Direction: Right to Left
By: Akihisa Ikeda
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Drama, Seinen, Romance
Average human teenage boy Tsukune accidentally enrolls at a boarding school for monstersâ€”no, not jocks and popular kids, but bona fide werewolves, witches, and unnameables out of his wildest nightmares! On the plus side, all the girls have a monster crush on him. Especially far-from-average cute vampire Moka. On the O-negative side, she also has a burning, unquenchable thirst for his blood…Â
Now, can Tsukune and his unlikely group of friends and rivals save humanity from the evil members of monsterkind?
The edition I just bought is the new collectors edition, which comes in a case with all twenty-four volumes, and an additional unreleased colour booklet.
Before I get onto my review let me just get this out, go buy this series now! If youâ€™ve got even a passing interest in the series go grab it. At the moment you can get this collectors edition from Amazon for a mere Â£70, over half the full MRSP of Â£149/$186, frankly at this price itâ€™s a steal!
This review is split into thee sections, the first being Season 1 of the series, the next being Season 2. The final section will include my thoughts on the case, booklet and general overall thoughts on the series. So, lets go!!
The first volume is pretty rough I felt, while not bad it clear that Ikeda was still finding his style. As a result of this over the course of the series we see characters going through several iterations on design. Which as you can imagine is a little off putting, and yes â€˜immersionâ€™ breaking.
In this sense immersion means my connection to the characters themselves. I found the constantly changing designs, especially of Moka, to be off putting. Thankfully this does settle down by the half way point and the designs settle into a nice look. From then on the designs become sharper and cleaner, as he gets used to drawing them.
The monsters conversely are really well done, for the most part. There was only one or two that made me wonder what was going through his head when he was drawing them.
As youâ€™d expect, given that this is a fan service manga, the female characters are given a lot of time and effort when it comes to the drawings. Where as the guys are done almost exclusively, in a over the top fashion. Even as â€˜humansâ€™ they tend to look monstrous.
The over arcing story, of Tsukune and friends is fun to read, so long as you suspend disbelief. After all youâ€™ve a guy whose pretty much useless at everything having all the women throwing themselves at him, quite frequently literally.
Honestly if you can get past the initial weak premise, its a really fun series, with a good solid â€˜friendshipâ€™ core. Getting to know each other, overcoming trials and difficulties, and building on your friendship. I was surprised just how well this plays out, and at the end of the first season I was left rather satisfied with things.
However I do think it could have been better. Almost though out the season Ikeda relied on the â€˜monster of the weekâ€™ formula, which given how he rounded out the season made for an odd mix. I wish heâ€™d spent more time fleshing out the Hokuto and the Monstrels. While I enjoyed the arc, and felt it was a good read; I also felt it would have had more â€˜oomphâ€™ if there had been more build up. If Hokuto had been more involved with story and the Monstrels more of a threat.
Overall however this season was a good read, I liked the story (mostly) and liked how it ended. Ikeda has created a great series that has grown on me; which I have to admit I wasnâ€™t expecting given Iâ€™ve lost interest in over the top fan service style manga.
For me I think that that fact, more than anything else, would be enough to try it out, and to pick up anything else he releases in the future
Season 2 picks up right where season 1 left off, which makes sense since theyâ€™re essentially the same series. It was renamed as season 2 after it changed publications.
Art wise, itâ€™s still the same solid consistency, which is great. The art is more and more refined and polished, and we see less and less of drastic character design changes.
I was actually really surprised how consistent the art was through out the series, and admittedly had a chuckle when some of the original art was used for a flash back. You donâ€™t actually realise just how far the art has come still you see the old and the new side by side.
I also really appreciated the fact we got a bonus or two in each volume, either two full colour pages, or a full colour fold out poster. Now, while I really appreciate those, and some of them are damn nice, it would have been better to have them loose in the volumes. That way you can remove them from the volumes and genuinely appreciate them, or even get them framed if you want. Sadly the only way to get them out of the books is to literally rip them out, damaging either the poster, the volume, or worse, both.
It did start out a bit monster of the week, but it was quickly surpassed by having a proper storyline. Whatâ€™s more it was really interesting story that I could dig my teeth into. Some of it was cliche, some of it was shocking, and at one point, yeah I got emotional.
I loved the twists and turns of the story, the betrayals and reverse betrayals, and for once I totally didnâ€™t see who the big bad was. I was totally wrong on how that ended, which was amazing as it was a genuine surprise to me.
Of course it was slightly spoiled by the â€˜feels goodâ€™ ending, but even this was mildly alleviated when certain truths came out. And while it definitely had a cheesy as hell moment, it did actually make a lot of sense.
But thatâ€™s the sort of series this is, it was never going to be a deep meaningful story, or a deep dark story, so I was happy to see that what we got was a pretty damn good one!
One thing I will say on this is that we get some serious character development of Tsukune, he goes from being a flat mildly funny character, to have personality and becoming the core of the story. He develops really strongly in this series and matches up perfectly with Moka.Â
The booklet you get is a small 13 page full colour affair, with a nice glossy covering. It includes a standalone chapter, which was an okay read, but after finishing season two itâ€™s a bit weak. You also get a series of three colour panels taken from the series. These were specifically chosen by Ikeda-sensei and include a comment about them from him.
All told itâ€™s a really nice little bonus thing to add to the collected edition, better than some of the others Iâ€™ve seen!
In general this is where Viz has dropped the ball in the past (with the exception of NausicaÃ¤ of the Valley of the Wind which had an amazing box). The boxes have always been cheap, easily damaged, (such as with Host Club box set, which ripped because the velcro used to fasten the box was stronger than the box it was attached to!), and generally fell apart in rapid time.
However if this box is how Viz are going to be doing things in the future Iâ€™m all for it! This box is amazing. Some seriously awesome art on both the outside and inside, tied with a good solid, sturdy and reinforced card. I donâ€™t see it falling apart any time soon! They do still use velcro, which means every time I go to open it Iâ€™m afraid itâ€™s going to tear. I wish theyâ€™d swap to magnets for keeping the case closed. All the books fit in nice and snug, with little room to move around, and itâ€™s got itself a good strong carry handle. Frankly, Iâ€™m beyond impressed.
So is this series worth buying? Absolutely! Given the price of the series at the minute (almost double what I paid for it at release a month ago), itâ€™s a steal. In the UK the individual volumes retail for Â£6.99×24=Â£167.76, or you canick up this box set for around the Â£70 mark. There is also a kindle version, which has the usual odd pricing we tend to see with Kindle books, but it’s still possible to get the full set for around Â£80 on kindle. It depends on your preferences.
All told this has been a fun series and one well worth buying and reading multiple times.