Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 26th 2006
Yotsuji Academy is an unconventional high school where a student absolutely does not want to be around after sunset, for it is also home, prison, and burial ground for the few remaining Nosferatu in the world, beings made immortal by the presence of Evil Genes in their bodies. Some of the staff and teachers are Nosferatu, while the rest are lifelike zombies reanimated by the Nosferatu to help maintain appearances. Recent transfer student Kurou Takagi, who is the son of the principal, and his friends learn of the school's secrets the hard way when they wind up on school grounds after dark one night. All of them find themselves embroiled in the affairs of the Nosferatu, some of which are even likable and friendly towards the students. Such involvement can be a dangerous proposition, however, even for those who gain special powers related to the Nosferatu.
|While Dark Edge lacks in originality, it tries to make up for it by injecting elements of cutesiness into an otherwise dark series and playing on common student paranoia. What student hasn't, at some point, wondered if some of their teachers were zombies who crawled into their graves at night? Or that a particular teacher was monstrous and evil? In Yotsuji Academy all those fears come to life. It's an amusing idea, but sadly the writing and artistry don't support it well and the cutesiness gimmick far more often feels incongruous than like comedy relief.
Although Kurou, with his little-used fear of the dark, is nominally the central character, over this stretch of volumes the story is split about evenly over an ensemble of a half-dozen students and three or four teachers, with several other characters regularly popping up. This might work if the writing did a better job of distinguishing the characters from one another, but as it is only a small number of characters could be considered well-defined, and those are usually the fringe comic relief characters; the ditzy girl who's obsessively in love with one of her teachers even though she knows he's a monstrous Nosferatu, or the equally ditzy Nosferatu teacher with the massive hooters and a childlike playfulness with her prey. Most of the rest of the cast is hard to keep straight, even with the help of the character bios in each volume.
The writing does occasionally come up with some neat ideas, so it isn't hopeless. Figuring prominently into the latter volumes is a special coffin which can only be opened by someone willing to take the place of the current occupant. While a person is in the coffin, that person is gradually forgotten about by everyone outside the coffin, as if he didn't exist. The “graveyard room” under the school, is also an intriguing idea, as is the notion that people not killed or turned into Nosferatu when infected by Evil Genes sometimes develop odd powers, like becoming invulnerable at night (but only at night). Standing against those sparks of creativity is gross overuse of side comments by characters and the writer, who seems compelled to explain a lot of things which should be made clear by the artistry and context. While this isn't a style exclusive to this manga, it's vastly overused here.
Yu Aikawa's artwork is most distinctive for its character designs, which feature long-limbed, long-torsoed characters with skewed body proportions. Some might call this an artistic style, but others will call it a lack of proper understanding about how to draw the human body. Between this and the weird solid-pupil way of drawing eyes for many characters, few of the cast members are particularly pretty or appealing. Even the nudity, which is scattered lightly and widely amongst these four volumes, doesn't help much and isn't well-defined anyway. The character designs also suffer from a shortage of distinguishing features, which can make some characters hard to tell apart visually as well as by personality, especially in close-ups. The design of the monstrous version of one Nosferatu is a bit better, but that is offset by the lack of definition on the cute little familiars. Background artistry has enough detail to be passable but readers are unlikely to be impressed with its sparing use and lack of quality. The same goes for the graphic content, which is lighter than one might expect given the nature of the title. Even so, it's intense enough that the title is not appropriate for younger readers. Pencil-sketch cover art, which features different characters and a different sketch color each time, is also wholly unimpressive.
DrMaster, the company behind the manga adaptations of titles like Tsukihime and Stellvia, does a respectable job with the translation, although the typesetting does not correctly line up with the word balloons in a couple of places and the tiny side-comment text is sometimes hard to read against dark backgrounds. In other places the print is so tiny that it's hard to read, period. Flaws also occasionally pop up in the pattern-printing for fill on darker skin and clothing. Original Japanese sound effects are usually retained with accompanying translations cleverly worked into the artwork beside them, although in a few places they are outright replaced by the translations. Bonus material can be found at the end of some chapters, including character profiles and glossary terms.
Dark Edge might work for vampire aficionados who favor a very stylish interpretation on drawing the human body, but even so, there are much better stories out there about creatures of the night. This uninspired tale is sprinkled with occasional bits of cleverness, but its storytelling and characterizations are too ill-defined, its tone is too erratic, for it to be worth a reader's time.
Story : D
Art : C-
+ Occasional bits of cleverness.
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