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.
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.