Yes, we all know that vampires are the most alluring of all monsters, wan yet beautiful beings that lurk in the darkest corners of the night. They hold their sometimes willing mortal victims in a deep embrace as they seductively grin, dig sharpened fangs into the neck and then lap up the blood.
But all the passion of vampire sagas can get old after a while. If you're suffering from Twilight fatigue, might we suggest checking out the vampires of anime and manga?
The focus in these movies and TV series tends to be on the almighty vampire hunter, who usually happens to be a blood-drinker as well. There is little of your typical vampire-meets-mortal romance and almost no pontificating over the perils of immortality. Instead, you'll see characters struggling with the idea of killing their own, sometimes questioning the massive organizations for which they work and engaging in loads of gruesome battles.
In the distant future, a breed of vampires called Nobles come to rule the world. But as their power wanes across this post-apocalyptic landscape, a wave of skirmishes between Nobles and humans results in a new hero, D. Known as a “dunpeal” or dhampir, D is the great vampire hunter of the ages. Like the ronin and cowboys before him, D rides solo, his main forms of companionship being a horse and a talking left hand. In a future-primitive setting where both lasers and wooden stakes are employed, D works as a sort of bounty hunter, hired by humans to pursue the creatures of the night. Vampire Hunter D began as a series of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi. An animated Vampire Hunter D film came out in 1985, its success helping to popularize anime in the US. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, based on the third novel Demon Deathchase, came out in 2000.
The chiropterans of the Blood franchise aren't your typical blood-suckers. Instead of the pale, romantic creatures of western lore, they are monstrous, winged beasts that can disguise themselves as ordinary humans to mingle in regular society. A seemingly teenage girl named Saya is the “original” and the one that chiropteran-fighting organization Red Shield uses as their number one weapon. Despite her ordinary appearance, Saya is a nearly emotionless, sword-wielding killer who can leave gruesome scenes in her wake. Despite being less than hour in length, Blood: The Last Vampire was intriguing (and popular) enough to spawn novels, a manga, the animated series Blood + and, most recently, a live-action film.
In Blood+, the lead character differs drastically from the original film. Saya is given a last name (Otonashi), an adopted family, a chevalier who will follow her will and a clear-cut nemesis. She's also an amnesiac, her back story and her role as the original coming to light as the series progresses. While not as popular as the film, the series, which ran on Adult Swim in the US, is interesting in that it shows the conflicts arising from Saya's transformation from an innocent into a slayer.
Named for the vampire hunter of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Abraham van Helsing, the Hellsing Organization is operated by his descendant Integra and keeps Great Britain free from blood-sucking beasts. Like Red Shield in Blood, the Hellsing Organization's greatest asset is a vampire. Alucard (that's Dracula backwards) is a cruel hit man, something that will make more sense as you learn more about his background. Despite the often merciless way in which he slays his own kind, there's a bit of a heart in Alucard. He doesn't strike without reason and is fiercely loyal to his “master” Integra Hellsing as well as to his protogé, Seras Victoria. Originally a manga by Kourta Hirano, Hellsing has subsequently been released as two anime series. The first, is told from Seras Victoria's perspective and focuses more on her struggle adapting both to the realm of the vampire and to the life of a vampire hunter. The second series, Hellsing Ultimate, is closer aligned to the manga, following a similar plot to the first series, but with a focus on Alucard.
4. Trinity Blood
Even by sci-fi, vampire anime standards, the story line for Trinity Blood can be a bit confusing. After earthlings set foot on Mars and after Armageddon, there exists two major beings, Methuselahs, humans who were infected with an alien virus that drastically extends their lifespan while provoking a thirst for blood, and Terrans, humans who have been unaffected by the virus. Add to this the Crusniks, four siblings born of an experiment who are vampires that only feed on other vampires. The series, which began as “light novels” (young adult fiction in Japan) and went on to include a manga and anime, deals with the struggle for peace between the various factions and features tons of political intrigue. What makes Trinity Blood stand out is the way it incorporates Renaissance history into a futuristic setting, as well as its numerous, and varied, literary allusions.
Vampire Knight might be the closest you'll get to a bloody romance in manga. The series is set at the prestigious Cross Academy, a boarding school that hosts two group of students. The Day Class, noted by their black uniforms, are regular teenagers. The white-clad Night Class, however, are vampires. Of course, the existence of mysterious and good looking students who only come out at night piques the curiosity of the Day Class, but it's up to their guardians, Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu to protect them from the Night Class' blood lust. However, things start to get complicated when Zero, a vampire hunter, begins to show signs of vampirism and Yuki, the adopted daughter of the headmaster, develops an attachment to the big man on the Night Class campus, Kaname Kuran. But while you might think that this has all the trappings of a love triangle in place, at its core, Vampire Knight is about acceptance, both of yourself and of others. Matsuri Hino's manga is a hit in the US, but the two-season anime series has yet to be licensed Stateside.