Otaku USA Magazine
Sink Your Fangs Into Blood Lad

In a media wasteland where vampires are sparkling, simpering waifs, one yearns for a return to form. And when that simply can’t happen, a weird, quirky take on the bloodthirsty monsters is always welcome instead. That’s what you get in the form of Blood Lad, which takes the archetypal vampire and saddles him with a thirst not for human blood, but for all the anime, video games, and manga the human world is home to. Meet Staz, the apathetic vampire protagonist who’ll end up stealing your heart.

Falling in Love Kills

Staz Charlie Blood is one of the territory bosses of East Demon World, a descendant of a vampire who traveled to the human world now and then to get his fill of human blood. Staz doesn’t care about doing any of this, languishing in his position and using his status to travel to the human world to stock up on Japanese games, anime, and manga. While those he rules over realize he’s not that fantastic of a territory boss, everyone knows he’s still a formidable opponent, even if they wish someone would go ahead and take his place.

One day, a human girl named Fuyumi Yanagi finds herself lost in the Demon World where Staz resides after investigating a bizarre portal that opened up in her bedroom, of all places. When a carnivorous plant has her fordinner, her bones and clothes are the only things left, which renders her quite unattractive to Staz, who vows to resurrect Fuyumi and restore her status as human. Thus begins Blood Lad, with Staz going after what he wants, rather selfishly, as he does his best to return Fuyumi to the land of the living and restore her final wish.

For Hardcore Otaku Only

Blood Lad is based around two very important things: climactic battles with quality animation and pacing that make sense within the context of the fight, and otaku references that make the series a hilarious jaunt through the world of the anime and manga fandom that you’ll pick up on right away. Most of the humor in Blood Lad stems from the fact that Staz takes an active interest in otaku culture, which means for a good portion of the series, he and the rest of the characters drop anime references a la Good Luck Girl’s poverty god as often as they possibly can.

For instance, Staz himself charges a Kamehameha blast and calls it by name, claps his hands and places both palms on the ground, and makes reference to at least five other anime series within the first few episodes of the series. You’ll recognize the references and giggle to yourself as some of the callbacks to classic series fly over friends’ heads when you know exactly what they’re talking about and revel in it. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes Blood Lad stand out from the rest of the vampire-centric and otherworldly series out there, and you’ll come to appreciate it as you delve into the rich back stories and lighthearted tales mixed in with the more dramatic sagas throughout.

Making the Possible Totally Impossible

The world of Blood Lad is rooted in the supernatural, as you explore the Demon World with Staz and company, but the sort of magical realism in the series is the kind you don’t see very often in anime. It takes a world rife with creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the cavalcade of other monsters we’re used to seeing in these types of narratives and makes it seem like an everyday occurrence. These creatures traipse around a modern-day vision of Tokyo without a second thought. It feels totally normal, until the latter part of the series where the cast travels to more surreal locations.

It’s this type of environment that allows Staz to be so believable. Had he been living in an environment like, say, Ryuk’s Shinigami realm from Death Note, it would have been difficult to become accustomed to the fact that Staz is so obsessed with human otaku culture and makes regular visits to retrieve bits and pieces for his collection.

Growing, Not Showing Fangs

Blood Lad is unique in both its format and premise, but not only those aspects. While there’s an enormous chunk of the series that’s based solely on fighting, the pacing is excellent. Usually, most fighting anime have difficulties with it, where single battles stretch on for quite some time with no plot development along the way. Blood Lad is content to let things slide by within a couple of episodes. But there’s never so much of a focus on completing subplots that development is thrown to the wayside.

Much of the appeal lies within the fact that Staz himself grows so much as a character throughout the series. Despite the fact that originally he vows to restore Fuyumi’s humanity and status as one of the living because he just wants a human specimen for his otaku collection, by the end of the series it becomes abundantly clear that his priorities have shifted in a big way. It doesn’t seem immediately obvious that in a series like Blood Lad you would see this kind of character transcending what makes him an exemplary trope leader of the vampire sort. But Staz is capable and willing, it seems, to do things that we wouldn’t expect him to do, as are the other members of the cast, and that’s what’s part of making Blood Lad such a memorable watch.

Sink Your Fangs In

Looking for an atypical vampire or supernatural title to keep you going after a Vampire Knight binge? Blood Lad is just the right blend of horror and comedy to act as a surrogate series—at least for a while. Once you come to appreciate Staz’s mannerisms and personality, take it from us: being in love doesn’t suck too much.

[This story was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Otaku USA Magazine.]