Today we’ll discuss Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire volume 1. Lots of spoilers in this post!
I’ll start by saying I found this a pleasant surprise and an all in all fun read. It reminded me of many of the shoujo manga I’ve enjoyed over the years, much more than it did any of the paranormal romance YA novels I read back in the day. I think there are a few reasons for this.
The aspect that perhaps stood out the most to me was how we got the point of view of multiple characters throughout the story, rather than just sticking with the heroine the entire time. (This is much more common in shoujo manga than it is in YA novels, at least in my experience.) I particularly liked the parts where a scene would repeat, but with a new viewpoint the second time. When we got to read Kouya’s thoughts, we usually learned the reasoning behind his actions in the previous chapter. In many stories, such a character’s motivations would be kept unexplained to make the lead boy feel more mysterious. I generally prefer to have a clear understanding of the lead characters, and Akaoni felt refreshing in that regard. I likewise never felt confused by any of Azusa’s decisions from chapter to chapter, even when the plot began to get a little more complicated.
Azusa and Kouya were both easy characters to like, I felt. Azusa is a fish out of water and Kouya is a maligned pariah, so they’re both easy to sympathize with. I enjoyed their interactions throughout the novel, and liked the way their relationship was handled. It didn’t feel cliche, at least. They didn’t do the generic thing where they hate each other at the beginning and then suddenly fall in love at the end. Instead they just felt like two nice people put through a series of trying events, and they gradually warm up to each other at a pace that fit for the story. When there were misunderstandings or instances of not seeing eye-to-eye, they were quick to talk about it (either with each other or with friends) and come to some kind of reasonable resolution. I like this, because this keeps the plot moving along.
The biggest surprise for me in this story though was definitely Tsukiharu’s character arc. I really like it when a story involves a character who changes dramatically in some fashion, and pulls it off in a way that feels natural. In many anime and manga, an antagonist will sometimes have a change of heart, but it often feels a bit forced. Akaoni gave us a violent antagonist who by the end of the story was more or less a friend of the main characters–and I thought it was all handled quite well. Tsukiharu is not a good boy, but his desperate actions are at least understandable when considering his upbringing devoid of love and morals. I appreciated that he didn’t suddenly become nice after being defeated halfway through the book, and that Azusa really had to put in an effort to reach out to him. Her struggle with him was actually a great way to show the strength of her unyielding perseverance and empathy.
What are your thoughts on all the characters? I am also curious to hear what people think about this story’s setting and world-building. There are lots of vampire stories out there. In what ways do you feel Akaoni stands out in that regard?