Nimosaku Shimada, 2010, Digital Manga/Oakla Publishing

Aaaaarrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

No, really. This is a disaster. It can’t be happening. I cannot go on. I cannot bear the pain. Etc., etc. Because I thought there was a second volume. I don’t know why I thought that – probably confused it with Portrait of a Vampire, which does have a second volume – not that I care. Damn it. I have finished How to Seduce a Vampire and I was secure in the knowledge that there was more waiting for me, BUT THERE ISN’T. There isn’t even anything else available by Nimosaku Shimada. I may take to my bed and pine. Pine desultorily, and gnash my teeth in sheer vexation. Then nap.

This book snuck right up on me. I was wary, because, you know, my heart’s done time. (I thought that was kind of clever. You see, “Heart’s Done Time” is an Aerosmith song, from Permanent Vacation, a not completely intolerable album that was the middle of the end for a band that used to be one of the best and became – what they became. Heavy sigh. Now I’m thoroughly depressed.) Anyway. I love me some vampires, and vampire stuff has never been hotter, but – to take liberties with the state motto of Alaska – the odds are good, but the goods mostly pretty much suck. Since it is too late to make a long story short, let us at least summarize succinctly by saying I am wary about vampire films, books, and manga. I expect to be disappointed, and I usually am.

I wanted to ignore this title, but I couldn’t resist the cover. So pretty, so understated, so quietly louche. And lo, there was a sense of humor evident in the leather holster filled with scissors. (Vampire stories – and most other endeavors – are best tackled with at least a soupcon of humor.)

The main story seemed – OK. I wasn’t especially motivated to finish it; in fact, it took me weeks to get through less than fifty pages. If the vampire hadn’t been a hairdresser, I’m not sure I would have bothered. I found that detail charming, though. And the story was fine, mostly because the art was pretty (if completely impenetrable on occasion – not often enough to leave me baffled and frustrated; more like the occasional panel that I stared at, frowning). But I didn’t care if I read it or not.

Then came the second part of the story, “Demon Armor.” This one pushes into the back story, which is quietly compelling. And, also – demon armor.

(Some spoilers ahead.) You’d have to be a hardass indeed not to appreciate suddenly reanimated demon armor gone AWOL. And the vampire can’t fight it effectively because his assistant is off getting the vampire’s scissors (forged in a special way from a special steel for special demon abusing powers) sharpened. But his assistant – who turns out to be a descendant of a family of smiths wot made the special scissors and, before that, the more traditional demon-slaying daggers and swords we’ll find out more about in the third story – goes into a trance and comes to the rescue.

Now engaged, I was prepared to quite like the third story, “Autumn Leaves,” which did in fact work out. This one is all back story, interesting and romantic and just dark enough for it to be a vampire story, but not drowning in its own angst. Also, pretty costume drama stuff. Smithing. Smut. Very nice.

The story (all three chapters) is very lightly told; I wouldn’t say there are loose ends so much as there is lots of breathing room. That’s part of why I thought there would be a sequel – there’s a lot that’s unsaid. I don’t see that as a flaw, though. The vampire chapters make up a sketch, but a good sketch.

The next story, “Tiger & Dragon,” surprised me. That’s always, er, surprising. It’s another costume drama, this time laced with some shogun domination. And bickering. Can’t go wrong with that.

“Strobe Lights,” the final story, was unexpectedly delightful. It didn’t have the depth and subtlety the best parts of the main story did, but the developing relationship portrayed is beautifully angsty-sweet. And it’s about cosplayers, which just cracked me up. Grown men sewing elaborate costumes so they can go to conventions dressed as their anime heroes. One of the guys is unaware of the humor inherent in this, and another guy exudes a kind of wry, injured dignity about the whole thing. He’s been hurt by love but is being healed by the charming power of Mr. Enthusiasm’s obliviousness. It makes my inner dork (you don’t have to scratch too hard to find it) feel warm and hopeful. And the costumes are pretty indeed (there’s also a lot of whining about them being hot and uncomfortable and the glued on beard getting in the way, which is kind of adorable).

So, what we have here, then, is an unexpected victory. I’m feeling so empowered, I think I’m going to pick up another title that’s been worrying me – Maiden Rose. Dare to struggle, dare to win, right?

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