Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
My Pathetic Vampire Life
For the last 150 years, Koide has lived his life as a vampire, and thanks to new government regulations meant to keep vampires from going on murderous rampages, he's spent most of those 150 years repeating his first year of high school. Since he's eternally sixteen, Koide's never going to graduate. Can life hold any appeal when it's an endless year of high school? Or will this be the year Koide finally makes some human friends?
Can you think of anything more horrible than repeating your first year of high school for 150 years? That's the fate of poor Koide, a vampire who was turned at age sixteen back in the Meiji era. At some point since then, the government not only acknowledged the existence of vampires, but also took steps to ensure that hoards of undead teens weren't running around committing atrocities. So all of those turned while still of schoolgoing age are legally required to attend school, but only the year that corresponds with their ages. So if you were turned at sixteen, like Koide, that means a repetition of 10th grade until the world explodes.
That's the basis for Seven Seas' newest light horror manga, My Pathetic Vampire Life by Rose Ishikawa. It's certainly a novel take on the vampire tale, and Ishikawa handles the parodic elements fairly well. There are plenty of references to European vampire myths and legends, a couple of Bram Stoker shout-outs, and one particularly amusing Twilight reference when a girl confesses to Miura, another perpetual first-year vampire. Ishikawa also makes sure to add her own two-cents to the story's mythos as well: for example, vampires apparently love Kentucky (excuse me, Kenclucky) Fried Chicken, which appears to be their main source of nutrition now that they can't feast on human blood. They also hate all dog breeds with a passion (but especially wolf-like ones like huskies and shiba inu), and they don't so much turn to dust in the sun as they simply lose consciousness. It's a strange world Koide lives in, but it makes for good disposable entertainment.
It is certainly somewhat disposable – My Pathetic Vampire Life's first volume is funny, but it doesn't have a whole lot of re-read value. Ishikawa is careful not to repeat the same jokes during the volume's eight chapters, but there is still a definite “wash, rinse, repeat” feel to the book. The premise requires that Koide be simultaneously bored and depressed by his unlife, which does require some basic repetition in format. For example, Koide has constant run-ins with the sun, either because of his own thoughtlessness or because his new sort-of buddies in class ask him to go buy something. His lack of enthusiasm for his life also gets to be overly repetitive, although given that that is the main focus of the story, it's not really a fair nit-pick. It is perhaps better to say that the book is more enjoyable in small doses; read all at once, it gets a little grating.
The idea is pretty funny at least. That this would be the government's solution to vampirism actually makes a certain amount of sense – who would want to repeat a single year of school over and over until the end of time? It stops the creation of new vampires by request pretty neatly. It doesn't answer why vampires follow the rules, but given that this is a comedy, that seems a bit less important. Koide and Miura seem like they're both rule-followers anyway – we know that Koide was actually a soldier in the Sino-Japanese war, so perhaps he likes following orders. He does get frustrated that he can't turn into a bat yet (Miura can, which leads to one of the funnier chapters) and that he can't do things like swim (water will burn him), but mostly he's just slogging through his daily life. He does want friends, and for the first time in recent memory he appears to have some. The translation refers to them as “bros,” but that doesn't quite feel like the right word; they're the slightly goofy, mostly popular clique of guys. It's also not clear if they're truly his friends or if they just think he's kind of fascinating; my bet is on the latter. Koide, however, doesn't appear to care.
That could almost be the title of this series: Koide Doesn't Seem to Care. It works because it's so far removed from the usual vampire story, and Ishikawa's art can be really entertaining when she draws Koide and Miura acting more like traditional vampires; it gets much darker and uses heavier lines. But it's also a book that drags if you spend too much time with it, making this the perfect book to read between activities or a little just before bed. Koide's vampire life may be pathetic, but too much of that can definitely cross the line from funny to slightly irritating.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B-
+ Fun use of the vampire mythos with good in-world additions, casually absurd attitude works well
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