I’ll arrange for them to play a special song for you.
Fans of the Blood+ anime and manga series who have been looking for a fix since the end of these runs will be excited to see a new, albeit short series has just been released by Dark Horse to give readers another tale in the Hagi and Saya saga. But does this two-volume series, written by newcomer Kumiko Suekane live up to the complex and emotional Blood+ name?
Blood+: Adagio is set in Russia just before the Revolution is what is a prequel (by nearly a couple centuries) to the present time Blood+ series.
As the story begins we see Hagi and Saya infiltrating Tsar Nicolas Romanav II’s palace disguised as musicians hired to entertain the royal family. Fans will find this a plausible plan as they are both refined and talented cellists who have had several lifetimes to hone their skills (but more on this later). As can be expected, we have a host of characters in Romanov mansion, and figuring out who is a Chiropteran and who isn’t is almost as hard for the reader as it is for Hagi and Saya. This plays a little like an Agatha Christie who-dun-it at least for a few pages, but it isn’t long before the presence of Saya and her Chevalier alert the blood-sucking Chiropterans (not the sexy vampires of modern fare, but decidedly unattractive monsters).
WHAT I LIKED: I loved seeing Grigori Rasputin, who is a real-life character whose true story fits in perfectly with the Blood+ universe. He is only touched on briefly in the anime, and a little more in the novelization, but getting to see him in the flesh is a nice touch. Also, like all good horror, Blood+: Adagio doesn’t seem like a horror story until it is time. The tension of Saya and Hagi’s relationship is played nicely, and it is clear Suekane is no stranger to what is going on here. Also the artwork is nice, and in someways is less frentic (though also less dynamic) than Asuka Katsura’s five-volume alternative take on the anime series. (On a side note, I am happy to see how Katsura’s bold look at Blood+ has really been picked up by fans.) This leads me to:
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I was able to fathom the quick intros and exits of the characters in Blood+ the manga because Katsura was trying to (loosely) follow the anime series I was already familiar with. However Suekane follows this same pattern with a story no one is familiar with. Over a dozen characters are introduced in the first 25 pages (besides our familiar heroes) and maybe I was supposed to relish in the hunkiness of the quintet of musicians Hagi ends up playing with, but I felt a little overwhelmed with all the names and faces I was supposed to keep up with. Thankfully it isn’t long before we know who to focus on, but at least the intro is a little dizzying.
Overall the first volume of Blood+: Adagio is a worthy entry in the Blood+ world, and it seems to especially accompany the grittier style of Katsura’s manga. Blood+ fans will definitely want to pick up Adagio as a universe expanding supplemental to an already big universe that allows for prequels like this one and hopefully more (Blood+: Kowloon Nights is on the horizon). On the other hand this is a new short series based on a very established one, so it is a little harder to recommend to those who have never shared a night with Saya and Hagi. The subtle nods to the original and tension between the main protagonists as well as simply what they are doing in Russia will be unclear to the uninitiated. Though, for those that have already fallen under Saya’s spell, Blood+: Adagio will satisfy the continuing desire to keep the story of these immortal monster fighters alive forever.