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Call Of The Night : Volume 1 [Manga Review]

 


Vampires have been a mainstay of popular culture for well over a century and show no signs of going away any time soon. It's an enduringly popular subject in anime and manga too. Although Eastern cultures have their own mythology around bloodsuckers (China's hopping vampires being a particularly fun example) it's a more westernised version of vamps that feature in popular manga and anime like Hellsing, Vampire Knight, Vampire Hunter D and Blood Lad. 

Call Of The Night is the latest vampire-themed manga to be translated into English (out now via Viz in paperback and digital). Written and illustrated by the mono-monikored Kotoyama (mangaka of Dagashi Kashi, later adapted into a two-season anime), it began serialisation in Japan in Weekly Shonen Sunday in August of 2019.  A total of seven collected volumes have been released so far.

The manga centres on Ko Yamori, a junior high schooler who has been suffering from insomnia. One night, in desperation he decides to slip out of the house alone to walk Tokyo's city streets. He runs into a mysterious hooded stranger, who turns out to be a young woman who offers him a bed for the night and promises she can help him sleep. The woman is actually a vampire named Nazuna Nanakusa (as Ko discovers when she attempts to feed on him when she thinks he's asleep). 


 

Rather than run away screaming- surely the normal reaction when someone tries to use you like a juice box- Ko is intrigued and sticks around. (I'm sure the fact she's cute has nothing to do with it). The two enter a bizarre pact where the teen agrees to meet up with Nazuna every night so she can feed from him. Ko finds out that the only way to become turned into a vampire is to be bitten by a vampire you have fallen in love with. Deciding that being a vampire is what he wants, Ko resolves to try and fall for her.

The obvious sexual subtext in vampire mythology has led for human/vampire romance to be a popular subject for stories across all media. However, it's more typically a human woman swooning over a pretty-boy vampire. A human guy with the hots for a vampire girl ( as in the case here) is definitely novel. 

Vampire stories are often pretty straight-laced affairs, heavy on the gothic atmosphere and brooding. Call Of The Night is definitely on the lighter side, not aiming for scares at all. Instead, this is very much in romantic comedy territory, specifically the 'magic girlfriend' subgenre occupied by classic series like Oh My Goddess and Urusei Yatsura.

The appeal of the romantic interest character is central to whether series such as this work or not. Nazuna is a memorable character, cutting quite the figure in her long black coat that resembles a traditional vampire's cloak. She has little regard for social norms, shocking Ko with her talk of 'human coitus'. But her reluctance to discuss love raises some interesting questions about her history. Surely future volumes will explore this more.

Ko like many manga protagonists is a bit of a non-entity,  a wet blanket without much in the way of a personality. But his lonely existence and bleak outlook on his life does draw sympathy. Whether it blooms into romance or not, it's clear this kid just needs a friend. It's reflected in his design, with a slightly dishevelled 'bed head' look, making him look like a lost puppy. 


 

Kotoyama designs extremely appealing characters with distinctive looks. Nazuna shares the distinctive spirals in her pupils with Dagashi Kaishi's Hotaru and has a sort of out-of-time look. It's not really possible to tell how old she is, or what era she's from.

The depiction of the city at night is really effective. It gives a very realistic setting an otherworldly feel. With the streets almost empty, it seems almost as if the city is Nazuna and Ko's personal playground, existing in a parallel world where they can live as they wish.

Throwing a spanner into the works somewhat is Ko running into his childhood playmate Akira (a girl's name in this case). Concerned about his disappearance from school, and cautious of his new friend. It adds to the regular cast and gives Ko another possible rival for his affections.

It's a neat and pretty original spin on vampire lore, with the potential to go some really fun places. The series would be a good pick for an anime adaptation (and Kotoyama's success with Dagashi Kaishi perhaps makes that more likely).

Call of the Night's debut volume is off to a strong start that raises plenty of questions, with an intriguing premise and irresistible art. It whips by and will leave you craving more- and for a first volume, what more could you really ask for?




FORMAT: BOOK/ E-BOOK FROM: VIZ MEDIA WRITTEN BY: KOTOYAMA ART BY: KOTOYAMA RATING: T+ [OLDER TEEN]



 

★★★☆☆

 


 

Review Copy Provided by Viz Media

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