Vampires are popular. They are frequently depicted in literature, film and television. Interestingly enough, this is not solely a Western trend. Over the years, I’ve watched many Japanese anime series in which vampires enjoy quite the prominent role in the story. They each offer their own take or interpretation on these creatures of myth. Some of them do not veer too far from established tradition while others set off in radically new directions. One vampire-centered series I watched that made me stand up and take notice is Strike The Blood.
Although the viewer is introduced to its main male protagonist first, one could technically say that the story really starts with its main female protagonist, Yukina Himeragi. She is a young Sword Shaman of the Lion King Organization, an agency dedicated to preventing and/or ending threats of a supernatural nature. The group’s mysterious leadership–the Three Saints–has tasked Yukina with observing the recently discovered Fourth Progenitor, a legendary vampire whose power is said to eclipse that of the three previously known Progenitors: the Lost Warlord, the Foregazer and the Chaos Bride. Each of the three has managed to carve a dominion for themselves in Europe, West Asia and the Americas respectively. With the appearance of the Fourth Progenitor, the Lion King Organization fears that the delicate balance of power between the Progenitors and human governments could collapse. It is for that reason they are sending Yukina on this assignment and arming her with an anti-demon weapon in the shape of a silver spear. The Three Saints command Yukina to determine whether the Fourth Progenitor is a danger and if so to eliminate him. During this meeting, our main heroine is given a picture of her target: a high school student named Kojou Akatsuki.
It is on the man-made Itogami Island–located just off the coast of Japan and inhabited by humans and demons alike–that one finds Mr. Akatsuki. Three months prior to the start of series, the main male protagonist was just one of the island’s human residents but through events that he cannot seem to fully remember he inherited the abilities of the previous Fourth Progenitor and became a vampire. Nevertheless, he has managed to conceal this from his close friends and family while maintaining a relatively normal lifestyle. It helps that vampires in this setting do not seem to have some of the drawbacks subscribed to vampires in other mediums. Of course, one can only maintain a secret for so long.
After trying and failing to avoid a certain guitar case-carrying girl looking for the Fourth Progenitor, Kojou Akatsuki eventually has to admit that her suspicions are correct. Said girl is none other than Yukina Himeragi. With this meeting, their lives are about to get quite complicated, and not just in the sense of a boy and girl trying to navigate the emotional complexities of adolescence. Simply put, they will find themselves facing off against paranormal plots that seem to encircle them at every corner. No problem. She is a skilled attack mage and he happens to be the strongest vampire in the world with twelve Familiars at his command. Wait…what?! Kojou doesn’t have control over any of his Familiars. Well, that’s a predicament. But, hey, I’m sure they’ll figure something out.
When I first learned of Strike The Blood I eagerly awaited for its first season to be released in the United States. Once it came out on DVD/Blu-Ray, I watched all twenty-four episodes and had my expectations justified. Adapted from an ongoing Japanese light novel series by author Gakuto Mikumo and illustrator Manyako, this season covers the first six books with the final two episodes essentially serving as an anime-exclusive ending. In my opinion, the series is successful for several reasons.
First and foremost, the level of world-building employed in Strike The Blood is a sight to behold. The very concept of Itogami Island is a writer’s dream. Conceived as a place that houses advanced scientific research facilities and is home to countless creatures of myth and folklore, Itogami Island is one of those settings where one could conceivably say that the sky is the limit in terms of plot and character creation. In the first season of Strike The Blood alone, the viewer encounters vampires, homunculi, therianthropes, ancient war machines, angels, princesses, clones, witches and alchemists. Thanks to the setting serving as a supernatural nexus of sorts, the viewer is in a position to believe that they would all appear in the same show.
Secondly, the notion of Familiars – particularly our main male protagonist’s struggle to control them – adds a novel dimension to the plot. These powerful spirits with varying abilities can technically only be wielded by vampires. It is revealed early on in the series that the reason the Familiars have not accepted Kojou as the new Fourth Progenitor is due to the fact that he has yet to consume the blood of another person. In short, a medium is required for each Familiar. It is at this point that the story puts a unique spin on vampire lore and drastically redefines the term bloodlust. Apparently, within the mythos of Strike The Blood, vampiric urges are stimulated by physical attraction. With that in mind, the series mines the sexual subtext of the vampire bite for all its worth. At the climax of each arc, Kojou Akatsuki is able gain control of a Familiar using this method. By introducing this plot element, the series manages to bring together action, romance and fan-service in one stunning sequence.
Lastly, Strike The Blood boasts not only two well-developed main protagonists but an equally impressive supporting cast as well. Over the course of the series, Kojou Akatsuki quickly finds himself with quite the network of allies, friends, other love interests…and one amoral associate. It is as I said at the start of this article: vampires are popular. While central focus is on Kojou and Yukina, the show never truly forgets the people interacting with them. They may not have a big role in a given episode but Strike The Blood strives to give each major character a moment to shine.
In closing, I really cannot help but recommend Strike The Blood. The series has so much going for it. As it so happens, a second season is being released piecemeal in Japan now. If you happen to watch Strike The Blood and find yourself craving more, then you will be happy to know that the original light novels are being published in English by Yen Press. They are an excellent read. As the first three books were released, I finished them in record time. But that is not so surprising. After all, this is a series that will get your blood pumping with its dynamic mixture of emotion and suspense.
Justin Corriveault is one of The Geekiverse’s newest writers. He is a long-time fan and appreciator of Japanese manga/anime as well as American comic books and related media.
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