Blood Blockade Battlefront 1

April 19, 2012

Yasuhiro Nightow – Dark Horse – 2011 – 1+ volume

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but in my mind, Trigun and Hellsing are inextricably linked. Both comics ran in the same Japanese magazine (Young King Ours), both started around the same time, and both had popular anime that were very popular in the US at the same time. Both Trigun and Hellsing were picked up for English translation at the same time by the same US publisher. Both comics finished their 10-year runs within a year of each other. And now, both creators have started a new series a few years later. Once again, Dark Horse is publishing them both, and both volume 1s came out the exact same month last year.

The thing was… I started off as Trigun’s biggest fan. Somewhere in the bowels of the internet, I have an abandoned Trigun fansite. I wore out my VHS tapes watching the episodes over and over again. I prayed nightly for the manga to be translated into English, or even for a script or summary to surface on the internet… anything. But by the end of Trigun Maximum, I had no idea what was going on with the plot of that series anymore. I wanted to like it badly, but not even I could make heads or tails of it. It saddened me a great deal.

Conversely, I loved Hellsing all the way through. I love Hellsing far more than any sane person should. I didn’t watch the anime until after I’d finished the manga, so all my love is for the comic.

So, when Yasuhiro Nightow and Kohta Hirano released new series, I read Hirano’s first, since I loved Hellsing so much. Alas, I hated the first volume of Drifters with a passion. And if I hated Drifters that much, what chance does Blood Blockade Battlefront stand? Even the name is way more ridiculous.

What that long, tangential story means is that I put off reading this because I absolutely did not think it was going to be any good. Imagine my surprise when the first volume was… quite delightful, actually.

The setting is completely different. Not just from Trigun, but there just aren’t too many manga that start like this. It takes place in New York City, but after it has merged with another dimension, so the town is shrouded in fog and humans co-habit the city with Lovecraftian horrors. The city is called Jerusalem’s Lot, which is traditionally a home for vampires, but whatever. This is a peaceful co-existence. It’s unclear to me whether anything, human or monster, can enter or leave the city, though outside governments appear to be hostile to the monsters, and the protagonist was said to have “moved into” the city, though it’s implied he may have been taken from just outside the borders.

So, the story starts with the main character, Leo, in a cafe. He works for Lonely Planet as a travel writer, but doesn’t make a whole lot of money at it. Suddenly, a tiny monkey demon steals the camera from around his neck, and he has to chase it to get back what is essentially his livelihood. But then he finds himself in the middle of a very violent bank robbery, headed by a very large monster. A loud man shows up, beats the bank robber, then drags Leo with him. Turns out the loud man is part of a secret organization that stops bloodthirsty creatures from harassing humans illegally. In this volume, the organization, Libra, stops a ring of monsters who are smuggling human bodies for consumption, along with a madcap scheme by Femt to destroy the whole town.

So. Various members of Libra can do various things. The branch that Leo works for has three other members. Two can form weapons out of their blood, and the other is super-quick. All three are good fighters. Leo is not. Leo isn’t brave, and he doesn’t know anything about benevolent or evil monsters. The other members have to protect him when something happens. But Leo can see, due to the way he was drawn into Jerusalem’s Lot. His eyes can see through the illusion magic the monsters use, and he can also see super-quick movements. The other members of Leo don’t have this ability, so Leo has to spot trouble, while the others neutralize it. Leo makes for a great main character since he is literally an average joe. No money, no excess of courage in a pinch, and he’s definitely not trying to make friends with the other Libra members.

So far, it’s a great series. I’m intrigued about Jerusalem’s Lot, and would love more details about the whole dimension merge situation. Leo makes for a good protagonist for all the crazy stuff that goes on, and the sense of humor and extreme violence carry over from Trigun, except this time it’s more clear what’s going on. Only one of the action scenes was confusing to me, and even that lasted only one page. I couldn’t be happier with this right now.

I’m also glad I waited a bit to read it, because now I have less than a month to go before I can pick up volume 2. Hooray!

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