appearance there’s a strong air of confidence and age-old wisdom that comes from being a once mighty ruler, and Vlad’s sword skills are second to none, although turning them into a samurai doesn’t fit with the European setting and the character’s history.

From here the plot develops through this first volume at a good pace, as we are gradually introduced to both the main goal and the bad guys. I did feel this was a bit too simplistic and lacking ambition, as it sticks to well-established tropes for the pieces it has in play, opting for the evil organisation trying to take over the world, the search for the idyllic land, and the guide to get everybody there. There is beauty in simplicity though, and for a debut work I think it combines all of these in just the right way to keep you engaged – you know exactly what is happening and what the stakes are, making it easy to understand. Where it falls is trying at first to make Cerberus look like a mysterious organisation that is going to be slowly unravelled, as it shows the big boss moments later, destroying any feelings of conviction towards that side of the plot.

I did however enjoy the action sequences, which are stylistic and punchy, never outstaying their welcome. It gets to show off Vlad’s cool moves and ingenuity, while integrating the vampire side to good effect, giving both Vlad and Nan supernatural strength and abilities, such as being able to transform into different creatures. I did find the rest of the cast entertaining because of this supernatural stuff and their reactions to it, like how draining Nan’s magic reverts her from being an old woman to a young girl, or how working in a werewolf’s weakness to silver shows Clara to be pretty smart.

The artwork in this volume is an interesting but awkward mishmash of both Japanese and western styles, and it feels a bit off when you have these really cutely drawn girls standing next to chiselled men. There’s also a very photographic style (or what may even be edited photographs) utilized for a lot of the backgrounds to the point that things feel a bit too detailed for the art style adopted for its characters, and it can feel a little distracting. I’d again point to the action sequences for being the strongest here, as well as the individual character designs, as it does well to integrate the original designs of the monsters from Clara’s patchwork body to the guy that sprouts a werewolf arm.

Blood Blade is currently ongoing and is brought to us by Kodansha in both print and digital formats. This volume is translated by Ko Ransom and reads well with no issues to note. Volume 2 is due out on May 21st 2024.

While this first volume of Blood Blade has its faults, I think it comes across as a fair debut with some potential, even if things are a little awkward in places and the plot is rather by the numbers. There are definitely stronger titles in the genre, but I enjoyed it for what it is: a simple if quirky Japanese spin on western monster stories.

Read the first chapter on Kodansha’s website here.

Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

6 / 10


With a chant of "Ai-katsu!", Matthew Tinn spends their days filled with idol music and J-Pop. A somewhat frequent-ish visitor to Japan, they love writing and talking about anime, Japanese music and video games.

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