“I bet it’s tougher than we can even imagine for a monster to live in the human world.”
Tsukune and friends try to take a break from the threat of Fairy Tale on a quiet beach vacation to a seaside inn. But It’s not just them that Fairy Tale is after, and shy former Yokai Academy student San Otonashi might need help from them in numerous ways.
I generally enjoy Rosario Vampire for what it is: a formulaic, fanservice-heavy series that provides a light blend of action and humor. It cranks up the dramatic tension and intrigue in parts nicely, but overall it’s more “enjoyable” than “essential.”
However this is the volume where it transcends itself, and it’s perhaps the best stand alone story within any series I’ve read. Among all the expected fanservice (and there’s plenty) and normal ridiculousness is a wonderful, powerful story about acceptance/ rejection, fear in various forms, and appearance vs reality.
Our usual protagonists’ encounter with San Otonashi plays with the self-same expectations and cliches the series is steeped in, with wonderful results. I love the twist on classic story tropes, where certain ones are embraced to compliment story character development while others are tweaked for added depth. The mix of surprises with certain things unfolding as expected heightens the impact of the former and it all comes together to a strong crescendo to end the volume.
Tsukune is at an interesting point coming into this volume, where he’s training and pushing himself to be less of a burden to his friends, but doubting his ability to achieve that goal. His continued growth intertwines with a spotlight on a new character and related events to her introduction.
The best thing is that the way the story is told not only conveys nuances of San’s and Tsukune’s characters, but several of the other cast as well in the subtle ways they react and comment on what’s happening. San’s tale is masterfully told, with layers to her personality and motivations unveiled deftly , and in way that provokes introspection in everyone around her. Gin in particular gets a nice spotlight in parts.
While it is better to be familiar with the established cast, their powers and personalities, and what they’ve gone through to this point, I realize catching up on a series and a half of Rosario Vampire is a bit of an investment to get to a single story. There is a summary of the regular cast at the beginning of each volume, and I think enough is explained that this could be read on its own. It would be hard to pick up on all the underlying effects and ripples of the story, but the core elements and themes and the emotional resonance related to the two main subjects would come through.
Again, this little slice of Rosario Vampire is one of my personal favorite manga works ever. Push past the general trappings (if that’s not your thing) and enjoy an emotional, character driven ride that provides a lot to think about if you poke below the surface.