The vampire sub-genre in the West is one that is marked dull media with the odd standout title slipping through – the creatures seldom seeing reinvention or popularity of their other undead counterparts (zombies). However, I have found a fondness for the bloodsuckers throughout the pages of manga (currently collecting Cirque Du Freak omnibus editions as well as recently covering Man Eater for the site). So, when I happened upon the gorgeous interior artwork Hirohisa Satou’s vampiric horror Shiga Hime, I was excited to chomp down on a new bloody morsel and see if it would be to my tastes.
What is it About?
“A boy named Osamu Hirota unwillingly loses his ability to live a normal life thanks to an immortal vampire woman and her former lackey, Souichi. Cursed with the form of a monster and the need to hunt for blood to sustain a human form, how will Osamu cope with his new life?”
The undeniable draw to Shiga Hime rests with the artwork, to the point where the release becomes notable on execution of style alone. Gorgeously detailed violence, the series offers plenty jaw dropping panels that will entice readers to keep turning the pages. Notably, the creature designs boasting odd body contortions are utterly stunning and dominate the works visuals – drowning in chaotic visions of extremism that carry a detailed and sharp aesthetic. In addition to the blood and gore, Satou excels at eroticism which sees his vampires turn from fearsome to alluring in a flash. However, the work does not quite hit those wonderous erotic grotesque vibes for fans in its hyper-stylized approach, but should still find some crossover with that fanbase. Overall, the work weaves violence and sexuality in glorious fashion.
The elements of psychological-horror are well executed, utilizing complex characters who vary vastly in personality once they are given the gift of extreme power. In particular, Osamu and Shouchi’s complex rivalry shows the two boys switching roles as protagonists to give a broader story over the course of the five volumes. As for the sexy vampiric overlords that use the boys as pawns? They are pretty devoid of personality but most importantly they are bad-ass in both power and sexual pressence.
What Did Not Work?
While elements of the story work well, the over arching narrative falls flat towards the end. The conclusion seems both rushed and lackluster, squandering character development in earlier chapters to rush to a weak conclusion. In addition, the title transitions from hardcore horror into a shonen within the first few chapters. Sadly, this pushes the stronger elements introduced in the first few chapters into the background – smothering any cleverness with flashy violence (the reason I hesitate to call it erotic grotesque despite the provocative imagery).
Unfortunately, the story comes across as a rushed shonen that struggles with identity as it tries to interject shocking imagery to entice the reader. This is the books greatest downfall for those looking for a traditionally structured horror title.
The art is impeccable, I spent so much time gushing over the blood-soaked panels and the deviation into nudity (double pun there). There were many instances where I stopped in my tracks and was absorbed by the detailed art splayed across almost every page. Admittedly, the story was a let down but it was not without its moments with some complimentary deviations into psychological horror (Satou has another title more focused on that genre that I am excited to check out).
I don’t really like Shonen manga, it has to be extraordinary for me to even look at it and even then I lose interest – the genre is just not for me. As such, my final rating here might score much higher for those who prefer when horror and action genre intersect (think Tokyo Ghoul which is comparable in some ways). Overall, I loved the art enough to make this an enjoyable read and hope the next Satou title I check out will excel where this one lacked.
Greetings, My name is Adam and I am from Canada.
My love for all things bizarre came at a young age, as boredom in a small town lead me down a rabbit hole of obscure film, music, tv and literature. I have carried these fascinations with and turned it into a passion for writing, sharing and discussing the various arts.
My area of expertise, if there was one, would be geared towards Asian horror with a particular interest in film and manga. However, if it is odd, disturbing or trashy I probably heard of it or can at least pretend I have in conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I always look to grow both as a writer and fan. I truly appreciate anyone willing to come along for the journey and share their passions in turn.