For the first two volumes of The Record of a Fallen Vampire, one thinks one has things figured out. There’s the vampire king, Akabara Strauss, who has tirelessly searched for his imprisoned queen for 1000 years despite being hunted by both human and supernatural foes, inspiring much romantic speculation. There’s the dhampire (a human/vampire mix) Jin Renka, who is also motivated by a love that was taken from him, a human named Yuki who was possessed by the Black Swan—a curse that imparts the ability to nullify the vampire king’s magic—and killed by Strauss. And then there’s the newest incarnation of the Black Swan, Kayuki, who, instead of fighting Strauss like she ought to do, instead initiates a truce with him because his help is needed in dealing with a problem of some magnitude.
And then along comes volume three and turns everything on its ear. It would be unfair to spoil the surprise, but at least one new development is so cracktastic one has to admire it.
The Record of a Fallen Vampire is scripted by Kyo Shirodaira, whose authorial blurb mentions he’s a novelist (and performed writerly duties for Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning, as well). He’s taken a novelistic approach with this series, too, pacing the opening volumes to dole out morsels of information at just the right pace, and waiting until the third volume to roll out the surprises. Also, because this series is complete in nine volumes, one suspects that the rest of the story will be equally well plotted. Shirodaira’s sure-handed approach allows one to confidently accept ideas like dhampires and curses without a fuss, concepts that could easily seem ridiculous if sloppily executed.
The characters are also an interesting bunch, and a couple of them—Akabara and his former general turned enemy, Bridget—have already been shown to have layers beyond their combative roles. The dhampires and Black Swan might be compelled to fight the super-powerful Strauss, but nonetheless concede that he’s a good guy. He definitely has his share of sins, but he knows this and is fully prepared to pay for them, and it doesn’t deter him from his relentless search for the queen. Even Laetitia, the young dhampire who Strauss has taken under his wing, manages to be the child-like comic relief without being annoying.
The one problematic note in the early volumes is the art by Yuri Kimura. Improvement is already noticeable by volume three, but problems with anatomy and proportion plague the first volume. The most glaring example is the back cover, which depicts a creepy, pink-haired girl with huge hands and a huge head on a too-tall stalk of a neck. She looks like an alien! This is actually supposed to be Yuki, who happily looks more human in the interior art.
It’s probably obvious that I enjoyed these three volumes quite a bit. I hope to get to the rest soon, because this is a series where storytelling momentum is especially important.
The Record of a Fallen Vampire is published in English by VIZ. All nine volumes are available now.