When the cover looks this bad, you know the interior will be trouble. In a fantasy world where humans and vampires coexist in a tentative peace, the Millennium Academy is the training place for the elite “Anti-Vampire Defense Force,” a police force for vampiric crimes composed of vampires themselves. All this is explained in exposition on the first page of the manga, and then we’re thrust into Vampire Hogwarts where Aldred, the troublemaking class clown, is trying hard to prove himself.
Aldred’s a little odd for a vampire: he hates drinking blood (even lowfat 1% artificial blood) and he doesn’t have a “bloodline weapon,” one of the cool superpowers other vampires have. (“I do wonder how someone who can’t even manifest his bloodline weapon made it into the elite millennium class …” ) Despite this weakness, he’s the leader of his squad, as if Yana Toboso couldn’t choose between making the hero a loner rebel or a head-of-his-class elite.
Everything changes when Aldred meets Kei Yosugara, a cold, standoffish new student, not to mention the only human in class. Suddenly the moon splits in two and the school is attacked by cannibalistic, bat-winged evil vampires, heralding the end of the world! Turns out that after 1,000 years of peace the evil vampires are being released from their lunar prison, and according to the prophecy only Aldred can fight them … but his bloodline power only activates when he drinks Kei’s blood.
To be more precise, Aldred is the “sword” and Kei’s mystic role is the “scabbard.” Together they can save the world, but Aldred isn’t proud of the blood-crazed beast he becomes when he smells Kei’s throat, and Kei doesn’t enjoy it too much either. (“It really, really hurt when you did it the first time. Can you control yourself a little this time?”)
The yaoi tease doesn’t have much time to be developed, nothing has much time to be developed, because RustBlaster is just one volume long and reads as if it was cancelled abruptly. (It even fast-forwards through the climactic fight scene: “It was a battle the likes of which we’d never seen before.”) The only reason RustBlaster was published in the US is because Toboso also drew Black Butler, which has better art, better pacing, and better fake European names (“Ciel Phantomhive”to ”Aldred Van Envlio”).
In contrast, RustBlaster works best as a so-bad-it’s-good comedy, from the inane narration (“We believe blindly on the day we defy fate. We crawl and struggle with our fragile wings as we cry up to the moon ‘I will reach you!’”), to the awkward art, to the sheer clusterf*** of moods as humor, fighting, emo, vampires, and robots all struggle for page space like commuters jamming onto a subway train headed straight over a cliff. The best thing about it is that Black Butler looks extra good in comparison to this embarrassing early effort.