Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Dec 22nd 2011
My Boyfriend is a Vampire
Gene Young is handsome to a fault – so handsome, in fact, that he crosses the line into beautiful and is consistently hit on by guys. His reaction to this is to undergo serious martial arts training and become strong enough to pound any guy who propositions him. The side effect is that he has become the unwilling leader of his school gang. But no one can say that he doesn't try to help them – when a mysterious group takes over his gang's hideout, Gene confronts them. Too bad the gang turns out to be a group of posh vampires!
The most striking thing about Seven Seas' first manhwa release is that it is far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Yu-Rang Han's gender-bending vampire comedy/romance borrows liberally from other vampire-themed works and throws in a bit of BL for spice while never doing anything terribly original...and it works. My Boyfriend is a Vampire's first volume is a compulsively readable book that is just perfect for the holiday craziness with its smooth translation, easy layout, and dashes of both humor and masculine beauty.
That said, Seven Seas made a good call to release this in omnibus format. The story, readable as it is, takes most of the first half of the book – that is, volume one – to get going. Our story begins with Gene running bloodied through the city. He collapses, is declared dead by some good Samaritans, and miraculously comes back to life. Shaken by the experience, Gene hurries home and jumps in the shower. A convenient shower mirror reveals that he has become...a girl? The story then quickly jumps back in time to a month previous. The intention here is to learn about Gene's past, both distant and recent, and the troubles that being a beautiful boy have brought him. He is, we learn, an orphan. Until he met a boy named Saul he was the victim of severe bullying, but Saul made sure he learned to defend himself. As a result, Gene feels somewhat indebted to the other boy, so when Saul asks him to put on a wig and pose as his girlfriend, Gene reluctantly agrees. He goes to Saul's high class school (it bears a striking resemblance to the Astraea schools of Strawberry Panic!) and has his first encounter with the strange creatures he will later become enmeshed with. Kingswood High, it seems, is where all the cool vampires go.
Of course Gene doesn't know this yet, and we only do because of the fact that the lore is so similar to that of other series – Han seems to be combining the mythologies of Vampire Knight and Karin. These vampires are a separate race, not the walking dead. They are hugely attractive and preternaturally strong. And Gene is utterly creeped out by what he has witnessed, no matter how brief. This explains his dismay when his gang later asks for his help to remove the intruders from their hideout; another demoralizing factor is that they want him to dress as a girl. This, they explain, is because of the serial killer who has been stalking lovely young women and draining their blood. Nicknamed “The Vampire Killer” by the press, the gang suspects that he may be part of the group that stole their base.
It is at this point, roughly three-quarters of the way through the book, that the story picks up. Gene, in his guise as “Jean,” finds himself in the middle of what he thinks is a cult. This takes us back to the beginning, along with another flashback (a nod to Princess Knight) that more fully explains the manhwa's start. The scene is henceforth set for a continuing storyline and the volume's end does in fact leave one wanting the next book.
As many of you have noticed, there really isn't a whole lot of new ground covered here. That should not, however, deter you from picking up the book. Gene/Jean is an entertaining character with both comedic and angst potential and Saul is immediately likeable. The vampires are less charming at this point, but it is clear that the greater part of the book was setup for what will come, and Han does a credible job establishing where she plans to go. The art is fairly typical of manhwa, with lankier characters than manga and cleaner backgrounds. It isn't a spectacular example of the Korean industry, but it more than gets the job done.
One of the best things about this book is Seven Seas' translation. The story reads smoothly, but it also has a very natural feel to it. Slang feels like it belongs rather than a translator's attempt at cool. The vocabulary is more advanced than the norm, which makes for a more interesting read. Names are a bit jarring, as (presumably) Han has given her characters mostly English names – most of the characters have either an English (or Hebrew, in Saul's case) first or last name. As no specific location is ever mentioned, this does lead to some confusion as to where the story takes place.
All in all, My Boyfriend is a Vampire is a light, bubblegum read. It has a little bit of everything and handles all of them with a flirtatious touch, giving you just enough to keep you reading while never bogging you down with an angst-ridden or utterly ridiculous story. If you want a dark vampire story, go read DMP's Lovephobia. But if you just need some relaxation this season, give this one a try. It's a great way to just turn your brain off and de-stress for a little while.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Fluffy fun, no brain required. Some genuinely funny moments and pleasant art. Far better than it has any right to be.
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