The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
Hungry for You: Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night
What's It About?There's something odd about Yasuko Endo.
Maybe it's the way she never seems to eat regular food, or her dislike of garlic, sunlight, and churches. Or maybe it's the fact that three months ago, three girls went mysteriously missing around her school, and to this day have not been found. Or it could simply be that, when she attacks Shizue and bites her neck, she then asks if Shizue would mind being her emergency food supply.
Whatever the reason, as long as she's willing to pay Shizue's food bills, Shizue's up for it. Other students are less chill with the whole thing, and Akira even starts spreading the v-word around and goes so far as to hire an American vampire hunter. But if Shizue can keep Yasuko in check, is there really even a problem? Hungry For You - Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night is written and illustrated by Flowerchild. It was published by Seven Seas in May and sells for $12.99.
Is It Worth Reading?Rebecca Silverman
If you've ever longed for a yuri vampire gag manga, Seven Seas has got you covered. Hungry For You - Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night is among the latest of their increasingly diverse yuri line, and it features just that – a lesbian vampire at an all-girls school in a comedic story. What's particularly funny is that the word “vampire” isn't even used until about a third of the way through the book; all of the signs are expressly given again and again, but it honestly never appears to occur to straight man and emergency snack Shizue that the weird new girl who moved in with her is anything but the murderer she claims to be.
If that last line threw you off, you have a good idea of how it feels to read this manga. Creator Flowerchild relies on random details to keep her readers on their toes, and a lot of the humor comes from what the characters don't say as much as what they do. That Shizue can be so quickly won over with the offer of food, even if it means that she must become a snack for her new roommate herself, is both funny and pretty darn relatable, because anyone who has ever been a starving student knows the lengths they'll go to for a free meal. The fact that she simply takes Yasuko at face value when she announces that she's a murderer and then proceeds to ignore the fact that she might be in danger speaks volumes about both Shizue as a person and the humor of the story – the absurd is routinely ignored in order to play up the silliness of a given situation.
Mostly this works, in large part because of the introduction of Akira, a girl Yasuko bit and rejected as tasting gross, and Ashley, the Texan vampire hunter she finds online and hires. Ashley, who persists in saying “y'all” even after she learns Japanese by watching manzai, is a fun take on the American exchange student. She's not an otaku and doesn't care anything about Japan until she discovers manzai, nor does she tend to swan around in American flag-print bikinis. She's also kind of a crappy vampire hunter, which is perhaps par for the course but also fairly funny, especially since she initially doesn't even load the correct bullets in her rifle. Both Ashley and Akira form an hysterical counterpoint to Shizue's deadpan calm about all of Yasuko's oddities, and the addition of a girl who's probably a social media savvy werewolf and a goofy police detective look like they'll expand the story's humor further. The art is a bit crowded for easy reading and right now about every two jokes is a miss, but this has the potential to be a lot of fun, even as it fills that yuri vampire gap in your reading life.
Hungry For You - Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night volume 1 is a gag manga that only sometimes lands a joke. It's also a comedy that relies heavily on the running joke of one main character not recognizing the vampire right in front of her—a joke that winds up stretched thin. Many of the gags are repeated throughout to varying degrees of success. Agawa is the rival who quickly figures out what's what with the pale literal bloodsucker who won't eat a morsel of other food. Ashley is the airheaded American brought in to slay Yasuko who then sticks around, quickly learning Japanese and becoming a fan of Japanese manzai comedy. Shizue may not believe in vampires despite all the evidence, but she lets someone she believes to be a murderer move into her home, all because she's strapped for cash and this self-proclaimed killer who wants her as a “snack” can provide her with money. Interactions between the girls are more over-the-top than frightening, and they can be enjoyable, but if you don't immediately buy into the concept, there's nothing much in this first volume that will make you change your mind by volume's end. Yasuko herself is probably the least memorable character in her own titular manga, though that's definitely intentional. She's not that emotive unless her hunger drives her to extremes. It makes for some funny deadpan moments, like during her sneaky plan to “sample” girls in the haunted house, but most of the time, it lacks punch.
Flowerchild draws girls beautifully, with Shizue's tomboyish design in particular standing out. They rely heavily on screentones, particularly to invoke gothic moods, to the point where it can be a bit overwhelming to see that much dark on the page. However, the frequent darkness does help contrast Yasuko with her rival Agara, who's colored lightly, so it's probably a conscious choice.
Hungry For You - Endo Yasuko Stalks the Night volume 1 is not without merit, but it leaves a bit to be desired, especially if it's supposed to be a comedic manga. The mystery of what happened to the three missing girls in town and the late introduction of a clearly conniving new character promise more conflict and intrigue in the future, but for now, Hungry For You exists mostly as a gag manga that doesn't have that many memorable gags. In a sense, it could be a parody of the cute-girls-doing-cute-things schoolgirls genre only with a supernatural twist, but it doesn't particularly cleverly send up any tropes from the genre as of yet. There's promise in these pages, but Hungry For You is still lacking right now.
Hungry For You makes for an imbalanced meal. It provides a heaping of comedy hijinks, a dash of vampire-centered girl-girl romance, and a smidge of mystery, but not enough for a truly engaging read. I was hoping for something approaching Twilight levels of romantic drama without all the vamp politics sub-plot but what I got were a couple of blushing scenes, a weird cowgirl assassin, and half-launched villain story about cyberbullying.
It's kind of all over the place. The interactions between Yasuko and Shizue are a highlight thanks to a very fluid, casual translation by Christine Dashiell. The two characters speak to one another in a very jokey, modern sort of way that I don't see often in manga translations, but it definitely helped make each character seem more realistic and relatable. Well, as relatable as a vampire turned former French model turned high school student that feeds off the lymph nodes (??) in her victims can be. Where the story fails is to bring anything particularly new to the table despite its pretty unique premise, and what it does bring is more weird than funny.
Enter Ashley, simple-minded farm girl that's also an assassin for hire. One of Yasuko's victims decides to pay Ashley in order to reveal Yasuko's true nature to everyone at school, but Ashley's really bad at her job. She hangs around for a few chapters to chase after Yasuko and fire her revolver willy-nilly but when that fails she's pushed into the background for another half-realized threat. This pattern continues for every two chapters or so, but it never feels like things are progressing. Yasuko and Shizue don't seem to grow any closer and Ashley and Akira don't really give up on confronting Yasuko but they don't make any real strides to do it either. The police become involved at the tail-end because Yasuko is rumored to be involved with three recent murders, but even that is put to the side after a pretty silly backstory.
I think Hungry For You would have benefited as either a straight rom-com that was actually funnier, or a romance-mystery starring Yasuko and Shizue attempting to clear her name and find the real murderer but at this point it tries to be everything and doesn't really nail down anything.
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