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The shame and the power: bloodlines of the anime vampire

Anime and manga have had such a torrid romance with the vampire, you’d think Japan would have had some deep blood ties to its legend. Funny thing is, the vampire or the beast’s equivalent appears almost everywhere in Asian myth, except for Japan. Besides the ghoulish shadow spreading across the mainland of Southeast Asia, South India spawned the Raktharakshassu, the wronged deceased who returned for revenge in sucking the blood of the living. Then there’s Northern India’s BrahmarākŞhasa, which wore a crown of intestines and drank blood from a skull, or the Jiangshi of China’s Qing Dynasty, cursed souls bound to their own stiff corpses. In fact, the vampires of Japan only rose to enthral the country in the Golden Age of the Cinema of Japan in the 1950s. This was the same decade rung in with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, his Seven Samurai arriving on the scene in ’54.

So, how come the vampire’s charms are embedded so deep in Japanese imagination that there are now vampire manga in their countless droves, not to mention all the anime in which we can’t help but feel for the monster? Maybe it’s linked with the quintessential vampire novel, none other than Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Though by far the first tale to feature the creature of the night, the inception of the Count staked the ideal of an existence free of repression and human limitation into the worldwide consciousness. While the west adopted that seduction as a deadly beauty – domination through allure – a different thread seems to be prevalent in Japan’s interpretation. In the anime fantasy the vampire is still often beautiful, true, but they’re also largely in possession of brute force, sometimes in sheer homoerotic musculature.

jojo-dio-brando

In between all the posturing and history hopping of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, it’s easy to forget that way back in Part 1, it sets itself out as a vampire adventure. We even have a moment to smirk as an ornate coffin is brought aboard a cruise ship carrying Jonathan Joestar and Erina on their honeymoon, long after their mortal-turned-immortal enemy Dio is presumed destroyed. What’s in the box, we wonder? For capturing the sordid glamour of vampirism, however, it doesn’t get any better than Hellsing. At first, Seras Victoria seems to take up the classic tragi-gothic role of Lucy in Stoker’s Dracula. Picking up some time after the novel’s story, she too falls under the thrall of the monster-hunting Hellsing Organisation’s tamed weapon Alucard. But is she going to suffer from a few horny dream-induced attacks of the vapours before becoming a mindless murder-slave? Like hell. She runs the big guns as Hellsing’s new hire, and one of anime’s most kick-ass heroines.

14 Comments on The shame and the power: bloodlines of the anime vampire

  1. I absolutely loved this post! I can’t believe the amount of research you must have done when writing this one. I love Vampires myself, and always like how, even though there are some similarities, every story has it’s own twist to it. One series I currently love (non-anime) is the Strain, that really has an incredible story and one of the more unique vampires that you will ever see in a series. As for Anime,,after reading all the shows you mentioned, I am going to really need to watch a few more 😀 Did I mention I really enjoyed this post? Great stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // January 14, 2017 at 9:46 am // Reply

      Thanks! Haha, there was a lot of sifting through different vampire anime and figuring out which ones I’d focus on, it’s crazy how many there are.

      Ah, I started watching The Strain and thought it was pretty cool, but then I didn’t catch up with it for a few weeks and you know what it’s like when episodes get on top of you. I definitely want to go back to it at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I’m a big fan of vampire stories (when they are done well) probably because I went through my teen years with Buffy and I absolutely love vampires in anime. Probably my favourite group of vampires come from Shiki but I’ve always had a soft spot for Vampire Hunter D as the first time I encountered vampires in anime.
    Thanks so much for sharing this. It was a great read and very informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // January 14, 2017 at 9:50 am // Reply

      Buffy! You’ve gotta love that show, with all its flaws. I think I’ve got to put Shiki on my to-watch list, you’re the second person to have mentioned it along with raistlin up there. My first vampire anime was Hellsing, what a first impression. Love all the nods and tie-ins to the Dracula novel.

      Thanks, you’re very welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t realize how many vampire anime there were–I mean, it’s anime after all, but wow, these all sound like good ones! Nice compilation of research you’ve got here. Now, like Shinobu, I shall sneak back into the shadows, though I much prefer the roar of KISSHOT ACEROLA ORI–

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // January 14, 2017 at 9:54 am // Reply

      Thanks dude, good to know all that trudging through the details of various vamp anime is appreciated 😅 I was amazed the first time I heard her full name. It’s so ridiculous and over the top it’s gone right back around to being cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing post! I’m a fan of vampires in all media – except Twilight for obvious reasons – and while my knowledge of anime vampires isn’t on par with novel vampires, those vampire anime I have seen are very dear to me, with Blood+ and Shiki being the current favorites. It was very interesting to read this post and find out how vampire stories tie into Japanese culture.

    (Also, South India’s direct equivalent of a vampire would be the Raktharakshassu which is basically a dead person who comes back to life to suck people’s blood, often the blood of the ones who wronged them in life and caused their death.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // January 14, 2017 at 9:57 am // Reply

      Thank you 😊 And wow, the third person to give a shout to Shiki on this piece. I’m definitely going to put it down to watch.

      Ooh, thanks for that juicy tidbit, I’ll sneakily slide that into the piece when I get the chance 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This post was fantastic and thorough!! I’m not an expert on vampires of anime tradition, but I do understand them from a/an historic/literary/European perspective and this post increased my knowledge base, so thank you very much for that!!

    I was going to say that I’d have to pick up Vampire Hunter D, but knowing that it is getting a remake, do you think I should wait or watch the original?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // February 1, 2017 at 6:44 pm // Reply

      Thank *you* very much for reading!

      There’s yet to be a release date announced, so probably best to start with the original as there’s nothing to suggest how long we’ll be waiting for the remake.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post, as always. I myself like reading/watching vampire stories. I must admit though that I prefer the more forbidding, scarier vampire portrayals than the kawaii-moe vampires that we are seeing lately. But of course, there is also something frightening seeing an innocent-looking child who is in fact, a vampire. But I guess it depends more on the story for me. I love Blood+, well, Saya isn’t really a “vampire” in the technical sense but she does drink blood and such so I’ll just say she’s vampirish. Compared to other kawaii-moe vampires, she’s more vampirish than them. Great post. Keep it up. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elisabeth O'Neill // February 25, 2017 at 1:09 pm // Reply

      Thanks very much 😊 I am more partial to a classic vampire too, but those moe vamps are so tapped into the idea of the uncanny that it makes them cool in their own way.

      Liked by 1 person

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